Posts by Fadi Zaghmout

Interested in social issues, individual freedoms and human rights in the Arab world!

An excerpt from LAILA by Fadi Zaghmout

                  He was rude when he crept up to me in the bathroom as I was brushing my teeth. He hugged me from behind, and, making sure I felt the bulge in his pants, he swept my hair from my shoulder, his lips ready to plant a kiss on my neck. He still wanted to impose his manhood on me as if his limited way of thinking could not accept the fact that I was repulsed by him. As if his ears were tuned deaf every time I said in no uncertain terms, ‘If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times: I don’t want you!’

                  My entire body trembled the second I felt him close to me. My muscles tensed and my blood boiled. I tried to control myself and avoid any kind of overblown reaction, but he was shameless. He didn’t care. He was enjoying the burst of male hormones gushing through his veins, ready to act on the urge coursing through his body. I let him plant his kiss on me as I resisted an overwhelming desire to grab the perfume bottle in front of me and spray it in his eyes or to bite his arm, right on the cut I inflected on him the day before. He would have screamed in pain as he hurled a torrent of insults at me, or he would have probably slapped me or lunged at me, trying to hit and hurt me worse than I had hurt him. I would have responded in kind, slapping him back if he slapped me, clawing his face with my nails, or kicking him in the balls to teach him never to do that to me again.

                  But I was wise and acted fast. I ignored his erection pressed up against me. I finished brushing my teeth and put the toothbrush down. I took a sip of water, rinsed my mouth, spat the water out, and then quickly turned off the tap and quietly peeled myself away, leaving the bathroom as if nothing had happened. He followed me a minute later, a wicked smile on his face.

                  I realized that his mind refused to register that I was rejecting him, so he decided to think of my reaction as part of a game. A chase where he was the predator and I the prey. The idea of him as the predator gave him a sense of power, while my resistance translated in his mind as a chance to prove his dominance over me, an invitation to reassert his masculinity. He must have viewed it as fake resistance, the kind prevalent in Egyptian movies. A form of coquettish hard-to-get play used by women to entice men and turn them on. At the end of such a scenario, in his mind, after a few flirtatious moves and acts of fake modesty, I was bound to fall into his arms, surrender to his masculinity, capitulate to his virility.

                  I was a predator. I didn’t think much of the chase unless I was the one doing the chasing, the one breaking a man, reducing him to a meek lamb. Obedient, submissive. Under my control. I had to act firmly when Firas stealthily slunk up behind me as I stood in front of the mirror clasping my bra. I spun around and looked him straight in the eye. ‘What do you want?’

                  ‘Gosh! You’re so stubborn,’ he huffed, as if he didn’t expect my question, or was too embarrassed to come out and just say he wanted me.

                  ‘I’m the one who’s stubborn?’ I snapped, turning my back to him. I picked up my eyeliner and leaned forward, closer to the mirror.

                  ‘Yes. You. You’re so stubborn!’ He yelled at me.

                  ‘And so are you!’ I yelled back as I opened my eye wide to line it with kohl.

                  “Oh, come on. Let’s give it a try,’ he said suddenly, changing his tone, trying to win me over.

                  ‘We’ve tried plenty of times, Firas. You want something and I want something else,’ I replied, unmoved.

                  ‘See how stubborn you are? You insist on acting like the man in bed.’

                  I stopped doing my eyeliner and fixed a sharp gaze on him. ‘Fuck off!’ I said, before adding cynically, ‘Shouldn’t you first know what being a man really means?’

                  ‘Respect yourself and act like a lady!’ he yelled.

                  ‘Act like a lady?’ I almost fell to the floor laughing. ‘Yes, sir. Whatever you say, honey. If you say so, darling. I’ll respect my self and act like a lady, just like you want me to.’ I smoothed my long hair behind my ears and spun around to face him. I put my finger in my mouth, licking it and tilting my head as I gazed at him seductively, adopting the flirtatious Syrian accent of the women from Bab al-Hara. ‘Is this how you like it, babe? What can I do for you, my king, my universe?’

                  Dumbfounded, he watched me carry on with my playacting, making fun of him.

                  ‘I’m at your beck and call, love,’ I teased. I took two steps toward the bed and sat down gently, pouting like Haifa Wehbe in her “Boos El Wawa” music video. I pressed my knees together, lay my head on the pillow, and, running my fingers across my breasts, whispered seductively, ‘Come on then. Come and get it.’

                  But before he could make a move, I flicked the switch, changing my tone of voice and my body language.

                  ‘I know it’s how you want me to be,’ I said, standing up and adopting a serious tone. I raised my head to look him in the eye and added, ‘But I’m not like that and I will never be like that. Not for you and not for anyone else. Got it?’

