Enemy of the Reich: The Noor Inayat Khan Story

History is said to be written by the victors.

Noor Inayat Khan is a Muslim woman, born in Moscow in 1914. While living in Paris, she found her true calling during the Second World War: to stand up to the encroaching Nazi terror. She worked as a secret agent and wireless operator in Paris behind enemy lines and transmitting messages to Berlin. Noor was eventually betrayed by some French operatives, arrested and imprisoned by the Nazis. She was tortured, but refused to reveal any information to her captors.She was later transferred to Dachau concentration camp with other female agents and shot in 1943.

Noor Khan was posthumously awarded the George Cross in 1949. She is a real-life hero we have failed to acknowledge in our war accounts and heroic narratives and now we have the chance to ensure history doesn’t miss this incredible chapter.

Unity Productions has produced a fantastic 60 minute docudrama about her life and needs our help to make sure the movie gets to see the light of day. The Kickstarter campaign has a $45,000 goal and already $39,467 has been pledged. There are 69 more hours to go and the campaign is SO CLOSE.

There are hundreds of films about WW II, but the Muslim story is largely missing. Our aim is to share the story of a hero who was unique in her own right: growing up in a household with American and Indian roots. Noor’s childhood was rich with inclusion and openness to all people, even as divisive nationalism and ethnic genocide were on the rise across Europe. Because of its universal values and sheer display of heart and courage, everyone can identify with Noor Khan’s story. It will help people to see Muslims, particularly Muslim women, in a new light.

Noor’s identity as a Muslim woman did not stop her from signing up to join the fight against the Nazis. Motivated by her faith, Noor’s worldview was based on a respect for all faiths against Hitler’s ideology of ethnic and religious extermination. She suffered the same fate as millions of Jews.

In a period like ours, filled with debate about Muslim women, who they are and what they stand for, we see great value in bringing into the public square examples and stories of strong Muslim women in unconventional situations. The Muslim community rarely has an opportunity to share such stories widely. Noor Khan’s biography, shown on national television, has the potential to reach millions.

If the campaign doesn’t reach its goal, then the project loses ALL FUNDING. ALL OF IT!

That means all the hard work and outreach will have been for nothing. Please donate whatever you can to this amazing project and spread the word to your family, friends and network. Check out the project on KickstarterFacebook, and Twitter.

UPF is a 501(c)3 educational non-profit, so all donors will also get a tax-deduction (if that’s what really motivates you.)

Noor’s story deserves to be heard. Let’s make it happen!

untitled poem on love

i never used to cry in romantic comedies

or during songs about love

i never used to express that emotion because i felt

that letting it all out was a sign of weakness

a signal of irrationality,

cliche naivety

the eternal optimism was just so alien to me

i couldn’t understand why everyone just loved love so much

tell me, do i just have a hardened heart?

i think i’m too young for one of those

my heart has no reason for to be so difficult to awaken

the world is too small

our lives are too short

and when i think about the certainty of death, i realize

i have no time to be wasting my cynicism on things that allow me to feel more human

because i will never be human again

i will never be this human again

love will not be there for me when my soul has left this earth

neither will money

career

degrees

or material possessions

that must be why we chase love

love can find us and slip so effortlessly away

it is the one thing that we all want, despite how much it scares and fascinates us

love has become a part of our stories, our myths, our legends

yet we are still so far from understanding it

so we cry and pen letters and songs

in hopes that we will one day be blessed with its knowledge

one day we will discover love’s rosetta stone

and share its secrets with all of humanity

Our Young-Adult Dystopia

I just finished reading an essay in the New York Times magazine calling out modern young adult dystopian novels for being money-seeking, weak pieces of literature that do not stack up to the great stories of the ages, mostly because the writers are mostly young in age. A decent amount of the essay focused on the Divergent series by Veronica Roth, which was written when she was 21.

Now I haven’t read a lot of dystopian literature but I do enjoy the genre and have found some great ones like The Giver, Fahrenheit 451 and The Hunger Games. I also did read Divergent, the first book of the series, and I have to say I was pretty disappointed as well. I had read The Hunger Games previously so I’m sure that was on my mind, but still, there is so much room for original creative stories in the dystopian genre, that it was very weird how similar the books were. On top of that, I found The Hunger Games had a much more appealing protagonist and a much more convincing world.

I was curious about Divergent’s futuristic Chicago with its different communities based on different characteristics, but the book left too many unanswered questions for me and forced me to suspend my belief more than necessary to get to the end. I had no desire to continue the rest of the series even though I was told to give it a shot. Apparently Roth got a lot of criticism over how she ended the series **INCOMING SPOILER ALERT**

by killing off her main character, but actually I like authors who have the guts to do that because you really feel like as the reader that nothing is safe, everything is unexpected, and the story is not about a perfect little world. I respect her for having the courage to do that but I still wasn’t satisfied by her writing.

