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The Compleat Finches

Word count: 36,000 words

When I first began writing Finches, I had no idea it was going to be a book. At best, I thought it would be a triptych of short stories. Then a novella in four parts. Then, it grew to three parts and seven vignettes. The characters grew with me -- from set old men doomed to live and perish in paradises of their own making, to increasingly stronger and more vocal women. That first commentary on Quranic dogma vs. the evolving truth of the world as it is, both in our reality and in the story, went from a relatively straightforward study vis-à-vis a ghost story, to a running commentary on how my own thinking has changed since I began writing it five years ago.

I never intended to write a feminist novella on the Islamic reality in Malaysia. But the wealth of books I have acquired, from generous family gifts and my own growing collection, strengthened a message I picked up long ago and never really did anything with. I am proud and happy to have transmuted some of it into tangible writing. I also feel that Finches closed a particularly bitter chapter in my own life. Much of my adulthood was spent grieving over my father's betrayal of our family, and the subsequent betrayal of both parents bickering and coping with polygamy as an influence over our collective lives. I wrote the first three chapters at the tail end of this gloomy period, when my family had only just healed but many of the smiles we were obliged to show other people were grimaces. I was a very angry younger person. That shows, I think. The first two members of Ghani's family we see in the novella practically eviscerate themselves to preserve the status quo, then the third protagonist -- and the first female voice to appear in the book -- moves in, takes over and just about overwhelms the landscape into staying the same no matter what. That was how I felt then, that after my own father's proposed second marriage stampeded through my late teens, all we'd done is tamp down any blowholes and pretended it never happened. My father just shut that part of his life away, and my mother, like Grandmother Jah, erased all existence of this other woman. The rest of us tried to forget. It worked out emotionally, because even forgetting is one way of dealing with extraordinary situations. I don't know if it ever worked out mentally for me. I am not the kind of person who cannot try to resolve a problem. So even if my family has largely forgotten, I needed to figure out how the greater ramifications of what we experienced connect to other people.

I wrote the last two chapters of the book, incidentally the two longest chapters both in terms of writing and writing time, only after I married and moved to the United States. There was a long convalescence between Chapters III and IV. My dear husband encouraged me to write this book and complete it, as did the kindest friends I ever had and will continue to ever have, in particular mokie, who has endured far too many rewrites of this work. Being married was an interesting experience for me. It continues to help me grow emotionally and intellectually. I am happy where I am in life right now, that itself is new and something I thought previously impossible. Thus, the closing chapters of it Finches are about that -- negotiating the past, in order to deal with the present, and the final closing of the shutters and locking up of the old homestead, whether its ghosts agree or not.

What finishing the book has taught me, most of all, is that my convictions when I was younger, my instincts to protect myself from my parents and the social environment that encouraged them to make their choices (and mine), were not wrong. I should stop feeling guilty about them, or even for them. My writing is still an essential part of my identity. It helped me work through crises before, and it constitutes an important part of my thinking process now. I am still an atheist, and I continue to be fascinated by religion. That polarity birthed Finches. and it continues to bring forth new, fun things for me to do with my brain. Irreligion helped me analyse the aforementioned social environment I grew up in, which stopped me from being overwhelmed by it. Evolution happens. It continues to happen, and nothing that people can imagine will bloody well stop it. It happens even though books say it doesn't, and it happens even as Wahhabism creeps and freezes one half of the world while newfound Jesus shambles into the other. It will still happen, mind you, even when that epic religious battle people say is going to take place actually does.

And now comes another interesting phase in my writing, which is getting out there and finding a home for this book. I'm less depressed over this prospect than I was last year, but I'm up for suggestions, if anyone knows a potential market for a novella of up to 40,000 words. I'm trying literary markets right now, but one man's cultural horror is another man's magical realism. All very exciting, I assure you.



( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 9th, 2011 10:01 pm (UTC)
I can't wait to read it!
Jan. 9th, 2011 10:12 pm (UTC)
Aww, thanks!
Jan. 10th, 2011 08:57 pm (UTC)
I think this should be the foreword of the book. I am looking forward to reading it very much!
Jan. 11th, 2011 09:12 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I certainly relish the opportunity. :)
Jan. 14th, 2011 06:47 pm (UTC)
I'm dying to read it, too.
Jan. 14th, 2011 08:33 pm (UTC)
Thank you! :)
Jan. 15th, 2011 01:16 am (UTC)
Did you get my email about restarting the Paramentals? (I think imperator.net is down.)
Jan. 15th, 2011 03:10 am (UTC)
No, neither Seth nor myself have received any emails from imperator.net lately.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )