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Updated: 2014-10-02T21:11:46.538-07:00



Flown the nest.

*Please click on the word Wordpress above, for my new site. Thank you.

Continuing the Interview with Malaysian Novelist Zaipah Ibrahim, author of The Gift in the USA


by Suzan AbramsHere, I continue an interview I wrote up earlier on Malaysia’s debut novelist Zaipah Ibrahim who recently published a contemporary romance novel, The Gift, in America.The earlier interview is over here or you could simply scroll down the page to read it. This is the first author photograph of the very cordial, pleasant and obliging Zaipah Ibrahim, on the web. The snap was shot at her school with her students in tow.What stays special is that here she is standing tall among a stellar list of international writers. The Gift published by Muslim Writers Publishing USA, winds in philosophical ramifications with Islamic ideals. It may be purchased from several international online booksellers.Perhaps Zaipah's unique accomplishment is that in the face of a stern competition among several hundreds of other aspiring Muslim authors internationally - and all bent on the same slice of the cake - Zaipah was accepted and published by a small press in the States even while she was already back home in Malaysia, during the peak of the recession last March.Zaipah who has studied in the United States of America, is herself a qualified English Lecturer and is presently dedicated to teaching Malaysian children English. The writer runs a tutorial centre in her homestate of Trengganu; famed for its extraordinary array of cultural assortments, fascinating cuisine and scenic beachspots. The state is situated on Malaysia’s beautiful East Coast. The book cover excellently captures a similar scenery.The Gift.Zaipah IbrahimISBN 978-0-9793577-7-0Muslim Writers Publishing, USAPaperback 292 PagesPrice: US$14.95A previous article which introduces the novel is here.The first part of the interview is here.And now the rest of the interview.Could you explain to other aspiring authors who may find you an inspiration, how you got published by Muslim Writers Publishing?"Search for publishers that publish a genre you're familiar with. I found MuslimWriters America while surfing the net and later met some wonderful other writers of the Islamic faith. . Linda who is better known as Wihad, was the founder. It was only later that my manuscript was accepted by MuslimWritersPublishing."Did you enjoy the working relationship with your publisher?"Yes. I liked dealing with the publisher, Linda(Widad) and also the in-house editor, Debora McNichol. They are both efficient in their work and I was more then happy with the quality of the production."Tell us a little about your tutorial centre."It's not the normal tutorial centre that offers all kinds of school subjects. Fajr Library is mainly for book publishing. I set it up when I self-published "Islamic Word Games". Then by chance, friends asked me to tutor their kids. So, I decided to offer English classes as part of activities under Fajr Library."Now I have about 40 students enrolled in both primary and secondary school English classes. Each class is made up of about 8-10 students. My main interest is teaching the primary school kids aged 8 and 9 years old. I do activities and play language games with them. I emphasize writing English sentences in fun ways. They enjoy learning English this way. Not all students have these activities at their schools due to large classes while some schools focus too much on exams, thus lots of exam practices!"What do you find obviously different between the two careers of teaching and writing?"Teaching is clearly more of helping the kids since English is the biggest problem among many Malay students in Malaysia. On the other hand, my passion for writing means sharing life's experiences and the perceptions gained from wide observations and happenings around me."Could you tell us about your next book, The Gift II?"I've always wanted to read (and watch a drama/movie) about AIDS/HIV victims from the perspective of Islam and Muslims - and in a positive way!"I get bored of reading/watching the negative responses towards them. I wondered how a true muslim is supposed to face such an ordeal. So, I decided to write The Gift II (still a wo[...]

Remembering Frank McCourt


(image) by Suzan Abrams

I am heartbroken that Ireland's illustrious writer, Frank McCourt, who authored a bestselling memoir featuring a poverty-stricken Irish childhood, Angela's Ashes, has died.

My personal experiences are of having met and spoken to him twice, not too long ago.

Once was a signing at the Eason Bookstore on Lower O'Connell Street on a weekend afternoon, close to the Christmas of 2007. Having just published a seasonal picture book for children, McCourt was present to meet with fans.

He asked me where I was from. When he heard me say Malaysia; he talked to me a little about his time in Singapore, a country he had visited and thoroughly enjoyed. He asked me if I had been. He said that he had grown tired of travelling and just wanted to return home. He wished it could be Ireland. He kept saying he wanted to rest. At the time, he looked terribly frail.

I spoke to him again this February at the wonderful Emirates' Festival of Literature in Dubai. I was amused to see that the now buoyant McCourt was in jest a lot of the time. He had put on weight and seemed in his element, cracking jokes that came complete with his sarcastic wit and an array of sardonic quips.

He talked in length about how when he was a schoolteacher nobody knew or bothered much about him and that suddenly at such a late age, fame would hit overnight. How he regaled us with the comedy of a life well lived and learnt and too, his trials posed from aspiring authors who often posted him strange manuscripts for which he never knew how to comment.

We would all see how McCourt so enjoyed speaking to a full house in Dubai. How glad I am now that Emirates and Foyles had chosen McCourt for a select author invitation and that he in turn, had so cheerfully given his time to the festival.

McCourt was clearly in high admiration and respect for Orange Prize winner, the Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi's writings and also her observations on life. He was deeply interested in all she said and at a panel discussion, kept probing her thoughts on issues he himself felt compelled to comment on.

May the beautiful Frank McCourt's soul rest in peace.

