Q&A with Nafisa Haji, author of The Writing on My Forehead discussion

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message 1: by M (last edited Mar 01, 2010 06:45PM) (new)

M Duran | 5 comments Are there many big naminas for girls in pakistan, or are women still expected to choose tradition over their own true desires?


message 2: by Nafisa (new)

Nafisa Haji | 22 comments Mod
I think/hope there are. In most cases, cross-generational interaction is more common there because of the strength and bonds of extended families. Most children, girls and boys, grow up in joint family households, with aunts and uncles and grandparents all under the same roof. And because there is more segregation between sexes, something that varies to some extent from family to family, but generally true in terms of religious gatherings and social interactions, the bond between girls and aunts/grandmothers is strong. Stories/gossip gets passed down through the generations and this serves both purposes, depending on the specific women involved and their experiences, of reinforcing traditional culture as well as offering insight and inspiration for change. In my own experience, I have seen women in many families who are loud and powerful voices and role models for the girls in their families.


message 3: by M (new)

M Duran | 5 comments From when you first thought of writing this book, until you wrote "the End", how long did it take you?


message 4: by Nafisa (new)

Nafisa Haji | 22 comments Mod
Bearing in mind that it all happened during naptime and on weekends--and that major, major revisions happened along the way, and that I did start working full time in between and part time before that, it took about six years...


message 5: by M (new)

M Duran | 5 comments I'm interested in hearing more about your creative process, because your book was so well written, did you wrote whatever came to your mind and then edit, or did you built it chapter by chaptyer?


message 6: by Nafisa (new)

Nafisa Haji | 22 comments Mod
Thanks!
I tend to write a novel chronologically, from "once upon a time" until about halfway through, when I usually get stuck. That's a painful moment. Then, I go back to the beginning and start again, incorporating new with old. Finally, when I'm done, I go back again and edit/revise. That's the part where all the roughness gets rubbed off and the story goes from a big blob to something more refined, like a big piece of marble honed down to reveal the features of who the statue represents. The story is always greatly changed in that revision process. But revision, too, is hard. It feels like pulling a loose thread and watching something unravel completely, causing panic! But I've learned to trust the characters and to listen and not give into the panic. Giving into the panic, I know from past experience, is a way to NOT finish a novel....


message 7: by Loretta (new)

Loretta Siegel (loretta_siegel) | 9 comments Excellent comment. Panic is so counter productive.


message 8: by Loretta (new)

Loretta Siegel (loretta_siegel) | 9 comments What are your favorite books and authors ? Which ones inspired you the most?


message 9: by Nafisa (new)

Nafisa Haji | 22 comments Mod
Thanks!


message 10: by M (new)

M Duran | 5 comments You said you incorporated "true events" with fiction. was it difficult to incorporate true situations into the story knowing you might get some critizism from your family or did that possibility never bother you?.


message 11: by Loretta (new)

Loretta Siegel (loretta_siegel) | 9 comments Loretta wrote: "What are your favorite books and authors ? Which ones inspired you the most?"


message 12: by Loretta (new)

Loretta Siegel (loretta_siegel) | 9 comments What are you currently reading? Do yoou belong to any writing or reading groups?


message 13: by Nafisa (new)

Nafisa Haji | 22 comments Mod
M wrote: "You said you incorporated "true events" with fiction. was it difficult to incorporate true situations into the story knowing you might get some critizism from your family or did that possibility ne..."

Another great question....I think this is a question I answer very differently now than I would have years ago, when I started novels, but didn't finish them. When I was younger, I think I was much more afraid of what people--strangers and family alike--thought of me. It's one of the best kept secrets of getting older--even if the skin starts to sag a little--I'm much more comfortable in it and far less likely to care what others think, as long as I'm being truthful to who I am.


message 14: by M (last edited Mar 01, 2010 07:39PM) (new)

M Duran | 5 comments Are you working on something now and what is it? thank you for your inspiration!


message 15: by Nafisa (new)

Nafisa Haji | 22 comments Mod
Loretta wrote: "What are your favorite books and authors ? Which ones inspired you the most?"

Always a toughie, because I have very eclectic taste and love to read so much that it's almost painful to have to narrow down. You'll have noticed the Jane Austen references in the book--so she would be in a top ten list, if I were forced to make one. I love Mark Twain, too. I love historical fiction, Dorothy Dunnett, especially, and Mary Stewart. Among contemporary writers, I love Dave Eggers and Barbara Kingsolver and Michael Chabon and Anne Tyler and Nick Hornby...you see my problem? I could go on and on!

