Becoming Assiya by Simran Keshwani – An Interview

“A strange city with embittered, half sunken bodies and detached souls, the large beds (they’re all the same if you asked her), the strange smell of flowers and scents in the house when their wives and daughters were away, and then the dirt of whoring. The world was a crazy place, with crazy men, and without crazy love.”

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Becoming Assiya is the story of a misplaced Syrian refugee and her trial with a past of Blood, wounds, War, Doubt and Hatred and the troublesome Hope of a better tomorrow. The woman’s journey encompasses through the landscape of Wartime Syria, through her mother’s journal and the rebuilding of a Post War identity for a land washed with blood, and what it meant to be alive, stuck in the middle with No Identity and Struggle, two complex concepts intermingle in this book and intersect at a common point, that of finding yourself.

1. Your subtitle “The story of children of war” has any resemblance with your childhood memories or any war you fought as a child?

I think, growing up, I was always a very sensitive, isolated child. Being a lonely kid, pen and paper was my best friend. I’ve had to fight battles with mental illness, and I believe, War is something that’s in our DNA. That’s an inescapable biological fact because our ancestors have lived through and passed on its wounds to us and we’re all the children of War. That said, I also believe, everybody fights their own battles, big or small. Survival is a war in itself, and we live in a world where the narrative of hate and xenophobia is stronger than ever.

2. Why such a sensitive theme (Syrian War)? Any affinity with the contemporary world?

I’ve spent half of my life in the Middle East as my maternal family is from the UAE. My affinity with that region has always been very strong. I remember asking my mother as a child about why people there dressed differently, to which mum replied – it doesn’t matter, they’re human too. That fed deeper into my brain, and it really is an easy concept to grasp.

3.  How do you connect with your protagonist?

I’ve said this before and I think Simran and Assiya meet and shake hands, for they must. Assiya could be any girl. Syrians led normal civilian lives, until their period of misfortune began. We’re really lucky we have safe roofs over our heads and are away from sites of War where a dignified Man has to beg on the streets to feed his family.

4. What were the challenges you faced while writing? Any tips or suggestions for the future writers?

A writer’s block is something very real. I faced a lot of it while working on my projects at college after my novel ended. Advice for writers – keep the faith. You’ll lose your mind and get your heart broken a

Couple times, but in the end, it’ll be worth it.

5. What are your future plans? Any sequel or new writing comes up?

A prequel called Wind from My Land is in the pipeline. The story of Assiya ends with burgeoning questions on identity. Wind from My Land explodes the understanding of the word, and further convolutes it.

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