Malaysian Author Tash Aw to Read at the Edinburgh International Book Festival August 2009


by Suzan AbramsIf you're an ardent reader, Scotland's the place to be this August!Glance through the detailed programme that's been elaborately laid out and styled - more the decorative element, I'd say for a coffee table glossy - and it's easy to see how this year's Edinburgh International Book Festival 2009 is truly a universal meeting of the minds. The festival carefully shapes a prism that reflects a monumental number of slants in which detailed subjects of authors, publishing, literature and writing may be delightfully probed and measured.Many, many big names and also fascinating lesser known authors. Also, a fantastic schedule of children's book events.Malaysia is represented by its most popular bestselling author worldwide of all time, Tash Aw. Aw who's currently in big demand for readings in several countries will talk about his newest novel Map of the Invisible World on Saturday, 15th of August at 4.30pm. His event which takes place at the Writers Retreat, is listed under the category of World Writing. Aw will share the spotlight with debut novelist Sulaiman Addonia's The Consequences of Love; a plot which draws on a forbidden romance in Saudi Arabia.Singapore is represented by pioneer poet Edwin Thamboo and also the poet Simon Tay and the region's highly popular novelist, Suchen Christine Lim. All three will speak at 4.00pm on Sunday, 16th August at the Peppers Theatre. I've met and spoken to Suchen. She stays one of the most level-headed, friendly, humorous and unpretentious writers I know.Another shy writer that comes to mind is Diana Evans who's also reading at the Fest and who I'm surprised has just had another novel out, which I didn't even know about. Especially too, that I had been waiting the longest time. I once sat next to Evans at a Tash Aw reading in London and she was extremely soft-spoken, gentle and pretty much the lovely soul.One more humble author - but he's not at the Fest - is Vikram Seth. I've met Seth twice . Chatted with him once at Hatchards in Piccadilly's London and went to a reading another time at the South Bank. He is a very very funny man and enjoys holding an audience up in stitches for as long as it takes.Here is the link to the Edinburgh Book Festival Programme. Do enjoy your scroll down as you gasp at all the lovelies..Credits: Edinburgh 7 &Edinburgh 1[...]

A Short Interview with Malaysian Novelist Zaipah Ibrahim, writer of The Gift


Here is a short interview with Malaysia's debut novelist Zaipah Ibrahim who recently published a contemporary romance novel, The Gift, in America.Standing tall among a stellar list of international writers, The Gift published by Muslim Writers Publishing in the USA, winds in philosophical ramifications with Islamic ideals. It may be purchased from several international online booksellers.Zaipah who studied in the United States of America and is a qualified English Lecturer, is dedicated to teaching Malaysian children English. The writer currently runs a tutorial centre in her homestate of Trengganu; famed for its extraordinary array of cultural assortments, fascinating cuisine and scenic beachspots. The state is situated on Malaysia's beautiful East Coast. The book cover excellently captures a similar scenery.A previous article which introduces the novel is here.The Gift.Zaipah IbrahimISBN 978-0-9793577-7-0Muslim Writers Publishing, USAPaperback 292 PagesPrice: US$14.95A short interview with Zaipah Ibrahim by Suzan AbramsWhen was the moment you knew you wanted to be a writer?"I've always liked writing but never thought I would actually become a writer one day! I started penning short stories in *bahasa melayu (*the Malay language which is Malaysia's national language) while studying in the Second Form and just to share with friends. When I chose the science stream in the Fourth Form, I stopped writing altogether. Then a year later, while in the Fifth Form, my story was chosen by a teacher who read it to the whole class. At that moment, I felt a sharp desire to pursue writing once more but didn't."Later I studied computer science until I decided to switch to linguistics! It wasn't until 1996 /1997 that I seriously got myself into writing. I was in the USA doing my M.A at that time. I was searching high and low for an Islamic romance novel to read but couldn't find any... so I thought of writing it myself! I grabbed whatever free time I had to read books on creative writing...sort of independent learning. Slowly I drafted a manuscript and the journey finally began for The Gift!"Did anything or anyone special inspire you to write?"It was more a desire to provide quality Islamic fiction, especially in the romance genre.In Malaysia, romance novels in Bahasa Malaysia/Malay are very much influenced by Western literature in particular and this with regards to cultures and values and all...I found very few novels in BM that reflected Islam as a way of life... in a non-preachy way that is. For me Islam owns its rituals just like any other religion would, but it is more of a faith that reflects a specific art on living a life. Unfortunately, I don't see this act being translated/incorporated into Malay romance novels or television productions like weekly dramas and serials."Tell me something about family life in your hometown, Terengganu."I come from a big family...grew up with mom as worked with the MARA shipping yard. Mom passed away years ago and dad now runs his own carpentory workshop. I was in standard 6 and 12 years old when i seriously decided to improve my English. Before that, i used to collect bad grades for the language. I had this teacher....teacher Safiah who made me love english... When I entered high school, there was a sudden tremendous improvement! Two teachers I will always remember....Madam Safiah and Madam Latifah! They offered a new meaning to the very idea of pursuing the English Language...lots of fun and possible to master!"How was your love for literature influenced in your younger years?"Libraries are homes for me. Morris Library (SIU-C) was a the best place in the campus! As a child my dad stressed the importance of reading (he used to say "people read books on buses, so you have no excuse to not read at home"). Slowly I picked up the habit. I just loved reading and the school library was heaven for me. I loved reading Aesop's Fables (in BM) when i was 8 - 9[...]

