Hanna Alkaf’s Q&A tomorrow! @yesitshanna

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I’m SO excited about attending tomorrow’s talk. Hanna Alkaf is my hero because she:

1)  got published through Salaam Reads, my dream imprint.

2) has TWO KIDS UNDER FOUR!

3) has TWO KIDS UNDER FOUR!!!!

4) is incredibly humble, supportive, and very “if I did it, then so can you!”

I’m just sayin’. Wow. Can’t wait to hold her book in my haaaands next year.

Hanna’s Q&A will be my baby Husna’s first earthside literary event haha. See you all tomorrow at Kino inshaAllah ❤

Book Review of Earthsea Quartet by Ursula Le Guin

There is sEarthseaomething captivating about epic fantasy classics. I’m rereading one of my old favourites – The Earthsea Quartet by Ursula Le Guin. This quartet includes the first four books from the Earthsea Cycle: A Wizard of Earthsea; The Tombs of Atuan; The Farthest Shore; and Tehanu.

While I witnessed of Sparrowhawk’s journeys in A Wizard of Earthsea, I could feel the crisp sea breeze on my skin, smell the salt of the ocean, and taste his desolation while he sailed into uncharted waters. The ability to transport the reader into another world is one of the hallmarks of well-written classic fantasy. As much as I enjoy my brief forays into dystopian YA novels, there is a lush, complex and gorgeous terrain only found in well-written, classic fantasy. Books like Tolkien’s and Le Guin’s take much, much longer to complete.

Le Guin’s writing style is both richly descriptive and tantalisingly sparse, leaving plenty of room for the reader to imagine the world of Earthsea. She expertly weaves themes like friendship, loneliness, the cost of pride and other human foibles into her stories. Any good story must have character growth, and Le Guin’s characters go on humbling journeys of self-discovery.

You know the old joke about fantasy novels? About how all fantasy worlds can somehow fit on two pages? Ha. It’s true, even in Le Guin’s case. This time, I actually made the effort of tracing Sparrowhawk’s journey on the map of Earthsea, and it made for even more vivid imaginings.

Without giving away too much, I’m curious about your thoughts on Le Guin’s take on gender, magic and mythology. Her depiction of women’s ineffective hedge magic versus the more serious craft of male wizards is…intriguing, particularly in today’s context of female-centric heroic narratives. If you ask me, I prefer a balance of both male and female protagonists. Le Guin is 85 years old, and she is unapologetic about her earlier works embracing the male-centric heroic narrative. I read one of her interviews, to help me understand the context she wrote in. Fascinating! In the Earthsea Quartet at least, the contrast between Le Guin’s gendered character descriptions to Margaret Atwood’s is very stark.

I’d like to end with an inspiring quote by Le Guin, given at the November 2014 National Book Awards:

I think hard times are coming, when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies, to other ways of being. And even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom: poets, visionaries—the realists of a larger reality. Right now, I think we need writers who know the difference between production of a market commodity and the practice of an art. The profit motive is often in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable; so did the divine right of kings. … Power can be resisted and changed by human beings; resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art—the art of words. I’ve had a long career and a good one, in good company, and here, at the end of it, I really don’t want to watch American literature get sold down the river. … The name of our beautiful reward is not profit. Its name is freedom.

Interview with Saltanat Bora, Founder of The Modest Bride

Today’s blog post is an exclusive interview with the lovely and talented Saltanat Bora, founder of The Modest Bride. modestbride1Tell me about the ethos behind The Modest Bride.

The ethos behind the blog revolves around the concept of ‘modesty’ and what this entails, not just in the world of weddings, but in life as well. To me, modesty is more than just a ‘style’ or ‘look’. It dictates how one speaks, acts and lives. It’s a holistic ideal that informs one’s lifestyle choices, beyond what one decides to wear. Whilst dressing with humility is important, modesty is also about living a life conscious of the impacts of our choices regarding what we eat, how we consume and how we choose to celebrate, amongst many other things.