Excited, LAILA is released!

My third novel, “Laila wal Hamal” translation has just got published in English as LAILA. A story of a woman protagonist that challenges the mainstream stereotypes of female sexuality in the region.

LAILA is a modern Jordanian woman who grows up in a society where customs and traditions endure. Trapped in a marriage to a man she finds physically revolting, LAILA begins to realize secret truths about her sexuality and identity as a woman. Her own sexual needs and desires are in contrast with society’s general perception of women’s roles and expectations, but her reality materializes once she meets a compatible man. The story unfolds in a thrilling and engaging manner and edges towards radical feminism.

Our Arab societies have fallen under the claws of exaggerated toxic masculinity, the balance between genders have been lost, thus I feel that some radical feminist narrative is needed, at least in literature, to rebalance what’s happening on the ground and help us move forward towards more just societies. In writing LAILA, I was inspired by the work of Angela Carter (The Passion of New Eve) and Gillian Flinn (Gone Girl).

In LAILA, I challenge mainstream stereotypes about gender and sexuality in the region. The book, which was originally released in Arabic in 2018 by Egyptian based publisher Kotob Khan under the name of “Laila wal Hamal“, was banned in Jordan due to its subversive narrative and bold depiction of women’s sexuality.

Laila Wal Hamal

I am very excited about the English release of the book. People find it easier to read about such topics in English, and it will be easier to access for many since it will be available on all main book-selling portals worldwide.

Like my first two novels translated to English, this book is published by Signal 8 Press, an independent publisher with offices in England and Florida. Translation is done by Hajer Almosleh.

LAILA is now available in paperback and eBook for worldwide orders.
I hope you enjoy reading this story, and I look forward for your feedback, ratings and reviews!

You can order LAILA from by clicking here.


جملون وأبجد.. شكراً

أحب أن أعبّر عن امتناني لكل من علاء السلال وإيمان حيلوز، شابين أردنيين رياديين كان لديهما رؤية عظيمة وقاما بتحقيق حلمهما بشق الطريق للكتاب العربي ليجد مكاناً في عالم المستقبل.

أنشأ علاء جملون، أكبر موقع الكتروني عربي لبيع الكتب، أنشأت إيمان أبجد، أول شبكة عربية لمحبي القراءة.
من المؤكد أن طريقهما لم تكن سهلة، وأن كلاهما، مدفوعان بشغف كبير، قاما بجهود جبّارة لإنجاح مشروعيهما وتطويرهما بشكل سريع للمنافسة في سوق جديد سريع التغيّر.

علاء السلال مؤسس جملون.. الصورة من موقع مجلة فينتشر

قامت جملون بإطلاق خدمة “الطباعة حسب الطلب” التي أتاحت للكتاب العرب خاصية جديدة لم تكن موجودة سابقاً للنشر الذاتي وطباعة كتبهم عند طلبها وتسويقها على موقعهم ليصل إلى أي مكان في العالم.
وعملت إيمان جاهدة على تحويل أبجد من موقع لمراجعات الكتب يشبه موقع “جود ريدز” إلي مكتبة الكترونية تضم موسوعة كبير من الكتب العربية تتاح باشتراك شهري للقاريء العربي على غرار ما تقوم به “نيتفليكس” للأفلام والمسلسلات. أذكر جيّداً بدايات إيمان وجهودها الجبّارة للتواصل مع دور النشر العربية للتعاقد مهما وتحويل كتبها إلى صيغة الكترونية تسهل قراءتها على تطبيق أبجد الرائع.

إيمان حيلوز.. مؤسسة أبجد.. الصورة من موقع ومضة

لولا هذين الشابين الأردنيين الطموحين وجهودهم الكبيرة، لم تكن لإبرة وكشتبان أن تبصر النور في هذا الشكل، ولا أن تصل إلى القاريء العربي بهذه السهولة وهذا اليسر. التجربة جديدة لي، ولم أتجرأ على الخوض بها سوى بعد أن طرقت أبواب العديد من دور النشر التقليدية، التي بالتأكيد لديها رؤيتها الخاصة وخطّها المعتمد ونظام وبيئة عمل مختلفة. كان أكبر همّي، والعائق الأهم أمامي، هو خوفي من صعوبة حصول القاريء على الكتاب، فكلا الموقعين، بإمكانهما إتاحة الكتاب لسوق واسع، لكنه لن يحصل على توزيع للتواجد في المكتبات. أمراً مهمّاً ولكنه في عصرنا الحديث ليس بأهمية اتاحة سهولة الوصول للكتاب أونلاين. كذلك فإني لم أوفق سابقاً بدار نشر تقوم بتوزيع كتبي في الدول العربية كما أطمح وأحلم. ولكني أفهم معضلة التوزيع وحالة السوق، كذلك أفهم العوائق التي تفرضها عيون الرقابة في الدول العربية على النشر والإبداع. وهذه ميّزة كبيرة يتخطّاها كل من جملون وأبجد، فالطباعة حسب الطلب لا تحتاج موافقة لتوزيع الكتاب وبالتالي فإن الكتاب لن يمر على الرقابة ولن يتعرّض للمنع، كذلك الكتاب الإلكتروني على شبكة أبجد سيكون بعيداً عن يد الرقيب وصلاحيته، وذلك أمر مريحاً لي بعد الذي تعرّض له كتابي السابق ليلى والحمل الذي منع من دخول الأردن ولم يوزّع في الدول العربية الأخرى.