I think it’s fair to say that the Divergent books shouldn’t be as popular as they are, but I don’t think it’s fair to argue it’s because the author is young and therefore was marketed simply for popularity. The essay states,

Children’s literature toys with our chronological expectations because the best of it has always been written, actually, by the comparatively elderly. Lewis himself was 51 when the “Narnia” books came out; Lois Lowry was 56 when “The Giver” was published; Madeleine L’Engle wrote “A Wrinkle in Time” in her 40s, and L. Frank Baum his “Oz” books in the same decade of his life.

Most of my favorite books are written by older authors, but I think it’s problematic to suggest that younger authors are incapable of writing quality children’s or YA stories. I definitely think experience makes you a better writer. I’m a testament to that. My earlier pieces and what I thought was good writing were honestly crap. I’ve learned a lot by reading, writing and just living more, making my characters and ideas more realistic and complex. It’s also nice to know that not getting published by 20 does not mean I have lost all hope of amounting to anything.

But honestly there are plenty of older novelists publishing crappy derivatives of The Hunger Games, Divergent, and all the paranormal fantasy sci-fi epic stories filling bookshelves because they (and their editors) think they have something special. Wisdom comes with age, but talent doesn’t come to everyone. It’s all trial and error and a bit of luck to publish the next piece of literature to resonate with the masses. Calling out young readers or writers for being stupid is just wrong and rather pretentious.

I am glad no one squashed my desire to write as a child because now as a 20-something, it happens to me all the time from the outside and from myself. I started this blog as a project in one of my college classes because I was passionate about supporting young writers like myself and find resources and opportunities that catered to our needs to get published and improve our craft. It’s going to be a long time until any of my books get published but that’s okay. I’m enjoying the ride until then and soaking up all the great stories already out there by veteran writers who were once in my place. I guess one day I’ll have to change the name of this blog to Old and Writerly, heh.

Help Ms. M’s Class Grow Two Years in Reading!

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My good friend and old roommate is currently a 9th grade English teacher and needs your support to give her students access to engaging books  that will develop their reading skills.

One key ingredient in helping students become stronger readers is having novel studies in the classroom. My students will use these copies of “Like Water for Chocolate” to gain exposure to the fantastical and inviting world of magical realism and to understand the power of figurative language in literary context. This novel set will engage my classroom by allowing students to explore complex and relatable characters, and to read the work of a Mexican author whose culture and heritage is vastly under-represented in my school’s current book collection and novel sets.

Please donate whatever you can to her DonorsChoose project and make a difference in empowering young readers. Many of her students come from high-poverty areas and have not had the luxury of having a wide variety of books to read at school or home.

There are 26 days left to give. Spread the word!!

 

Jhumpa Lahiri on Writing

“All writing, all art is just a wild leap off a cliff. There’s nothing to support you. You’re creating something out of nothing.”

I loved hearing one of my favorite writers, Jhumpa Lahiri, ruminate on the work behind her writing. It’s always great to hear an accomplished person describe their process, almost like a magician showing you the truth behind their illusion. But in this case, it doesn’t make the reading any less delightful or worthwhile.

Writing is always different for everyone and it’s empowering to think about creating something out of nothing. No one needs or wants my story yet, but I will create that need and want through the depiction of my characters and their experience. I will bring them to life without understanding how or why, but I’ll do it because they speak to me. In darkened shadows, in fleeting moments of silence, in wavering footsteps across the street. Even if it takes 100 drafts, I will figure it out slowly and whittle away until I stand back and find my creation completed. I can’t wait until that day finally arrives.

 

New Year writing resolutions

“The most beautiful things are those that madness prompts and reason writes.”

-ANDRÉ GIDE

Hope you all had a lovely New Year’s!

I got to spend 2 weeks back at home in Arizona visiting family and friends and I’ve returned to the Bay Area in 2014,  refreshed and ready to continue my fellowship while also tackling my personal/professional projects.

I want to share my writing resolutions to encourage you and also hold myself accountable to these lofty goals.

  1. Revise and submit my short story for the Hijabulous anthology
  2. Complete my NaNo novel by July 31
  3. Have my novel manuscript ready to send out to agents by December 31
  4. Write a book review every 2 months
  5. Join a writing group or at least attend some writing community events
  6. Write 2 new poems and try to share them

What are your writing resolutions? Any tips or advice you’d like to share?

R.I.P Ned Vizzini

Just found out on Twitter that Ned Vizzini has died. At first I didn’t believe, because Twitter is always killing off people but there are two tweets from BuzzFeedBooks and a fellow writer with Ned on a project called Last Resort. It’s amazing to read the outpouring of love and support for him from authors, writers, and readers.

