Soniah Kamal

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'Islam is not Pakistan's religion; Marriage is'

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2013- Happy New Year: Good Bye Old Blog, Hello New Blog

Thank you so much readers of this blog. From now on I will be blogging HERE. May 2013 be a a year of peace, contentment and happiness for all.  

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Can Bad Things Lead to Good Laws?

As the new year approaches I know the appropriate thing to do is make best of lists and write posts of good cheer; hopefully there will be time for that too. In the meantime, here is what I hope. Many people might not respect a law but they do not break it because of severe penalties. If respect for a man and a woman does not deter from rape, here's to hoping that laws against rape, in India and worldwide, are so severe, people think a million times before committing this crime. 

NEW DELHI — As protests grew in India on Saturday over the death of a young woman who was raped in New Delhi this month by several men in a moving bus, the police said six men accused of attacking her had been charged with murder.  read rest here

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

What To Eat? Where You Come From?

'Tis the season to be jolly (and we can certainly try despite the news) and for most of us to be jolly means to eat, eat and eat some more. But does where we come from or where we've ended up determine what's on the table? An interesting article on food and class in the Guardian by Louise Carpenter

At the supermarket checkout recently, I recognized a mother from the school run. Instinctively I looked in my trolley. On the top sat a bag of revolting frozen chicken bits, bought for the dog, and a giant bag of steak cut chips, bought for the husband (to eat with a rump steak). All the lovely fruit and vegetables were buried below, out of sight. Fearful that I'd be cast as the kind of mother who serves my four children cheap chicken and chips, I began scrabbling around trying to hide them from view. It was pathetic. I knew the truth. Why should I care what she thought? But I did. If truth be told, I am ashamed to say I sometimes pass judgment on other's people's shopping trolleys myself. read rest here

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Next Big Thing- Blog Tag

click here for kindle
I've been tagged for 'The Next Best Thing' by fellow Pakistani writer Bina Shah, novelist, short story writer, columnist. Her most recent novel is 'Slum Child.'
In 'The Next Best Thing' I'm to answer ten questions about my current book or work in progress and then invite five other authors to do the same. At the moment I'm furiously at work on my guest edited issue of the ezine Sugarmule (Borders & Partitions: South Asia/ March 2013), I'm going to talk about 'Hairy Potter' by my collected satire column  available on kindle.

What is the title of your book?
'Hairy Potter. 
'Hairy Potter' was the very first piece I wrote and in fact was the reason I was invited to write a column. The column originally ran under the title 'My Foot', however for this compilation I retitled it 'Hairy Potter' because I'm 1) sentimental or 2) am hairy and some ancestor must have been a potter or 3) sounds catchy
Where did the idea come from for the book?
I was commissioned to write a weekly social satire column for the Sunday Magazine of 'The Daily Times', a national newspaper in Pakistan which I did from 2002 - 2004.  Off and on over the years, I will get e-mails from people asking where they can read them (and so I can safely say that this book came about because of popular demand) and with the advent of e-readers I decided to put them back out into the world.  

What genre does your book fall under?

satire, social, of the biting, sarcastic, oh behave variety

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Here are a few of the characters--

Girl gone wild without bra: Bollywood actor Salman Khan
Dawg desperate to be one with the kennel:  Insert your favorite politician
PATY- pretty angry thing & young:  Insert any politician's Mrs.
Cat scheming to teach humankind  a feline lesson: Garfield, but of course.
Pretty young thing but not yet angry who yearns to be a fourth wife: Emma Bovary also known as Madame
Man + Perfect Cup of Tea = Wedded and, mashallah, Bedded:  no bluster-- Actor Colin Firth aka the only Mr. Darcy 

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

My bitchy best friends meet Jane Austen meets Garfield meets Downton Abbey's Lady Grantham (the lovely Maggie Smith) meets Pakistan a country which is really a modern day Downton Abbey replaying every Austen novel (no joke- Mrs. Bennett currently resides in Pakistan)

Is your book self-published or represented by an agency?

It is published by Wind Castles, a very tiny, very indie e-publisher

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

My weekly column ran for two years and I picked reader favorites (as well as my own) to collect in 'Hairy Potter'.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Go to any shelf in a book store and you'll find a slice of "Hairy Potter'. There are columns about everything, from the travails of beauty queens to shrewd politicos, from the peccadilloes of warring friends to Mummy Dearests desperate to get darling daughters married off to abortion rights and the fate of child soldiers: the last two are topics are seriously serious satire versus titter satire.  

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

For the worst of times & the best of times to my home town Lahore, also known affectionately by many as La Whore, a place where things are not, as Alice found out in Wonderland, quite what they seem which can perhaps be said about the whole of Pakistan; perhaps even the whole wide world? 

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?

You'll see Pakistan, perhaps even your own backyard, in a whole other light. Yes- you get to choose which light.

Here are five authors (5 +) I've tagged to tell you about their Next Big Thing:

Jeffery Small- author of the best selling thriller 'The Breath of God'
Jessica Handler- author of the award winning memoir 'Invisible Sisters'
Suzanne Kamata- author of the novel 'Losing Kei'
Shikha Malaviya- founder of The Great Indian Poetry Project
Mary Glickman- author of the 'One More River' finalist for the 2011 national jewish book award
Thomas Mullen- author of the award winning novel 'The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers'
George Weinstein- author of the novel Hardscrabble Road.
Lee Wright- award winning playwright 
Nicki Salcedo- Novelist and Past President of the Georgia Romance Writers

Thanks Bina for tagging me!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Parenthood and Why Seeing a Cancer Patient Puke is a Breath of Fresh Air