لدينا العديد من التحديّات في الأردن، لكننا لدينا أيضاً العديد من قصص النجاح الكبيرة. شبابنا طموح وواعد ومثابر ومجتهد. علاء وإيمان فخر لنا ومثال صريح على قدرة شبابنا على التحليق والإنجاز.
نعم نستطيع.. شكراً لكما..

إبرة وكشتبان متاحة للقراءة على موقع أبجد
إبرة وكشتبان متوفرة للطباعة حسب الطلب من خلال موقع جملون

نص قصير من رواية إبرة وكشتبان

تحت ضوء الغرفة بانت لي هيئته أكثر وضوحًا

“يا مساء الورد”، لمعت عيني تحت ضوء القمر. 

تقدّم بثباتٍ واعتدادٍ بالنفس مبتسمًا. وعلى خلاف العُرف المتداول بعدم جواز مصافحة الطِوال للِقصار، مدّ يده ناحيتي بوضوح. ومع أني تفاجأت من حركته تلك وترددت في مد يدي بالمقابل، إلا أن جرأته جذبتني. صافحته وأنا أتلفّت حولي لأتأكد من أن لا أحد من الجيران يتلصص علينا.  

“تفضّل”، أشرت له بالدخول من باب طِوال القامة الضيق الواقع على الجانب الأيمن من المنزل. عدت إلى الداخل كي استقبله في غرفة طِوال القامة من الزوّار.

أسرعت إليه وأنا أتساءل عن سر قدومه في هذا الوقت من المساء الذي يحظر فيه خروج الطِوال من منازلهم دون مرافق. 

“أهلًا وسهلًا”، رحّبت به مجددًا وسألته: شاي أو قهوة؟

اختار شايًا كما يفضل الطِوال فطلبت من مساعدتي تحضيره.  

لم يكن قد جلس بعد مما سمح لي بتأمل قامته وهندامه. وتحت ضوء الغرفة بانت لي هيئته أكثر وضوحًا. عرفت فورًا أنه يحمل بعض الغرابة؛ للوهلة الأولى يبدو طويلًا، لكنه في الحقيقة أقرب إلى توسط الطول ويحمل سمات خليطة بين ما يعرّف الطِوال وما يعرّف القِصار. جسده لا هو نحيلًا كما هي أجساد الطِوال ولا هو مربوعًا كالقِصار. رأسه حليق الشعر بلا عمامة تغطيه تمامًا كما تعوّد الطِوال حلق رؤوسهم. عيناه عسليّتان واسعتان يعلوهما في منتصف جبهته خط الحِنّة العمودي المعتاد مرسومًا بدقة وانسياب ومذهّب ليدلّ على خلفيته الاجتماعية الراقية. أما ثوبه فكان أزرقًا سماويًا تقليديًَّا راقيًا، لكني لاحظت أن انسداله تحت معطف الصوف الذي يغطيه لا يخفي تمامًا سمك عظام جسده. 

نظرت إلى قدميه فوجدت أنه لم يكن قد خلع حذائه بعد.

ترددتُ في التعليق لكني قلت لنفسي: إن لم يخجل هو من فعلته وهو الضيف في منزلي، لما أخجل أنا عن تنبيهه؟

ومع أني كنت أعرف أنها عادة قديمة لا يحبّها طِوال القامة، لأنها تسحب منهم بعض الطول، وشيئًا من اعتزازهم بأنفسهم، إلا أني كنت أؤمن أن خلع الأحذية على الباب قبل دخول المنزل هو عرف متوارث يحافظ على نقاء البيت واحترام أهله. وذلك أمرًا لم أكن أتنازل عنه.

أشرتُ إلى ناحية الباب وقُلت: خزانة الأحذية. 

“آه متاسف” 

شعرت بحرجه وهو يقترب من الخزانة ويخلع حذاءه ببطء شديد وكأني طلبت منه أن يخلع ثوبه. 

وقف أمامي منكمشاً على نفسه. خجلًا ومنتظرًا ردة فعلي. 

نظرت إليه من جهتي مشدوهة مما كنت أرى أمامي. فبعد أن سُحب الحذاء من قدميه، بدا لي أن طوله لم يعد يصل إلى الحد الأدنى المتعارف عليه لطِوال القامة.

وهو كذلك لم يكن قصيرًا كفاية ليعد واحدًا منّا.

كان متوسّط الطول، ضمن ذلك النطاق المحرّم نادر الوجود سوى لدى الملاعين من البشر.


زغموت بتخيّل النوع الإجتماعي مقسّم حسب طول الفرد في روايته الجديدة “إبرة وكشتبان”

أعلن الكاتب الأردني فادي زغموت اليوم عن صدور روايته الجديدة التي تحمل عنوان “إبرة وكشتبان” من خلال موقع جملون الإلكتروني لبيع الكتب. تعالج الرواية موضوع النوع الإجتماعي من خلال فكرة مبتكرة.

تدور أحداث الرواية في مجتمع خاص يكون فيه التقسيم الأساسي للبشر هو الطول، ويصبح فيه الجنس صفة ثانوية. لذلك تتكون الهوية الجندرية للأفراد وتفصّل الأدوار الاجتماعية بناء على طول الفرد. وكحال أي تقسيم اجتماعي، يعاني هذا العالم من ظلم وتهميش لفئات وامتيازات تعطى لفئة على حساب أخرى. في “إبرة وكشتبان”، تكون الفئة صاحبة الامتياز هي فئة قصار القامة. القصة الأساسية مبنية على علاقة حب تجمع بين الراوية الخيّاطة قصيرة القامة وطولان متوسط الطول المنبوذ من المجتمع.

في تقديم الرواية يقول الكاتب، “أعتبر نفسي ناشط اجتماعي نسوي، لدي شغف للدفع نحو عدالة اجتماعية أكبر ترسّخ من المساواة الجنسية وتكسر الأدوار الإجتماعية الضيّقة. وخلال السنوات الماضية لاحظت أن مفهوم النوع الاجتماعي أو الجندر بعيد عن العامة، فهنالك صعوبة في التفريق بين الجنس كنوع بيولوجي وبين الجندر كنوع اجتماعي. ومن قراءاتي للنظريّات النسوية جاءتني الفكرة لتخيّل هذا العالم الخاص الذي يتطوّر فيه الوعي البشري ليقسم البشر حسب طول قامتهم عوضاً عن جنسهم البيولوجي. الرواية تحمل اسقاطات كبيرة على الواقع. آمل أن تضيف إلى النقاش حول النوع الاجتماعي في الأوساط النسوية والعامة”. 

هذه هي المرة الأولى التي يقوم فيها زغموت بنشر روايته ذاتياً عن طريقة خدمة الطباعة حسب الطلب التي تتيحها جملون لعملائها، وفي هذا الصدد علّق قائلاً، “يسعدني التعاون مع موقع جملون في هذا العمل. هذه أول تجربة لي مع النشر الذاتي ومتحمّس لها جداً. جملون يعد أهم المواقع العربية لبيع الكتب وتأمينه لهذه الخدمة يعد ثورة حقيقية في عالم الكتب وخيار جديد متاح أمام الكتّاب العرب”. 

بالإضافة إلى سهولة النشر والطباعة والبيع من خلال موقعهم، أعلن زغموت عن طرح الرواية بخيارين مختلفين لتصميم الغلاف الخارجي، بعدما أطلق تصويت على صفحته على الانستغرام وجمع آراء مختلفة من القراء. قرر توفير الغلافين كخيارين مختلفين عند طلب الرواية في سبق خاص،  وذلك ما تتيحه بسهولة خدمة الطباعة حسب الطلب التي توفرها جملون. 

يمكن طلب الرواية من خلال موقع جملون

Zaghmout imagines gender divided per height in his new book

Jordanian author Fadi Zaghmout announced the release of his new book “Ebra Wa Kushtuban” (A needle and a thimble). A story that tackles the issue of gender creatively with an original concept. 

“Ebra Wa Kushtuban” tries to imagine a society where gender is split based on height rather than sex. In this world Zaghmout created, sex becomes a secondary attribute and doesn’t play a major role in forming gender identity. Instead, gender identity and gender roles are formed based on the height of individuals. And like any other social divisions, the world of “Ebra Wa Kushtuban” suffers injustices and marginalization of different social groups. In this story, it is short people who are privileged and enjoy the upper hand, whereas tall people take a backseat. The plot revolves around a short dressmaker who falls in love with the middle height socially outcasted “Tawalan”. 