I read his book It’s Kind of a Funny Story when I was a teenager and found it to be so visceral and honest about all the suffocating pressures teens feel to be perfect and high-achieving and accepted. It was also a window into what it’s like to suffer from depression and knowing Ned was writing from a personal experience, made it all the more powerful. The sincerity of his character is something I noted after reading the book and have been trying to emulate in my own writing. Ned was also just inspiration as someone who had so many writing success at such a young age, publishing essays in the New York Times and a book at 19. He went on to work on more novels and scriptwriting and speaking on writing to young audiences.

A tragic loss for his family and the community, but Ned will live on through the words he’s written and the people who knew him.

Final NaNo week

I haven’t been updating my progress on this blog during NaNoWriMo as I thought I would, but I guess that’s a good thing since I should be expending all my writing energy on the novel. I started off really well during the month in terms of word count and daily activity, but eventually the more I learned about what my story was about and needed to be, the less applicable my outline became. I deleted my outline because all the ideas I had didn’t work anymore since I had changed my story.

I also realized that the pacing of my novel is extremely off and suddenly I have new characters to add into the picture which takes more work to figure out. I wanted my protagonist to spend a week and a half in her home town and then the majority of the novel, on her month trip in San Francisco. Unfortunately, since I was still figuring out how and why she goes to San Francisco, most of my novel is spent in her hometown and I’m just now getting to her arrival in San Francisco.

Here’s a snapshot of what my novel stats look like right now.

Screenshot 2013-11-24 12.13.23

 

The graph is really helpful as a visual but also depressing when I see how far behind I am lol. But honestly, I’m really proud of the fact that it’s been three years since I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo and I’ve written more than I ever have before. Yes, a lot of the story is crap and scenes will be deleted, dialogue condensed, description expanded, but I have the skeleton of a novel, folks! It has a chance to live after this!

I can always come back to this novel now and enjoy the personal connection I have to it as my time here in San Francisco. Especially since I’ll be here for an entire year, I will take the time and experiences I have to continue adding to the story. My protagonist and I are going to figure it out together 🙂

 

Painted Hands With Jennifer Zobair

Love, InshAllah

Loveinshallah asked Jennifer Zobair, author of Painted Hands, to share insights on her novel, the writing process, and the dynamics of Muslim fiction in contemporary society. Click here to listen to audio of the author reading a passage from the book.

How would you describe Painted Hands to a reader in fifty words or less?

Painted Hands is about successful Muslim women in Boston. Zainab is a sharp-tongued campaign strategist with a penchant for generating controversy. Amra is an ambitious attorney. They face difficult choices when relationships with complicated men—including a right-wing radio host—shatter their friendship and the political climate threatens their careers.

What made you decide to write the novel? Can you describe your writing process?

I wanted to write a novel about the kinds of Muslim women I don’t see often enough in fiction—strong, educated, independent women who, should they need “saving,” are perfectly capable of saving themselves…

View original post 1,620 more words

Week 1 NaNo Update

It’s Day 9, and the end of a week of NaNoWriMo.

The Good: I’ve been writing something every day!

The Bad: I’m really behind in my wordcount, approximately 8,000 words behind.

The Ugly: I’m unimpressed with my main character but I want the story to progress and get more interesting and can’t be bothered to write these scenes before the story finally gets going.

I guess I should back up and tell you what my story is about.

The novel is called Amira Wandering.

Plot summary: Amira, a 20-something girl from a small town in California, is stuck in a quarter-life crisis, until she receives a letter from herself written 6 years ago, that spurs her on a journey of self-discovery and adventure in San Francisco.

The summary sounds promising, like I’d pick up this book if I saw it in a bookstore. The problem is it’s so hard to write about self-discovery and journeys without getting super personal and philosophical. I want the story to be action-oriented and character driven, but it seems very passive and driven by Amira’s internal monologue. Not too exciting. She hasn’t left her home to San Francisco yet and that’s where all the fun really begins. I want to be at that point writing, but if I shorten the path to getting there, it’ll seem jarring and you won’t understand where she came from.

Also I tend to be a sparse writer (funny, because I used to be such a flowery writer who loved adjectives and adverbs way too much) so that’s making it hard for me to reach the necessary wordcount to stay on track to finish 50k by the end of November.

Luckily, I have a 3 day weekend to catch up, but I’m also fighting off a cold that wants me to just sleep, drink tea, and watch TV all day. I really lack the discipline to establish a regular writing schedule, but I have surprised myself with the short writing sprints I’ve done waiting for the bus, riding on the BART, on my Evernote app on my phone…You can truly incorporate writing into your day if you really make the effort, but I think it’s hard to get serious writing and concepts down if you’re not in a proper environment for it. And if you don’t have hours and hours to sit on your own and just work through all your doubts and frustration, it’s easy to prioritize other tasks or activities once you’ve come home from a long day of work.

I’d love to hear from others embarking on this NaNo journey and see how you’re doing. I haven’t been to any write-ins yet because none of them are that close to me and being confined to use public transit makes me very lazy. This blog is my write-in 😀