If you haven't been watching this season of Parenthood on NBC Tuesday nights, you're missing out. I first began watching Parenthood because of Dax Shepard. Dax was part of the team on Ashton Kutcher's Punked. Dax was weird, but in a good way. So there I was, switching channels, when I came upon Dax in a new show about a white family. Having grown up on shows about white families such as Little House on the Prairie, Roseanne, Punky Brewster, 7th Heaven, and The Cosby Show (as a kid it didn't occur to me that the Cosbys were African-American, rather they were just another shade of white), I slid right into the Parenthood clan: parents, four siblings plus spouses plus children. Dax plays a ditzy younger brother and I may have yet changed channels except that one) one of Braverman couples have an autistic child (Aspergers) and I was interested in seeing how this character would be played out. Two) Dax has just discovered he's a father of an African-American child. And three) I'm always a sucker for any race relations which Parenthood addresses with a gloss free honesty and integrity, but then this is the way it tackles all topics. This current season, season 4,  Kristina Braverman, mother of three, has breast cancer. Parenthood not only shows a bedraggled woman puking all over the stairs but also a young woman facing her own mortality. Medical marijuana also makes an appearance. A new character, a war veteran, in relating a war tale indicts American foreign policy, but in a fashion which illustrates the emotional costs to the citizens of both countries. I hope Parenthood does not take this character into cliche's path, and given their track record, I don't think they will. For instance another Braverman couple adopts a older South American child out of the foster system. What follows is yet another terse but riveting look at race relations, as well as adoption, albeit with moments of tenderness and levity. Of course the actors are terrific and the direction excellent but, as in everything, it's the writing, the writing, the writing, so thank you writers.  Parenthood is not perfect, few things in life and on TV are, but it is really worth watching. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Career Day at Autry Mill Middle School

Every year Autry Mill Middle School hosts a career day where parents talk about their careers. This year I went too. To talk about being a writer, specifically a fiction writer to four classes of sixth graders for half an hour each. I haven't had so much fun in ages. Kids ask the darndest things, but they also ask the smartest things such as so how much do you make per hour?  :)
I talked shop, but I also talked craft. Since the sixth grade novel assigned at the moment is Mildred Taylor's 'Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry', I gave them examples of how a reader would read a certain passage, how a student such as themselves would read it, and how a writer would read it. I took them through a short exercise of how a journalist might write about career day, and how a fiction writer would write about the same event using the very same material. Justin Bieber came up. So did The Hunger Games, Psy/ Oppa Gangnum Style, and Green Eggs and Ham. Like I said: FUN. I hope all the kids took home the fact that we are each storytellers at every age except that some of us write our stories down and get paid for them. I would have loved to hear all the other parents' talks: film producer, actress/ballerina, product developer, engineer, IT, FBI agent, CPA, CDC researcher, flight instructor for children and so many more! Thank you so much Autry Mill for giving us this lovely opportunity. It is a wonderful way for both the kids as well as the parents to see each other as more than merely Mom and Dad!!! And thanks for my signed card, a corner of which is the picture accompanying this post.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Another Honor Killing, Anusha, and Fahkra Younas.

Once the disgust and anger quells somewhat, all that's left is a sick sadness. Honor Killings, the phrase could be an oxymoron except that for so many people it makes too much sense. For too many people the effects of puberty-- something as natural as a girl looking at a boy-- is a crime. Anusha was fifteen years old, and that's all she did, she looked at a boy.  Let us suppose she did a lot more than just look: would any act justify your parents pouring acid on you and then leaving you to die in agony. The father now says it was the mother idea. 
I lost my rose colored glasses about women, and heaven being beneath mothers' feet and all that jazz, after my stint at, of all places, the National Organization for Women.
There are decent women/mothers; there are as many decent men/fathers. Unfortunately for Anusha neither parent came through. No doubt her parents think they did this out of love in order to safeguard her 'reputation'. Are these parents aware of how screwed up their morals and ethics are? For fifteen years this daughter was with you: what sort of sick parents are you?
And, please, don't tell me looking at a boy is a 'western' concept and allegiance to some code of 'keeping the hymen intact' is more important that anything else in the world. The father is a laborer, the mother is also illiterate: illiteracy and poverty are no defense for honor killing. How I detest this phrase. Killing a woman is no big deal for some-- I get it. One day it will change. It has got to change. But by that day it will be too late for so many. In the link to the BBC report above the last sentence is 'In March the government of Pakistani-administered Kashmir made acid attacks a criminal offence punishable with life imprisonment.' Let's see what the law does with this one. Hopefully it will deter future acid attacks but that does not mean that honor killings cannot continue by other means.
Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy made an Oscar winning documentary on acid burning in Pakistan 'Saving Face.'  I wish 'Saving Face' had mentioned Fakhra Younas' story in some way. For so many women of my generation, and no doubt many more generations, Fakhra Younas' tale is one of nightmares.  Fakhra was a dancing girl who attracted the eye of wealthy and influential Billal Khar. Billal married her: unfortunately he also severely disfigured her in an acid attack.  Fakhra was helped by many, especially the Italian government, but her story ends unhappily.

Fakhra was only 33 when she killed herself. When I first heard about Fakhra, I was a very young, very vulnerable girl; I do not want to belittle Fakhra's life by saying saying something as droll as her plight 'informed ' my life, but it did, it informed my life and played a huge role in making me who I am. I could have been Fakhra. Which was a very contentious statement back then because Fakhra was a 'dancing girl' and apparently somehow that justified her attack, whereas I came from a resepctable family. (I wish people sitting on their hight horses about their respectable families would realize that that they could have just as easily been born 'dancing girls'. FAKHRA YOUNAS HAD MORE FACE THAN MANY PEOPLE WITH THEIR MORAL BULLSHIT WILL EVER HAVE.  Will someone please acquire English rights to her memoir and translate it. Thank you.