Commenting on his book release, Zaghmout said, “I am a feminist gender activist. I have a passion toward social justice where there is equality between genders, where gender roles are not as rigid as we see in our societies. During the past years, I noticed that the term gender is not wildly understood. People find it hard to differentiate between sex as a biological attribute and gender as a social construct. After reading Judith Butler, of how gender is a social construct and how it is a performative act, I started to imagine a world where gender develops in a human society differently, to be based on height not sex for example. The book draws much from our daily life and tackles many most of the gender spectrum. I hope it adds to the conversations on gender in the feminist circles and society at large”.

Zaghmout added that this is the first time he does self publishing using the print on demand service that Jamalon made available to its customers in the region. Jamalon know to be the largest online bookseller in the Middle East, have introduced a print on demand service to cover the region and support Arab writers to fulfill their calling. “I am happy to cooperate with Jamalon in publishing this book. It is a new experience for me and I look forward to exploring the potential of self publishing”, Zaghmout commented. 

In addition to the ease of publishing and distribution Jamalon service provides, Zaghmout announced that he will make his book available in two different cover designs. He revealed both covers live on his Instagram page, asking his readers to vote for the option of their choice. Since the results were split, and it is a print on demand service, then “why not make both available?”, he exclaimed. Jamalon’s service allows for it easily. 

غلاف رواية إبْرة وكُشْتُبَان

انتهيت من العمل على تصميم غلاف الرواية مع الصديق المصمم عبدالرحمن ترك الذي أسس شركة تصميم جديدة تحت اسم كليمنص ميديا. اشتغلنا على خيارين للغلاف عرضتهم أمس على القراء من خلال جلسة لايف على الانستغرام وسأعرضهم هنا لقراء المدونة لمساعدتي على اختيار الأفضل.

الرواية شبه جاهزة وفي مراحل التحرير الأخيرة. ستكون متاحة للجميع من خلال موقع جملون، طباعة حسب الطلب ونشر ذاتي. تجربة جديدة لي.

تدور أحداث الرواية في مجتمع خاص يكون فيه التقسيم الأساسي للبشر هو الطول، ويكون فيه الجنس صفة ثانوية. لذلك تتكون الهوية الجندرية للأفراد وتفصّل الأدوار الاجتماعية بناء على طول الفرد. وكحال أي تقسيم اجتماعي، يعاني هذا العالم من ظلم وتهميش لفئات وامتيازات تعطى لفئة على حساب أخرى. في إبرة وكشتبان، الفئة صاحبة الامتياز هي فئة قصار القامة. القصة الأساسية مبنية على علاقة حب تجمع بين الخياطة قصيرة القامة وطولان متوسط الطول المنبوذ من المجتمع.

أجمل قصص الحب تبدأ بباب يُفتح

الخيار الأول للغلاف

الخيار الثاني للغلاف

Trump should learn from The Arab Spring

Watching the events unfolding in the USA and the reactions of Trump’s government, one can’t help but draw the lines and compare the uprising of the people protesting injustice with what we faced here in the middle east in the past decade. On the verge of Bouazizi putting himself on fire in the street of Tunisia, triggering an uprising that swept over the region, the western media rushed into branding it and calling it The Arab Spring. A name that held so much hope for a much needed change towards a more just and free societies.

Today, waking up to the news of Trump threatening to ‘dominate’ protestors with military force, shooting peaceful protestors in Washington with rubber bullets and tear gas, one can’t help to wonder if the table has turned. Many people in Arab world and around the world ask themselves today, are we watching the birth of The American Spring?!

We all know the fatal consequences of The Arab Spring on different countries in the region, and certainly don’t wish the same faith to be reflected into any other country, and certainly not to the one that been considered a world leader for many years. In reality, if one looked into the region to take notes, he won’t be disappointed. Each country leadership reacted differently, and each country found itself verging into a different path. All depended on what the man on the top did!

And to be honest, with Trump in charge, angry with inflated ego, it is sad to say that we should expect the worse. Ben Ali was smart, he fled Tunisia in less than month of the revolution, saving himself and the country from disastrous consequences. Today, Tunisia is considered the most successful model of The Arab Spring and turned into an operational democratic country. Husni Mubarak, in Egypt, reacted as wisely as Ben Ali, and after his initial violent reaction towards protestors that triggered millions more to go into the streets, he stepped down. King Abdallah of Jordan was the smartest, he instantly changed the cabinet, promised demonstrators to fasten a political reform and fight corruption, and worked hard to ensure they are safe. He even ordered policemen to distribute water and juice on angry protestors.

