Describe your book in five words or less.
A voice for silenced women.
How did the ideas for your books come to you?
When you are inside a society you tend to be blind to its realties, but when I moved to Sweden I started to look at my society with other eyes, and began to evaluate it ‒ and also to question myself why Bengali/Indian girls allow themselves to be black-mailed into accepting their lot. One of my friends from Bangladesh was in love with a Hindu boy, but her family forced her to marry her cousin. Ultimately she stood up, divorced him, and now lives in Sweden with another man. Her family has disowned her. When Fadime, a Kurdish girl, was murdered by her father in Sweden, it occurred to me that the main problem is the inherited mindset of traditional families, which follows you wherever you go. This perverse trend is becoming a global illness. Girls from traditional families are bullied, beaten and, in the worst cases, even murdered if they try to break with accepted family patterns, no matter where they are. It’s more severe in Third World countries, where the state doesn’t vouch for your welfare. That welfare depends on your family, and very often families misuse their power. I wanted to highlight that, through the story of Daria.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
After a thousand years of humiliation and degradation, many women have forgotten that they have the power within them to fight against injustice, but Daria’s story proves that anyone can take a stand and fight back. Thoughts can be transformed into a trumpet.
What is the hardest part of writing for you? What's the easiest?
The hardest part was establishing a connection between the harsh realities of Daria’s life with the beauty of the country, and also to try to cast light on the situation of millions of girls through the story of one girl. The easiest part was the story-line.
What's next for you? Are you currently working on or have plans for future projects?
The manuscript of my second novel, which is a love story set against the liberation war of Bangladesh, is now being read by a traditional publishing house in Dhaka. I have no idea when it will be published. I have drafted two more novels, and hope to be ready with at least one of them in 2014. I am also looking forward to the paperback and e-book editions of the Spanish version.
Why did you choose to write for specific genre?
Because I have always been very fond of literary fiction which is based on social issues.
What's it like hearing that readers are eagerly awaiting your book's release date?
I guess ‒ happiness.
What is one question that you've always wanted to be asked in an interview? How would you answer that question?
Well, I think that question would be: “Are there any other authors from Bangladesh who were first published there and then became international with the same title?”
The answer would be: Historically it has always been the other way round. But as far as I know, I am the first one published in Bangladesh who broke that pattern. Translation rights of A List Of Offences were sold to Spain and Greece after the book was published in Dhaka.
What was your road to publications like?
When I was ready with the manuscript, I had sent it to a few agents in the USA. Within a few days, three called back. I chose the most passionate one - Doris Michaels. She loved the book, and sent it out to quite a few publishers in the USA, who all found the book very beautiful, relevant, etc., but too slow paced. I had worked very hard with each word so I didn’t want to cut it down to fit their demand. So, I took it to The University Press Ltd, and met the publisher myself. Upon reading the letters from various US editors he took the manuscript from me and asked me to wait. I waited outside the closed door. After about three hours he appeared there with the contract. This is how it started. Then it was sold to Spain (Maeva) and Greece (Oceanida). In parts of South America, it even hit top ten list together with Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns... Quite a few English copies made abroad, and the book was reviewed in different newspapers and magazines including in Chattahoochee Review - USA. It also has been used as project material and studied at different universities. I have felt very happy about that, but at the same time I have been feeling restless as the English version has not been available to general readers outside Bangladesh . So, I decided to have my rights back. My publisher is a kind man so he understood me. Now I have published it independently. By the way, only this week I heard from my Spanish agent that Maeva wants to renovate the pocketbook and e-book rights of A List of Offences.
ABOUT A LIST OF OFFENCES
Daria, the heroine of the book is born under unusual circumstances that cause the people of her small village to gossip; yet as she grows she becomes an intelligent, sensitive and spiritual beauty that one feels is destined for a perfect life. After a flood, a boy is found on the bank of her river. Daria’s parents adopt the boy, and Daria befriends him. As they grow Daria begins to inhabit Mizan’s dreams and thoughts, but a sudden meeting with anglophile Ali Baba brings everything crashing down around Daria. She forgets her upbringing and falls madly in love with him and after her hasty wedding, she moves to Baba Lodge and is brought into the suffocating life of Ali Baba and his family.
Here she lives a life unloved and psychologically abused until she gets pregnant. Now she begins to hope that finally her potential for love, luck and happiness will be realised through her new-born child. Yet relations between Daria and her in-laws deteriorate further. Daria finds herself torn between the religious mandate of Islam to stay with and obey her husband and the call of her intellect and instincts to flee and forge a different life for her daughter.
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ABOUT DILRUBA Z. ARA
Dilruba Z. Ara was born in Bangladesh. Nurtured on Greek mythology by her father, and hearing Indian fairy tales as bedtime stories from her mother, Dilruba had her first story published when she was eight years old. While in university at the age of twenty, she met and married her husband, a Swedish Air Force officer, and moved to Sweden, where she obtained degrees in English, Swedish, Classical Arabic and linguistics. She now teaches Swedish and English in Sweden. An accomplished, exhibited artist, her paintings have been used as the covers for the Bangladeshi, Greek, and U.S. editions of A LIST OF OFFENCES.
Visit her website at www.dilrubazara.com
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