Beverley Raw's Telling Tales, courtesy of UKUnpublished


by Suzan AbramsShould I say that self-publisher David Buttle's vision is a cool one? As cool as frosted ice on a cream cake? I'd be lying if I didn't.At first, it just sounded too good to be true. Buttle who opened UK Unpublished for writers who wanted to see their work in print on a low string budget - and he explains how this miracle is possible on his well-laid out website - said he sourced his ideas all of 2006 and 2007 before volunteering to help publish a writer's book for as low as say, £200 (the average estimate) and if you wanted a design cover he knew just the right person - but add on another £100 and well...the fee may hover a bit up and down the stakes but depending on the number of pages...and not a total sum that would invite disgruntlement.In the meantime, Buttle would secure you an ISBN code for those necessary online & bookstore retailers/databases and the rest would be up to you...Of course, if you were wise, you would have your manuscript seriously edited and proof-read beforehand...Well, to-date Buttle has successfully catered for three authors - he published them in March/April 2009 and there's always room for more.I decided to order Beverley Raw's 188-page paperback, Telling Tales from Waterstone's Dublin without ado. I haven't yet read her collection of short stories but excerpts from Telling Tales, The Looking Glass, Old Beaky, Rendezvous and Daddy's Little Camper don't disappoint. There is a free-spirited Woodstock tone about the lot...and I am reminded of a Lynne Reid Banks' classic; The L-Shaped Room.Raw is an artist and jeweller, living in East Devon and clearly over the moon with her discovery of writing joys in later years.Well...she has good reason to be proud. The book is so beautifully produced and with such an enticing cover that it quite took my breath away. Buttle made the right decision in using Lightning Source, currently the UK's foremost Print-n-Demand expert; also a faithful companion to Salt Publishing and YouWriteOn.comWhat a glossy neat finish to the cover, a tidy, pleasant template to the interior and overall, a sharp, snazzy look. Beverley Raw has herself a gorgeous paperback with Telling Tales if only she would go to town a little on her promotions.Together with Lightning Source as his choice of printer, Buttle shows up a thoughtful sophisitcated result that would triumph over many mainstream publishers of traditional print in Malaysia and Singapore alone. In this vein, I'll exclude Silverfish Books Kuala Lumpur and Monsoon Books Singapore for a superb quality that currently shape their respective title lists.[...]

"The Gift", by Malaysia's debut novelist Zaipah Ibrahim, published in the States


(image) by Suzan Abrams

A reliable Google search engine and a touch of common sense, tells me that with the exception of her family, friends, students and of course her publisher in the United States and online booksellers worldwide (do count Amazon Japan); few if anyone else in Malaysia currently know that one of their own; modest Malay writer and teacher, Zaipah Ibrahim from her homestate of Terengganu -Malaysia's luscious and scenic East Coast - recently published her first English Language novel, The Gift (ISBN: 9780979357770) with MuslimWritersPublishing in Arizona, America.

Ibrahim stands tall alongside other select international writers producing an eye-catching list of adult and childrens' titles that veer towards the philosophical and would in turn, create Islamic culture as a high point of intrigue for any curious observer.

Priced at £9.59 with Borders UK and $14.95 in the States and available at Barnes and Noble, the 292-page paperback, features a thoughtful if not heart-rending blurb, as easily reminiscent of MuslimWriterPublishing's head, Linda D. Delgado or otherwise affectionately known as Wihad's, poignant choices, as she aims to publish quality literature that heralds and celebrates Islam.

In this respect, Delgado says that she would soon break into other genres, including science fiction and crime for her submission lists.

Meanwhile, The Gift is described as a "love story set in exotic asian Malaysia.". It talks about a mother's last wish for her son, where in her feverish attempts at offering him a gift of a new life, the parent must bravely reopen buried wounds from an unresolved past.

As the novel's foremost thematic approach, The Gift - which represents an almost intangible object - would meander through timelines and lost episodes with the rush of a gushing brook. It would mark a mother's final handover to a son whose life can now be rebuilt where it was once torn from an ill-fated event. The Gift would then turn this young mother's face to her own parent, where through unfortunate circumstances, she had dismally failed to make her mother happy. The Gift would then once more serve as catalyst for the young woman and the dying mother's son to each triumph over their past, while fulfilling another mother's wish.

Zaipah Ibrahim, a graduate of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale in the US, worked as an English lecturer from 1990 – 2001 at the Sultan Zainal Abidin Religious College, Malaysia. She presently owns and manages her own tutorial centre, writes books and teaches the English Language in Malaysia.

Before Ibrahim's manuscript was selected for publication in the States, the author had self-published two other educational children's books Islamic Word Games Books 1 & 2, which were designed to introduce "basic Islamic terminology in English".

From a fellow Malaysian writer in Dublin, Ireland, many congratulations if you read this, Zaipah.