Claiming influences is a hard thing to do without sounding grandiose and presumptuous because I think influence can only ever be aspirational. The truth is, all the books I've ever loved have probably seeped into my skin in one way or another.


message 16: by Loretta (new)

Loretta Siegel (loretta_siegel) | 9 comments Thanks for your time and great responses.Your family must be very proud of you.
Au Revoir, Loretta Siegel


message 17: by Sally (new)

Sally (Mostly_Literary) | 3 comments Our Library is closing soon, so let me conclude tonight's session by saying "Thank you very much!" More members of the Mostly Literary Fiction Book Group may have questions for you in the near future, as I expect other readers will likely participate in this discussion as well. I'm impressed with how well you responded to a barrage of questions! Thanks again, Nafisa! We will be looking forward to more books by you in the near future!


message 18: by Nafisa (new)

Nafisa Haji | 22 comments Mod
Loretta wrote: "What are you currently reading? Do yoou belong to any writing or reading groups?"

I don't belong to any writing groups, although a friend has recently suggested starting one. As for reading groups, also no. I've been invited to join a few, but I have some kind of weird rebellious streak that prevents me from reading books I'm "assigned" and which I "have" to finish by a certain date.


message 19: by Nafisa (new)

Nafisa Haji | 22 comments Mod
M wrote: "Are you working on something now and what is it? thank you for your inspiration!"

Yes. I've finished a draft of a new novel which I'm waiting to get back into revising with my editor. If all goes as scheduled, it will come out some time next year.


message 20: by Nafisa (new)

Nafisa Haji | 22 comments Mod
Loretta wrote: "What are you currently reading? Do yoou belong to any writing or reading groups?"

Oh...forgot to say what I was reading currently. Always several things at a time. Right now, some nonfiction research stuff about slavery. Also, rereading Dorothy Dunnett's Niccolo series. And Abraham Verghese's "Cutting for Stone." Last but not least, I am reading "To Kill a Mockingbird" aloud with my son.


message 21: by Nafisa (new)

Nafisa Haji | 22 comments Mod
Nafisa wrote: "Loretta wrote: "What are you currently reading? Do yoou belong to any writing or reading groups?"

Oh...forgot to say what I was reading currently. Always several things at a time. Right now,..."


Speaking of which, I will have to sign off for the evening to go get back into my Southern accent for "Mockingbird" as my son heads into bedtime. I will be checking in regularly over the course of the next couple of weeks. It was such a pleasure to interact for tonight and thank you all so much for the excellent questions!!

Peace and love,
Nafisa


message 22: by Robin (new)

Robin | 5 comments Hello Nafisa~I was moved by your inclusion of the homeless community in your novel. Your character Magda put a face on the homeless and your sensitive writing of the character suggests some familiarity. Do you have experience with the homeless community?


message 23: by Nafisa (new)

Nafisa Haji | 22 comments Mod
Robin wrote: "Hello Nafisa~I was moved by your inclusion of the homeless community in your novel. Your character Magda put a face on the homeless and your sensitive writing of the character suggests some familia..."

Hi Robin,

Not in any working sense, no. Though the neighborhood where I taught in inner city Los Angeles was blocks away from a major shelter and many of the students at the school were officially categorized as homeless. I do have some vicarious exposure, however, because my sister is the director of a shelter in the Bay Area....


message 24: by Robin (new)

Robin | 5 comments Thank you for your comments Nafisa. I just found out something very exciting from an email from one of my favorite Independent Booksellers. The Writing on my Forehead is a nominee for(NCIBA) Book of the Year. Wow!! Congratulations!!!!


message 25: by Robin (new)

Robin | 5 comments Hello Nafisa~Your book is peppered with yummy, delectable sounding food. Would you be so kind as to expand on what these delicious foods are and how they are traditionally served in more detail? Some foods that I noted were:bun kababs,pani puris, paan, paan-wallas,gola ganda,and fish pakoras.


message 26: by Nafisa (new)

Nafisa Haji | 22 comments Mod
Hi Robin, thanks for the congratulations, by the way.

Paan is an acquired taste, something I've never acquired a liking for, though it's fun and mysterious to see them being prepared. All the foods listed are street foods sold and served from stalls all over Karachi. Gola gandas are snowcones. Recently, in San Francisco, I saw a little Indian ice cream shop (in the mission, Bombay something or other) that sells pani puri. In Karachi, there are "upscale" places that now serve all these street foods using bottled water for those with adventurous palates who don't (wisely) want to take risks with the effects on their stomaches.


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