Of course, all of this stems from the religion I choose to follow, that is, Islam. Modesty, or ‘haya’, is core to the religion. Modesty in front of one’s Creator should be the driving force in striving to live a life of humility, honesty, and a deeper consciousness of how we live.

What inspired you to start it?

It was frustration more than anything that pushed me to start the Instagram page, and later the blog. Having been married myself and gone through the nightmare that is planning a wedding, and seeing many others around me go through the same, made me realise that the way we took on certain (western) cultural expectations of what a wedding should (or shouldn’t) be, was entirely against what I struggled for as a Muslim. Community expectation that weddings should be elaborate and really, beyond an average person’s means to afford, seemed wholly unfair and unjust. I was fed up with the same old ‘big hall’ weddings, dripping in flowers, for hundreds of people the bride/groom didn’t even know, and also, the big, over the top, anything but modest, wedding dresses that (Hijabi) brides were wearing. I knew that something had to change.

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Who is your target audience?

Although a lot of what informs my blog, my direction and my ethos is from Islam, my target audience is not necessarily for the Muslim. I believe that my love for a minimalist aesthetic and an eco-friendly, fair-trade, organic lifestyle would resonate with a much wider audience. I was right! A lot of my followers are non-Muslim. I also don’t think that ‘modesty’ is a value unique to Muslims.

What do you hope to achieve from your blog?

My ultimate aim would be to see more and more people be inspired by the blog, and have the courage to do things differently to the norm. For people to understand that their choices have consequences on the world, other people and the environment. That simply because they are getting married, does not mean that all our values regarding modesty and humility suddenly get left at the door. In fact, it is more pertinent that on that “big day” we maintain and uphold these values because it is an important step in our lives. It should be crucial that we take this step in the right way so that it ensures, to the best of our ability, that things start off in the most blessed, joyful, correct manner.

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If there was one thing you want young women and men to take away from your blog, what would it be?

Don’t compromise on your values just because there is a societal expectation to do things a certain way!

What would be your ‘ideal wedding’?

The ideal wedding for me is a small, intimate celebration with the bride and groom’s closest family and friends at a beautiful garden location, maybe even a backyard! Home made (organically sourced) food that’s not too fussy, DIY elements such as a photograph garland of the bride and groom, their family and friends etc. Big lanterns in clusters to set the mood, locally sourced flowers in an eclectic array of vases, lace tablecloths, a yummy “naked” cake-see blog for clarification 😉 – and lots and lots of love and joy in an easy, comfortable atmosphere.

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“The Middle Way – Avoiding Extremes” SeekersConversation is tonight! Discussions on #westgate

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Join us tonight 7:30 pm, at SeekersHub Sydney for a night of riveting discussion with guest speaker Shaykh Faraz Rabbani and Imam Afroz Ali! Our centre is located at 299 Belmore Road, Riverwood.

Teaser questions for tonight:

  • How can you explain all the ‘extreme’ behaviour erupting all over the Muslim world, as well as in Muslim communities in the West?
  • Some claim that the term ‘moderate Muslim’ is apologist and irrelevant, because all Muslims ought to be moderate. Do you agree or disagree?
  • What are your thoughts on Westgate Mall massacre in Kenya?

I’m looking forward to audience participation, so bring your questions and join in during Q&A time!

Book interview

Hello world!

Sorry about my hiatus. I got married in January, and that tends to throw a spanner in the works 🙂 Irfan is my personal non-pharmaceutical kind of joy, but now that I’m out of the newlywed cave, I’m back on the marketing bandwagon! Check out my book interview with Mehal Krayem.

I feel like one of the best ways I can promote my book is by writing another one! More info on that, later…

As I write this, I’m listening to some ambient nature sounds in the background. How do you write best? Do you need silence, the sound of nature, or anything goes?

On another note, I’ve just finished reading the three Dragonships books by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. Brilliant work, as always. I adored the Weis and Hickman Death Gate Cycle series (from ye olde highschool days), but their Dragonships series is an entirely different ballgame. It’s inspired by Norse mythology, with its own twists on magic and mayhem. If you love fantasy and dragons, you won’t be disappointed!