A Gem of a Find: The Singing Top: Tales from Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei by Margaret Read Macdonald


by Suzan AbramsJune 15: Look at the treasure I found, courtesy of accomplished American author Margaret Read Macdonald whose long list of works reflect sparkle, colour and fun! A secret chest too, I'll maintain and for good reason.Several online booksellers in the UK, USA, and Australia including their respective librarieshave readily advertised and stocked the tempting 191-page book of tales (pictured), since it was first published by Libraries Unlimited in August 2008. Yet when I scoured the online web for two major Malaysian booksellers, the names of author, title and ISBN number all drew a blank.As I skimmed quickly through Google, no Malaysian book blog seems to have mentioned it either with the exception of one as a tucked-away 'reading list' a few months ago. None popped up but then to be honest, this once robust scene has now dwindled to a trickle.Still as a consolation, I doubt that Macdonald, the lively-spirited Fulbright scholar, children's librarian, author of over 55 print and audio folklore tales and the grand dame of storytelling would have noticed. Not when it sounds like she could be having herself a ball at this very moment, travelling the world. Studying the animated writer's illustrious portfolio on her cheerful website, nothing I write could possibly do her justice.Dedication and pure passion spell the author's life work as she reads and acts the perfect role of raconteur at storytelling workshops, festivals, conferences and schools worldwide. Already, her calendar this year looks pretty full.The Singing Top: Tales from Malaysia... is Macdonald's latest title. The writer who is expert in recording various ethnic folklore, sketches 15 Borneo tales in this anthology as part of a specialised World Folklore Series. Having a quick glance through the titles, it's easy to see that Macdonald has gathered all the right enriching fables that provide for an exotic and flamboyant Malaysian history - there are Malay legends and intriguing if not humorous stories of the sultanate as well as the wily, cunning mousedeer. Tales of orchards, princesses, curses and animals offer decorative plots for the rest of the fare. Accompanying novelties include colour photography, puzzles, games, proverbs and notes sketched alongside the tales. Having grown up with all these stories told us by teachers, friends and parents, while I was at school in Malaysia as a little girl, I can assure you there won't be a dull moment.I will let you know more once I've read the book. I'm glad to see the title on Waterstone's database. I'll be along tomorrow to order it for sure, never mind that the hardback stands at the slightly steep price of £22. Already, it feels like a nostalgic heritage for me here in Dublin. I'll probably have a moment flicking through the beautiful tales and remembering my classmates long gone. But then I who never really stopped being the child, long for the excuse.Photograph of Margaret Read Macdonald courtesy of[...]

The enigmatic and alluring Farah Damji


by Suzan AbramsThis is an older blog. For a kinder arrangement of this interview, please go to my new Wordpress site.An Interview with Farah DamjiThe need for a fix of a sweeter kind; nothing more than the aromatic flavour of a good coffee roast is what spurs present-day writer, renowned socialite and *ethical fashion designer, Farah Damji, to wake up with a renewed zest at her Central London Westminster home every morning.Of course, she could always settle for alternative sensual pleasures. The legendary Julie Andrews’ flamboyant rendition in My Favourite Things from the absolutely merry Sound of Music may have done well to have encountered some of Damji's own assortments comprising a swift Chanel No.5 whiff, her childrens’ laughter and the shy scent of her little daughter’s hair and the very idea too, mind you, of “drowning” as Damji succinctly puts it, in her “son’s eyes.”Then there are the simpler women magazine choice favourites like a row of plants sprouting up out of their window boxes, the happy sight of fresh flowers on a table, the smell of baking cakes, the feel of silk and perhaps most relevant of all, the satisfaction of a finished book.At the end of the day, Damji will look forward to being surrounded by her family, children, good friends and fresh flowers. Think parrot tulips for a moment. Damji adores their “weird organic shapes” and the strange way they completely “freak out” after a full bloom.Damji also loves Nitin Sawhhney and is a faithful listener of Belle Humble, a North London-based singer whom she suspects may seriously give Lilly Allen a run for her money even if the former hasn’t yet achieved her breakthrough.Naturally, Damji can afford to be contemplative and daring in her thoughts. These are after all, exciting times in the socialite's life pictured in an ironical upside-down fashion; very much if you like, the calm after the storm.Damji has come through and survived unscathed a series of traumas, international scandals – some of them unjust - and accompanying crimes; not a pretty story but nevertheless, old demons must still be faced and conquered so there you go.Now, the Uganda-born former editor and publisher of a once stylish magazine in London, is to reveal all, in her sizzling brave autobiography Try Me to be published by the Ark Press in early July. Fifteen percent of the author's royalties from the sale of each book will be religiously donated to Madonna's charity, in the Raising Malawi campaign which helps over 400 000 orphans annually."...I don't see myself as a catalyst for justice truth or ointments but simply as a woman who wanted to tell her uncut, uncensored story. Writing was the first most direct way to do that."Hers is described as a revolutionary story and a study in paradox by the charismatic writer and columnist Nirpal Singh Dhaliwal. The plot stays devoid of the usual soppy melodramas that habitually tail the Indian immigrant nostalgia – a quality of formula writing that many South Asian writers may have happily settled into, like a pair of old bedroom slippers.In this instance, Damji who uses her love for writing as a “passionate bug”, begs to differ.“Writing is the most effective means to convey a message,” she explains. “It's longer lasting than TV, more efficient than radio, it's forever. I don't see myself as a catalyst for justice truth or ointments but simply as a woman who wanted to tell her uncut, uncensored story. Writing was the first most direct way to do that."At the moment, a writing ritual is confined to the controversial Damji as to just where the mood “takes her.” She is re-reading Naipaul where she may convince herself yet again on the brilliance of the Nobel Laureate’s writings. Simply put, her logic is simple. “He captures the heart of the exiled and is not for the s[...]

