Asia House hosted two talks in April, as pre-events to its Asia House Bagri Foundation Literature Festival which opens on May 9 this year…
WITH a particular focus on women writers this year, Asia House’s pre-festival event kicked off the theme by directing audience’s attention to a new anthology titled ‘The Things I Would Tell You: British Muslim Women Write’, which features a multitude of British Muslim women’s voices and covers a range of topics from honour killings to the Muslim Tinder.
The audience were treated last month to readings from the anthology by some of the writers; Leila Aboulela, Selma Dabbagh, Samira Shackle and award-winning British-Egyptian, playwright, performer and editor of the anthology, Sabrina Mahfouz. All were in conversation with journalist and literary critic, Arifa Akbar; the women also shared their thoughts on being a Muslim woman living in the UK today and delved into the question of ‘Who is us?’, as well as notions of belonging.
In a bid to reach as many Muslim women writers in the country, Sabrina Mahfouz now holds free creative writing workshops for any young Muslim writers wanting to share their stories. The talk was followed by a book signing and drinks the evening provided an insightful exploration into Muslim women’s lives in Britain today in a great taster for what’s to come in this year’s Asia House Literature Festival. (Tasha Mathur)
*‘The Things I would tell you: British Muslim women write’ book details/buy – https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/Books/Hear-Us-Now-Writings-British/0863561462/
*Dates for the workshops can be found on Sabrina Mahfouz’s own website and scroll down – see http://www.sabrinamahfouz.com/
ALSO examining some of the themes of the forthcoming festival, were writers Preti Taneja and Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay.
The two discussed ‘Sin Cities: Away in Four Indian Cities’ in a special talk last month, moderated by Deborah Smith, the translator of ‘The Vegetarian’, which won author Han Kang and Smith the Man Booker International in 2016. Taneja and Bandyopadhyay covered a wide range of ground – the two discussed women’s representation in South Asian literature, and examined the traditional roles often ascribed to female characters.
Both seek to challenge traditional portrayals and present more rounded and multi-dimensional women. Bandyopadhyay’s ‘Panty’ caused a furore when it was first published in its original Bengali in 2006. It was denounced in some quarters as being sexually explicit – Bandyopadhyay, via Skype from Kolkata, told the audience at Asia House she had encountered resistance and opposition. Taneja’s ‘Kumkum Malhotra’ – which also has a woman at the centre of it – told the audience it was important that women wrote about themselves in ways that challenged the established order, but also reflected the modern realities of India. Her latest work, a novel, ‘We that are young’ is already garnering huge interest and and will be published this summer. www.asianculturevulture.com and www.globooks.net will be hosting a Q&A Taneja at Waterstones in Piccadilly about her striking debut novel, later this summer. For more details about the event and to register your interest in purchasing tickets when they go on sale see here. This talk was ponsored by Cockayne Grants for the Arts, part of the London Community Foundation and from its ‘Sin Cities: Vice & Virtue Across Asia’s Urban Landscapes’ series. (Sailesh Ram)
*‘Kumkum Malhotra’ – http://www.gatehousepress.com/shop/new-fictions/kumkum-malhotra/
* ‘Panty’ – Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Panty-Sangeeta-Bandyopadhyay/dp/1911284002