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December 1, 2020 Issue of
A Writer’s Life
(Please note: All biographical info printed in the original article has been omitted here. See Author Bio Page)
-Please tell our readers a little about your book “UNBOWED”, and why it is a must read.
Rather than give the usual ‘elevator pitch’, of what this book is about, I’ll first provide you with the context. For most of humanity’s history, family has been the cultural cornerstone of a society and the primary support system for the individual. Yet, right now, there are many places in the world where women and girls are not safe within their own families—places where women live in perpetual fear; where conceiving a female child is a curse on the family; and sexual pleasure for women is considered indecent. Imagine, then, what it’s like for the protagonist in my novel, UNBOWED, Arab born Basma Abseh, who is from a culture that kills their women and girls for any perceived taint on the family.
Chapter one begins in a small village in the mountainous region of Yemen twenty-six years ago with a grazing sheep and three small children watching ants carry bread. One innocent gesture, later, between the boy and girl becomes the fuel that leads to a nightmarish event an eleven-year-old Basma becomes a witness to. Then at thirteen Basma is married off to, Shafal Abseh, a much older man and is deflowered on their wedding night.
Throughout the first chapter the reader is immersed in a culture, a time and setting unfamiliar to them. Yet by detailing the almost alien terrain, the actions of the people, their mode of dress, the sights the sounds in the village, what their cultural dishes are, and specifically, the role of females, I tried to capture the essence of this world and bring it into sharper focus.
Chapter two fast forwards to present day New York City where we find Basma has grown into a shy, obedient wife and mother who has never been in love nor has she felt any stirrings of sensual pleasure. Each day, she adorns herself in the traditional garb of a black hijab and long chador, and goes to her part time job at a Queens nursing home. She is resigned to this life of routine. But one stormy afternoon while waiting at a bus stop with an impending downpour looming overhead, a red sports car pulls up driven by the handsome young man from the bakery where she buys the fresh baked bread her family loves. At first, she ignores his offer, but a blinding flash of lightening and booming sound of thunder decides for her and against Muslim custom she trustingly gets into the man’s car. An inappropriate touch and a demand that she meet with him again or he’ll inform her husband starts the main plot point of the story.