Bismillahir rahmanir raheem
tight rope: what is it all about
I’m sure you’ve seen if you’ve been following me on social media, I had the chance to review a new awesome book called Tight Rope. The story centres on Nour Ibrahimm, an African- American social activist who, leading up to a speech at a rally, begins to receive shocking Islamophobic, racist threats. The books dances between her character as well as many others including her stalker so you get the see the story form every possible level.
It really was a pleasure to read it first before it’s release and I was also given the great honour of interviewing the author. So without further ado, here is my exclusive author interview with Sahar Abdulaziz, the amazing creator behind Tight Rope.
What inspired you to start writing?
I am fervently connected with the written word. As a voracious reader, I have spent countless hours embedded within the pages of books, where I am permitted a small glimpse into the lives and experiences of fantastical characters. As a result, I have always enjoyed writing. I appreciate the etymology [history and origin] and the power words have to invoke emotions, memories, and ideas… the way they can convey knowledge, understanding, and insight, but I am especially in awe of how the written word can transcend the here and now, soften hearts, and defy absolutes.
How long did it take you to complete Tight Rope?
Alhamdulillah, I came up with the idea to write Tight Rope early in 2016.
At the time, I was in the middle of finishing another novel about a different topic entirely. While I don’t typically write two books at the same time, the expediency to write Tight Rope took precedence, particularly because of the escalation in hate crimes, the ignorant prattle about building walls, Muslim bans, internment camps, along with a host of other political debauchery.
With all that was happening, I felt a pressing need to, at the very least, finish the draft– what I call ‘getting the bones down’ and then revisit the work by adding ‘the skin’ –which are the details and nuances. However, as usual, the best of man-made plans go astray, and this project proved no different. There was a definite overlap where I wound up writing both books at the same time.
Long story short, the original draft of Tight Rope took a total of six solid months of heavy writing to complete. Revisions, edits, and proofs, probably added an additional four months to the process. I am blessed to have an incredible publisher, Djarabi Kitabs Publishing, who understood the importance of getting this timely book out, as did the entire DKP team.
What was your inspiration for Tight Rope at a time like this i.e. with rampant Islamophobia and racism in America?
Within the context of the American historical framework, rampant racism, bigotry, and the normalising of prejudice and hate is not anything new. When the citizens of a country become predisposed by a looming and dangerous political mindset specially cultivated to encourage racism, bigotry, misogyny, xenophobia, and Islamophobia, whether, through a barrage of blatant misinformation or the endless pandering to fear and ignorance, hate thrives and intensifies.
However, regarding what inspired Tight Rope specifically, I would venture to say the need to create a story whose characters must confront the historical erasure of pain caused by the fostering of stereotypes and racist dialogue. Through this book, I wanted to express how the epidemic ‘othering’ of those deemed outside of the normative is nothing short of dehumanizing–whether instigated or disseminated by non-Muslims or Muslims.
Were there any specific inspirations for the main character Nour Ibrahim?
No. The main character, Nour Ibrahim is not based on any single or specific individual. However, with that said, what I believe stands out about Nour’s personality is how she embodies the bravery, commitment, and steadfastness of Black American Muslim women who have their daily existence burdened by a culture inundated by systemic racism and bigotry–both inside and outside of the American Muslim culture.
This is an unfortunate and despicable reality that Black women across America face. The fact that even within many Muslim communities and Mosques, they are not safe from being ignored, othered, or flagrantly disrespected. It was imperative that this story expose not only the prevalence of this pain, but also its epidemic erasure by crafting a novel that didn’t shy away from social commentary and complex characters that speak to relevant issues.
Which character’s story did you enjoy writing the most?
I’m almost embarrassed to admit, but I thoroughly enjoyed writing the dark, maniacal character of Eugene Underwood as well as the eccentric personality of Doris Tetler the most. These two characters opened up a plethora of opportunities since they are both devoid of guilt. Without guilt, remorse or culpability to contend with, I as a writer could take them into mind-bending spaces where no well-balanced individual would voluntarily go.
With every book, I find that my characters take a life of their own, no matter how much I attempt to box them in or bend them to what I think they should say or do. When I originally developed Tight Rope’s storyline, both characters were tertiary at best, but when introduced, their voices and personalities reigned. It was evident from the jump that Eugene and Doris weren’t going to be one dimensional, nor would they go away quietly. If anything, their idiosyncrasies, quirks, and nuances unfolded rapidly. Needless to say, I found them both diabolically delicious to write.
a message for budding writers
If there was one message you’d like a reader to take from your book, what would it be?
My work addresses complex and profoundly highly complicated layers concerning a myriad of societal issues about subject matter many wish to flat out ignore or deny.
My intention in writing Tight Rope was to expose the raw travesty of racism, bigotry, and hate. To demonstrate through story how it is used to demoralize and control, but most of all, to show how racists feel emboldened and entitled to target, silence, and kill at whim.
What advice would you give to other writers?
What works or motivates me to write might not have the same effect on somebody else. Therefore, I tend not to have a lot of advice to give others except to write, read, listen and observe. I advise that writers use their time and energy to hone their craft, learn to appreciate constructive criticism and then grow from it. Lastly, when the feeling to quit shows up–write, read, listen and observe some more.
So there it is. Jazakillahu khayrun to Sahar and the Djarabi Kitabs Team for allowing me to get this great interview and have a read of the book. Insha Allah look out for my review Tight Rope coming soon to the blog.