An Interview with Leela Soma, author of Twice Born


By Suzan AbramsThis is an older blog. For a kinder arrangement of this interview, please go to my new Wordpress site.Captions include Leela Soma and scenes from the window in her writing-room.IntroductionLast year, Indo-Scot Glasgow academic turned writer, poet and performer, Leela Soma, published Twice Born with independent press, in London. The title is said to be Glasgow’s first literary work of fiction spelling out a South Indian emigrant’s journey to Scotland.Soma whose stories and poetry appear to have taken off like the wind, described her earlier academic life as a wonderful career, one that was sometimes “deeply rewarding and at others, difficult and strenuous.” In contrast writing has proved luxurious and fantastic, she says. In Soma’s own words, “...the passion for getting a sentence right is deeply satisfying just as meeting up with an old student.”Twice Born took at at least 2 1/2 years to complete. More details of Leela Soma’s accomplishments may be found on her website and her blog.On June 4th the novelist launches Twice Born at Borders, Glasgow.More details of the event may be found over here.Do click here to read my review of Twice Born.Here are some personal insights on Madras-born Soma’s everyday writing life.**********A Day In The LifeLeela Soma’s favourite colour may be blue and memorable scenes will stay of a moonlit night on Madras beach or of holding her infant daughter for the first time. Nothing beats the latter, she insists.But in everyday life, Soma prefers an early rise and it is the sunshine she considers her best spiritual uplift. In her own words, she loves getting up to a “bright day” as it “fills her soul with joy”.Leela Soma describes herself as a friendly and chatty person, intent on social activities. “I need people,” she enthuses. “I hate being on my own except when I need space to think or write. Ocassionally I get moody and annoying but snap out of it soon enough. I love chocolate and snacking on them ruins any work out at the gym.”In retrospect, her dawn energy stays motivated by a quiet reflection. Often, she steadies her glance at a remembered sister’s present: a photograph of her parents which she considers beautiful. Each morning, Soma wills their love and dedication to set her up for the day.This to be soon followed by a “good cup of tea”, tuning into Radio 4 and checking her emails.Mid-morning will find her at the local gym – the first class starts at 9.30am – for a series of low-impact exercises or a swim. Then in her own words, “a lovely coffee with really good friends at the gym at least four times a week.”The afternoon will see her with the Times crossword and this followed by two to four hours of writing or reviewing her stories.Soma may write up to four hours each weekday but none at all on the weekends; which she marks as a sacred interlude. She confesses to a room with a view. A window overlooks a woodland scene. The room is quiet, and made up of her computer, accompanying paraphernalia, a library and a puja - hindu prayer table - at one end. Her ritual would be to sketch ideas on paper first as “small notes to herself”. This to be followed by writing straight onto the computer.There’s no denying that after cooking the evening meal, Soma would like to put her feet up with the “good odd, tv programme” or otherwise Coronation Street but as she views the full literary scene in Glasgow with excitement; is often off to “various book/creative writing events.” She also wishes the theatre was more affordable.Later, she will wind down with a pile of books at her bedside table including some old favourites. At the moment the writer is bent on reading David Eggers. 'What is the What' -in USA revolves around a story of the Lost Boys of Sudan.“I can read it i[...]

Twice Born by Leela Soma


by Suzan AbramsThis is an older blog. For a kinder arrangement of this interview, please go to my new Wordpress site.*Twice Born a debut novel by Leela Soma and the first work of fiction to highlight a story on Indian emigration to Scotland, will be officially launched at Borders, Glasgow on Thursday, 4th June 2009 from 6.30pm. Twice Born, a broad and glossy 3-layered colour plus 240-page paperback, by Glasgow academic turned high-spirited writer, Leela Soma - photograph provided in link - and beautifully produced by in London; may tickle your senses to the alluring idea of an etheral beauty lived and not imagined.And why not when this reader on long closing the last page to the unexpected novel, would wistfully be reminded of shiny brassware and gold earrings, the close rustling of silks and lingering scents or otherwise too, of a frangipani whiff, exotic Indian sweetmeats and long graceful sarees enough to rainbow up a musty wardrobe somewhere in the middle of a cold, grey and rainy Scotland.It is after all fitting that Soma herself a stalwart emigrant to Glasgow while still in her exuberant twenties in the Seventies; and now recent winner of the Scottish Margaret Thompson Davis prize for the submission of the first 10,000 words of a novel, continues to weave with deft clarity, a simmering plot; in her gentle cordial style, as one would subject a vintage handloom to the creation of a painstaking garment.The riveting story of medical student, Sita who arrives in 70's Glasgow, with her new husband, Ram a medical practitioner, tempts the reader on a challenging head-to-head emigrant journey featuring rows of slightly ramshackle old housing estates in Glasgow, before the city's eventual and fashionable facelift would beckon the tourist.Throughout the whimsical tale that traces Sita's birth in a respectable Brahmin household in hot dusty Madras (now Chennai) to her happy if not questioning childhood and later, an arranged marriage, the determined voluble Sita will pursue the risky vulnerabilities of a rightful romantic endeavour that appears sadly elusive even if she is determined that it must stay liberal, when measured against the dour silence of her politically motivated husband, whom Soma moulds as a distinctly likeable character.For this supplementary plot alone, the reader is encouraged to soldier on an emigrant's emotional and sometimes painful if not vibrant journey seen for the first time through Soma's own eyes of Glasgow's sadder face, apparent three decades ago.Here is a story written by no fledgling who rolls up her sleeves for armfuls of research to an imagined past but rather the voracious gathering of a life lived, learnt and considered priceless by Soma herself.In a web interview, she will talk for instance, of her shock at seeing clumps of butter being rolled up in sheets of paper at the grocery store when first moving to the Glasgow suburbs and this in alignment with a fictitious episode in the book.However, even a romantic affair and the security of a stable Indian marriage carefully arranged by the respective families back in India and accompanied by the usual colourful protocol that decorates tradition; must now take second place to, the picture of the ambitious professional couple in Scotland whose every cantankerous personality trait and domestic upheaval are traced like the imminent lines to a watchful painting, pressing humorous and adaptation skills in a foreign setting. And then that too, that must play second fiddle to Soma's more important message which is that of Scotland's unsettling emigrant history and tradition.How cleverly as only an experienced veteran is capable of rightful observation, are the temperance of social cultural and interactions skills delicately balanced into a superb waltz and this too, [...]

New Age


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I bought the album from Dubai and this tune is a favourite.
The design clip for the above video was created for YouTube by 26-year old ebruNL from the Netherlands.

Egyptian author Youssef Ziedan wins the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (Booker) for Beelzebub "Azazeel"


by SuzanAbramsCaptions: The only picture I could find on the web of Dr. Youssef Zeidan, who is the gentleman with glasses and clapping his hands, with friends on the far right. The picture was one of many to celebrate the Abdul- Rahman Badawi celebrations and copyright is held courtesy of the Manuscript Center.The other picture from the Egyptian Coptic Church is taken from Of the Arab world, Egypt may just stand closest to a literary renaissance just now. Beirut, Lebanon would probably follow suit with its electrifying set of diaspora writers sprouting up in the West and Tehran, Iran stays presently engaged with a monumental amount of literary translations, as a long list of work-in-progress projects that stretch back to the time of Confucious.Last evening on the eve of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, the Egyptian Professor, scholar and author, Youssef Ziedan won the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, courtesy of the Man Booker, with "Azazeel" (Beelzebub), his best-selling novel which is said to have greatly angered the Egyptian Coptic Church. Church elders turned hot under their collars defending a history held private to their present congregation and ancient records. Ziedan's story is said to have rebellously challenged their authority as the heirs of St. Mark the Apostle and the Church's exclusive claim to Egyptian history between the end of paganism and the arrival of Islam in 640AD. They decided that the author intended to destroy "authentic Christian doctrine".Ziedan's plot takes place in Upper Egypt, Alexandria and is set in the 5th century. For his win, the author who has specialised in Islamic philosophy and Sufism, collects US$50,000 and an extra US$1,000, a token awarded to all in the shortlist.An English translation of his work is also guaranteed. The Emirates Foundation funds the prize.[...]



After an age, the poet Desmond Swords, writes something beautiful on his blog today.


Scroll down past the poetry and the recently-uncovered Aneeta Sundararaj-plagiarist stories in Malaysia, may be read on the earlier part of March 15 and also March 13. - suzan abrams

Inspector Singh Investigates: by Shamini Flint (Paperback Piatkus, UK)


by Suzan AbramsSingapore/Malaysia Fiction: May 2009 sees the London launch of Malaysian born and now Singapore resident, Shamini-Mahadevan Flint's first thriller narrated in the true vein of the long-suffering classic British sleuth, mainly a one Inspector Singh. The paperback, called "A Most Peculiar Malaysian Murder" (£8.00), will be published in the UK by Paperback Piatkus, an imprint of Little Brown UK, with whom Flint bagged a 3-book deal comprising her exclusive Inspector Singh Detective Series, last year. After a long wait, the cover image was recently released.Flint who is married to a Westerner, worked as a corporate lawyer before resigning to become a stay-at-home mum and writer.Her story stays inspiring to every writer who commands a mastery of the English Language and decides to go it alone with self-publishing.Shamini who also writes and publishes several children's books in Singapore, self-published her own Inspector Singh series in the Lion City until publishers Little Brown swooped the lot.First Paperback & PlotThe plot that makes up the first paperback, talks about a beautiful Singaporean model, Chelsea Liew who is on death row for the murder of her ex-husband., Alan Lee, a Malaysian heir to a timber fortune.When Inspector Singh is sent from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur to investigate the crime, he knocks badly against a wall of religious and cultural conflicts within Liew's family that will test his judgement to the limits, even if his instincts tell him that the model is innocent. Plus, with the Malaysian police glad to see the back of Singh, how will he find out who the real murder is?Suggested Avenues for the Perfect ReadThe plot holds the kind of light-heartedness that would be perfect for bedtime, a rainy afternoon, a fireside moment on a winter's evening or as a companion for the beach, come summer.Personal Note:I first had the pleasure to meet Flint in Singapore at the Singapore Writer's Festival in December 2008. She is a wonderful person: friendly, warm and constantly witty. Her high popularity asserts itself to pure zest. Flint is just as prolific in her publications, as you will later be able to observe from her website which I shall post below this article. Her energy is breathtaking.The festival also saw the launch of this Inspector Singh Paperback under a different title.**********The second plot description is titled Inspector Singh Investigates... A Bali Conspiracy Most Foul. It is to be published in October 2009.Second Paperback & Plot:Inspector Singh is back, but this time on secondment to Bali. A bomb had been let off in the most touristy part of the island and Singh has been sent to help with security and anti-terrorist measures. But very soon the Bali police realise Singh has little to offer them in terms of experience in this field. He?s much better suited to doing what he?s good at - solving murder. Simple! So when a body is discovered in the wreckage, killed by a bullet before the bomb went off, Singh should be the one to find the answers. But simple murders are never as simple as they seem ? and this one has far-reaching political consequences?Further Reading: Shamini Flint's Website.[...]