On the other hands, ego-centric leaders, from the dump Gaddafi of Libya, to Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen, and Bashar Al Asad of Syria. They all reacted violently, trying to “dominate” the demonstrators with their military force, and ended up taking their countries downhill, swirling into a civil war and declared as failed states. While Gaddafi and Saleh didn’t survive the havoc, Al Asad played all his cards, tortured and killed millions, displaced millions, and was saved the growth of ISIS and the intervention of Russia!

One would say that neither one of those countries had a democratic system in place that would ensure a better consequence for the events, but we have an example for that as well. Mohammed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood leader, who took over Egypt through a democratic vote after Mubarak stepped down. He lasted a year, as he ruled with an ideology that didn’t sit well with most Egyptians. He was deaf to the masses, like Trump is today, and was on the verge of killing the new found democracy, same like Trump is doing in America today. Morsi was ousted by a military coup, ending the very short democratic ear of the country.

Trump feels as stupid and deaf as Morsi, and ego-centric and crazy as Gaddafi. No one can deny that America is in a state of division today. Politics polarization hit the roof. Although opposition leaders feel more wise today, his reactions might trigger more and more violence, and could easily push the country into a civil war. We have seen looting during the Arab Spring, and we have seen other militias forming in some countries to respond to the violent state reaction, we have seen other countries interfere and support all sides of the conflict, we have also seen terrorist groups taking advantage and gaining grounds. Trump might have the military to aid him at the moment, but he might not have that for long. Divisions will appear in every single institution, and if he kept his stubbornness, don’t listen to his advisors, and don’t learn from other countries, his America might just do a free fall, from leading the world, into a failed state.

Mexico watch out, pay for the wall, before you get to face the flood of millions of refugees.

This would be a sad scenario, which we don’t want to see.

The Arab Observer interviews Natasha Tynes

Natasha Tynes

It is always a pleasure to see a new Jordanian getting published, and it is double the pleasure when it happens to be one of the fellow old bloggers. I was first introduced to Natasha’ Tynes’s writings around 14 years ago through her blog which I enjoyed and admired back then. And, fast-forward to two years ago, I was honored to read the draft of her first novel when she approached me seeking advice on how to get it published. She didn’t need my advice, as she was determined and passionate, and proud of her work. Eventually she got it done, and successfully released last summer. A book that I enjoyed reading, and loved because it highlighted a space/time that is dear to my heart and is rarely covered in our cultural productions.

It has been a long time since I did any interview on my blog, but I am happy to chat with Natasha, and happy to present this interview that talks about her book, her experience in getting it publisher, and recommendations to aspiring writers. Hope you enjoy reading it!

They Called Me Wyatt

Fadi: Congratulations for the release of the 2nd edition of “They Called Me Wyatt”. I remember reading the draft before you released it and enjoyed all of the nostalgic references to Amman in the 80’s. But lets hear you, tell us more about the book for the readers of this blog. What is the story all about?

Natasha: My debut novel They Called Me Wyatt is a murder mystery set between Jordan and the US, featuring Jordanian student Siwar Salaiha who is murdered on her birthday in Maryland, but her consciousness survives, finding refuge in the body of a Seattle baby boy. Stuck in this speech delayed three-year old body, Siwar tries but fails to communicate with Wyatt’s parents, instead she focuses on solving the mystery behind her murder. Eventually, her consciousness goes into a dormant state after Wyatt undergoes a major medical procedure.

Fast-forward twenty-two years. Wyatt is a well-adjusted young man with an affinity towards the Middle East and a fear of heights. While working on his graduate degree in Middle Eastern studies, Wyatt learns about Siwar’s death, which occurred twenty-five years ago. For reasons he can’t explain, he grows obsessed with Siwar and spends months investigating her death, which police at the time erroneously ruled as suicide. His investigation forces him to open a door he has kept shut all his life, a spiritual connection to an unknown entity that he frequently refused to acknowledge. His leads take him to Amman, Jordan where after talking to her friends and family members and through his special connection with the deceased, he discovers a clue that unravels the mystery of her death. Will Siwar get justice after all?

Fadi: The book has a unique concept and does a great job highlighting issues of identity and rift between East and West. How much of that was built on your own identity as a person, being a Christian Arab and living in the US? I am sure there is a big space to tackle here when one is faced with different identity agencies. It is a rich material to work on and I think you have done it nicely in the book.

Natasha: My book is loosely based on my formative years, my childhood and coming-of-age in Amman, Jordan. My identity as an Arab-American and also as a Jordanian-Christian has definitely shaped my novel since I tend to write about what I know and how I see the world. However, I tried to stay away from the topic of religion in my novel. My main focus is the Arab identity as a whole, and the challenges faced by an Arab immigrant to the US.

Natasha signing her book

My book is loosely based on my formative years, my childhood and coming-of-age in Amman, Jordan.