by Suzan Abrams

Icicles like flutes,
orchestrating concerts,
a stillborn night. Yet
applause punctures
the sullen silence,
a rushing gale screams
ovation. Or perhaps
albino bats, blind on a
branch, where witches
prey, those unvarnished
nails, ageing dames
yearn their manicures,
or dripping chocolate,
milk bar sticks and
trees for cocoa cups
where starlings
twitter up a storm.



by Suzan Abrams

I, the spool of thread
smarter than
fat baked bread,
fluffy cocoa, or
hardy slippers
that snuggle toes,
may shy from a show
but smuggle merit
by looming high
a spinning carousel
weaving sweaters
dressing quilts
and warming ice upon a
sunrise, marrying
sentiment in dreary
beds, a dancer
the top of my head.



by Suzan Abrams

Life stands transfixed on the ordinance of time
and space. I am the reflex.
Heralding a witch’s limp, I secretly dance
the fairy leap, spiraling up my galaxy swirl,
mismatched hobbles drowned my lost worlds.
I ready a parachute dip from where my
toes just miss the shores of death.
But calendar dates and stubborn bones petition
that I not abandon breath.
Still, I was busy counting stars that matched

the lines upon my skin, you would think
that such a feat would breed an easy win.

Once I was young, a careless whore to

fleeing days. Make me my merry way and
I’d swing my skirts no matter
what the cost, throw songs to the rooftop
wind and ride the wing of a magpie king.
My jigsawed route from where I flew then,
precious, strong and brave.
Now, I’ve been told that I would cease to exist
if not for cushioned sighs.
Alas, I who throw parties for an embittered wart
and curse a grunt for a snore would hold on,
my beddy-byes a prayer for dear life, begging
to smile at a sunrise...won’t another one be kind,
while fading to my drooping eye.



by Suzan Abrams

She stayed innocuous in her belief of fantasy
But deluded no-one.
Why, just this morning, the snow
fell with a vengeance as she hung out laundry.
It defied a March sun and chalked her shoulder,
With shouts of boo while the fallen sky crept
behind, a skirt tug for a scared child.
Humming its winged melody, a stolen composition
The whistling wand of an abandoned swan
and the noisy sea of ghostly windmills, she
was suddenly taken to fancies, picturing the
can-can swing of gossamer threads,
destined to shroud the drone of pegs.


THE GOSSIP AND HER TIMID HUSBANDby Suzan AbramsShe was a pugnacious sort, a lizard tonguepreying on overtime. She tasted betrayalsfor trifles and gossip fed candy into her bodyparts, her soul measured eternity all wrong.Lungs raced on slippery grace, inhalingthe fumes of slander with clumsy distasteand tunnelling down, a freezerfor a tummy that shunned its slimy defrostto bottle up the heady juice of news.And what with withered breasts for arocketed aerobic stretch, pendulumsthat even professed circus swingsdownside up and forgot their dignified rideto the grave...Or she may have resembled a cake, obesefor a sunken oven squeeze. But you, thehusband desiring the obtuse for a potentperversion rested bravely, a carnationcradled on a lapel, and plumped up byrosettes, despondent in the gullied nest ofher feathery skin.Why, the other day she served me tea.Cherries from freckles and chocolate spatfrom the bowels of a throat. And she worethe fray from her commendable tray on asmile that may have turned a weddinghat into an elusive bat.She kept her glee with the wee bitof an Earl Grey Special if I wasn’t to mind...she whispered its mud brew where she hadsquatted with aerobic precision to kiss a frog.As for the milk and sugar, ferried about likewallet stowaways, watch her squeeze theleather dry from dripping fat. More cream,she’d ask except that a touch of acne puswould do it nicely and one ought to utterone’s thanks wisely.But she was a pugnacious sort, licking yourdays with gossip in her body parts and hercriminal toes a quarreling band of dwarvesto shovel up wrongdoings for a fee. Still,the dutiful wife, she kettles your whims intoa nice hot broth as you wheedle your wayfrom a sting. And so her fingers scrub andclean and sing.[...]


suzan abrams


There is an ocean that sits
in the scared sun and it carries
a blue moon in its shell
to mark the flavour of a changed
sunset, so mind the step.
We swim in the fluorescent hue
with salt as a raft.



My plans for the moment now that I am back and safely recovered from the jet-lag, are to finish my collected ghost stories (proofs and all) and to rush this for publication and to attempt other writing endeavours. Roundabout July or August, I shall return to Africa to collect my luggage and also to take part in a much longer safari at the Serengeti. I shall also visit one other country after Africa and that would probably be Cairo or Australia. I can't settle unless I travel.

P.S. Dublin is beautiful at the moment. It is a new spring and the mornings are slightly warmer. Everywhere, the birds sing.

Another Case of 'Aneeta' Plagiarism Uncovered- Malaysian


Remember that a few days ago, I revealed a case of plagiarism in Malaysian fiction? It was called Aneeta Sundararaj plagiarises Pearl S. Buck stories in Malaysian fiction. Otherwise, just scroll down the screen a little, to read it.This morning, I uncovered by chance another case of 'aneeta' plagiarism that seems too close to home.An 'Aneeta' from Malaysia joined an online freelance-writing portal, in December last year. It was just while spending a few days in Kuala Lumpur, that I had discovered the plagiarised Pearl S. Buck stories myself. In this case, the woman submitted a few posts for the portal until its editor discovered that one of the articles - and this for which writers may get paid - was stolen. The editor rejected her article on the basis of plagiarism and suspended her account. In other words, it looks like she was sacked since her name was removed from the author list and all her previous articles were removed as well.What I read was a short conversation with the 'aneeta' in question pleading for mercy. The editor stayed unrelenting and was determined that she be removed from the portal.I'm going to copy and paste that little bit of dialogue which rightfully belongs to Constant Content. Hopefully, they won't mind but if the editor writes to me, I will remove it. I believe the editor will only be too shocked to see that work has been plagiarised more than once.Before I paste the conversation, this is why I easily suspect the two 'aneeta's' to be one and the same. If not, then it has to be 2 different 'aneeta-s' working on 2 similar writing thefts from the same twilight zone in Malaysia. This can't be.a) I am Malaysian and know the small writing scene in that part of the world very well.b) the individual is Malaysian.c) later, when you read the conversation, you'll see that the individual mentions a Malaysian newspaper.d) the individual did the same thing as what she had earlier attempted with the Pearl S. Buck stories. She removed original words and threw in localised terms - in this case for eg. baju kurung which is traditional Malay wear for girls and women, in Malaysia. She tries to Malaysia-nise something that was originally not Malaysian, exactly as what happened with the Pearl S. Buck stories.e) the Malaysian writing circle is a very tight band of a tiny group of people. Kuala Lumpur is a small city as compared with Europe or the States and the writing circle is more community-driven. Everyone knows each other. Bearing this in mind, there is only one Aneeta (with this kind of spelling) in the picture.f) The Aneeta in question often goes to book launches and readings in the Kuala Lumpur area. Writings events are considered a drop in the ocean as compared to the massive hive of activity that goes on in Australia, the States or Europe. So these book and writing enthusiasts grab any chance they can get.g) As you will read later in the conversation, there was a book launch in Kuala Lumpur recently with a dress code that signalled Smart Casual. (Yes, strange things like this do happen.)h) As you will read later in the conversation, the aneeta dismissed by the editor uses legal words like 'arbitary'. The Aneeta I wrote about was a former lawyer who resigned suddenly and often throws in legal scare-words in the face of difficult conversations.i) The Aneeta I wrote about has played the role of injured martyr towards me personally, in the face of critiques. Later you will read sim[...]

Aneeta Sundararaj Plagarises Pearl S. Buck Stories in Malaysian Fiction


by Suzan Abramsin DublinMalaysia: PlagiarismI bought this book of Malaysian short stories a few months ago in Kuala Lumpur. I could only find them in one bookshop.Snapshots is made up of a collection of short stories by 3 Malaysians, Aneeta Sundararaj, Saradha Narayanan and A. Jessie Michael. It is edited by Craig Cormick and said to be published by Oak Publication Sdn. Bhd. although this appears to be more of a distributor, judging from their web content.At least 2 of the longer short stories as I have discovered for the moment; Enchanteur and Brought Back to Life by Aneeta Sundararaj, are plagiarised from the late Nobel Prize Winner, Pearl S. Buck's collected short stories. A complete bibliography of Buck's collected short fiction is available from Wilkipedia where the titles can be obtained and also ordered from Abe Books. Otherwise, just contact the plagiarist for the original version. The ideas, central themes, stuctures, narrations, characterisation and plots have been lifted off the original, almost in their wholeness. I had read all of Pearl S. Buck's short stories as a teenager, her books easily available in the school library and recognised the stolen stories at once. They were my favourites. The titles of these short stories, are of course concocted by the plagiarist.I also recognise another copied story and have my suspicions on the rest since once you know a person has stolen 2 stories, it is hard to imagine any creativity or originality for the others.The stolen stories are actually older American versions and without featuring the Chinese. Buck was famous for penning stories stretching both cultures. These tales have long stayed out-of-print and would be very difficult to trace. I am surprised that I had read them all as a teen enough to remember them with clarity. They are gathered together with other modern American stories.Briefly, the first stolen story , Enchanteur deals with Pearl S. Buck's own version of a beautiful woman who climbs aboard a train and attracts the attention of a weary American executive after office hours. She is so beautiful that she steals his breath away. I remember Pearl S. Buck using the line "she was in a class of her own." That was the first time I ever came across such an apt description of beauty - an outstanding league to a physical consciousness - if you like and never forgot it. Then later after the train ride, the man's plain wife comes to meet him at the station and notices the beautiful woman. At once, there is a heavy reflection of the marriage from the man's point of view. He compares beauty to plainness and describes his wife as nothing more than pleasant. She takes him home, there are guests to entertain and all the while, the husband makes notes on how a good wife is so much the greater blessing then another who drips with fanciful beauty. The entire plot takes place within the space of an evening. The story is highly profound and Sundararaj plagriarises this deep introspective tone for herself while also stretching the copied plot along the same time frame.On becoming a fashion journalist with Female magazine in Kuala Lumpur/Singapore for several years, I remember using this specific fictitious episode as a guideline with which to measure my own expectations of beauty with regards to fashion.Sundararaj couldn't have picked a worse story to plagiarise. Hers is the carbon copy from start to [...]