Natasha Tynes

Fadi: I like mostly about “They Called Me Wyatt” that it captures a part of Amman we rarely see in Literature. The stories of west Amman that seem to fail to find a place in local literature, as if our stories don’t worth documenting because that part of the city is “too westernized” and doesn’t fit with the overall cultural image we have for the country? I also grew up in the same period of the 80s and 90s and I have experienced much of what you mentioned in the book about the life of Siwar. Unfortunately that period of time was dominated by conservative media and didn’t leave much space for such stories to see the light. What do you to say about this?

Natasha: I agree. You rarely see literature, especially literature in English, that tackles growing up in Amman in the 80’s and the 90’s. Amman has changed dramatically since then. I feel part of me still feels nostalgic to the old Amman, to the Amman of my childhood, that’s why I based my novel around it. Life back then was simpler. We really had nothing, but we had each other, the family, the cousins, the friends, the neighbors. We spent our days playing outside, not glued to a screen like kids these days. We had adventures, we formed friendships, we learned life lessons. It was wonderful. I deeply miss it.

Natasha reading from her book

Fadi: I remember the time when you were looking for a publisher for your book. Being a writer myself, I know how hard it is to find a publisher who is willing to adopt your work and support it, especially when it is your first one. You approached it as it is a full time job and were pretty much determined to get it done, and I applaud you for that. There are many writers out there who are struggling to get their first work get published, tell us about your experience and what would you advise them?

Natasha: My advice for you if you want to be a writer, is that you need to develop a thick skin and be ready to be rejected hundreds of times. Buckle up. Your soul will be crushed and you will constantly doubt yourself. Remember that what makes a good writer is not only talent but also persistence, resilience and hard work. Keep applying, keep submitting your manuscript to agents and publishers. Keep getting rejections until you eventually get the acceptance that you have always dreamt about.

My advice for you if you want to be a writer, is that you need to develop a thick skin and be ready to be rejected hundreds of times. Buckle up. Your soul will be crushed and you will constantly doubt yourself.

Natasha Tynes

Fadi: Soon after your book got released, you were faced by a stupid incident that costed you your publishing agreement. I remember being on the goodreads page of your book. Initially I was surprised that you had a thousand reviews in such a short time, which I thought wow, Natasha’s book has picked up, but when I started reading the reviews, I felt shocked with the amount of hatred you received. They were giving you one star review and attacking you personally rather than objectively assessing your work. It must have been a tough time for you. Tell us about the incident and how did you handle it. Did the bad publicity help you in any way or form? You know what they say “bad publicity is good publicity”, you may beg to differ.

Natasha: I was involved in a Twitter controversy after I tweeted about a DC metro employee breaking the rules on the job. In retrospect, I should have used a more private manner to complain, and if I can take this back I would. To my shock, I was seen as racist since the metro employee in question is African-American, although I never mentioned the color of her skin! In addition to all the death threats I received and all the derogatory comments, my novel’s Goodreads page was attacked by thousands of people who left one-star reviews without reading the book, and who also left personal attacks. I contacted Goodreads numerous times, but they never took action. Thankfully, a new publisher picked up the book after my old publisher caved to the online mob and dropped the book. This was really hard on me and I sunk into deep depression. Thankfully, there was a happy ending with the book being republished. The only way the “bad publicity” helped me was that I got a better publisher

Fadi: Do you plan on translating the book and publish it in Arabic? As I mentioned before, I feel that we miss these stories in our local literature. It’s actually part of the reason I started writing myself. I felt that our lives are rarely represented accurately in literature. It would be nice to have your book translated. Do you write in Arabic? Have any plans of writing any of your future work in Arabic?

Natasha: I definitely would love to see my novel translated into Arabic, I have already talked to a number of Arab publishers in the region, but there is nothing concrete yet.

Fadi: I know from experience that working on promoting the book takes same time and effort of writing it. How did you promote your book? You once gave me a good tip to approach “Instagrammers” for reviews. That was brilliant. What other things do you recommend?

Natasha: These days authors do the bulk of marketing, so you need to spend a big chunk of your time marketing your work. Here are some tips:

  1. Create your own newsletter and send it to your subscribers at least once a month. Keep them updated with your latest news. Newsletter is a must!
  2. Approach people who run podcasts. There are tons who interview authors and review books.
  3. Contact bookclubs (there are a number of virtual ones) and ask them if they would be willing to read your book and host you as a guest to answer questions.
  4. Join a writers group Facebook group. They are usually very supportive and offer a lot of help and advice.

Fadi: Who are your favorite authors? and what’s your favorite book?

Natasha: I love the work of Jhumpa Lahiri, Junot Diaz, Ahdaf Soueif and Dave Eggers. I think my favorite book is The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

Fadi: Are you working on a new story? What is it about?

Natasha: I’m working on a novel set in Amman, Jordan. It’s about a building whose residents all immigrate to the US and all end up facing unfortunate and sometimes tragic events. They all wonder if these unforeseen harsh circumstances were a result of their bad luck, or if they were actually all cursed. Was there a hex (a’mal in Arabic) in the building that never left them? Or was it their own choices?

I am look forward to reading more of Natasha’s work and wish her all the best. For more about her and her work, visit her website

My time in Lockdown

It was been more than two weeks of a total lockdown here in Dubai in additional to the other three weeks before when I have started working from home. More than a month since gyms closed down, cinemas, malls, restaurants and beaches. This is not news, as the whole world is taking the same measurement in some form or another. Social distancing to flatten the curve and contain the coronavirus fast spread. Unprecedented in my life time or parents time, something new that no one of us has faced before. Yet, we are here, dealing with it, each on his own way.

For me, I am staying home alone in my apartment in Dubai. So much time on my hand, something that I am happy to have. Although I miss all of the closed activities and miss my friends and family, I have try to fill my time with some different activities that I enjoy. Here is a list of what I do, outside my home working hours:

1. Writing

I finally managed to find time to write this blog, and happy that I am doing it. I haven’t blogged for sometime now as I was focusing on writing my next book. The good news is that during this lockdown I managed to finish writing it! Hurray, it is exciting as it sounds. Took me more than two years and was a tough challenge. A really tough one, imagining a different world where gender is divided based on height rather than sex. Lots of imagination, and most of my worry has been in developing the storyline and trying to keep it as exciting as possible. I am still not sure how the readers will perceive it, but hopefully will do once it sees the light and gets published – probably by end of this year.

2. Yoga

I miss going to the gym the most, and it felt bad when the decision came out to close gyms. To be honest, it was the rational thing to do, and thank God they did, cause otherwise I would have kept on going to the gym and probably caught the virus. I was also sad to know that the crossfit box (Goldbox) I have been going to in the past two years closed permanently. The news came after the announcement of closing gyms for two weeks, but now it is lost for good. It was such a nice gym with a very nice community and amazing trainers. Loved going there, despite my struggle with crossfit as sport and my mixed feelings about it.

Nevertheless, trying to stay fit without a gym is not easy. I ordered some weights online but they are yet to arrive. At the moment I discovered Travis Eliot on youtube, and I am in love with his Yoga classes. I have been doing a daily yoga class for the past 5 days and I am enjoying it a lot. I wanted to challenge myself for a 30 days daily yoga, but today felt a bit tired after 5 days and decided to skip the day. And here I am, blogging instead!

Travis Eliot

3. Nintendo Switch

I am loving my nintendo switch and has been lucky with my choice of games recently. The most beautiful and entertaining one that I finished yesterday is “Ori and The Blind Forest”. If you are a gamer, then it is a must play. Go and get it. I really loved it. Before Ori I finished “Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze” and enjoyed it as well. And I just downloaded “Hollow Knights” yesterday hoping it will be as good as Ori, but till now I didn’t feel it.

Ori and the blind forest

4. Netflix/Suits

I finally reached season8 of Suits. Amazing show and I enjoyed each and every episode. I only started watching it recently from first episode and got hooked. I love all the characters, especially Donna and Harvey. Would they ever be together? If you haven’t watched it, then you should. And yes it is okay to commit for all the 8 seasons. I don’t know why, but I like shows that never ends.

Donna and Harvey – Suits

5. Doodling

From time to time, I pick up my ipad and just doodle. Recently I feel stuck with these colored owls that feels like a good fit to angry birds. It relaxed me and I enjoy it!

My angry owls – doodle by fido

6. Tik Tock videos

I’d like to believe that this is a phase and will fade out, but this new trending app is so much fun. It is amazing the amount of creativity it allows. Whenever you open the app you’d feel the urge to just jump in and do your own silly video. I had created my own fair share of that but now on a break. Till when, I have no idea!

7. Reading

The Book of Collateral Damage

I am currently reading two very nice books. The first one is “The Book of Collateral Damage” by Sinan Antoon. It is the first time that I read for Sinan and I am impressed by his creativity. He is different than other Arab novelists. His book is deep, creative out of the box and entertaining all at the same time. It is an archive to everything that is lost in Iraq due to the war. Very sad and strong statement. Highly recommended.

Second book I am reading and finding it very engaging is “The Body: A guide for occupants” by Bill Bryson. It is very entertaining and informative at the same time. If you want to learn more about your body, then you have to get this book. They should make it a mandatory read for schools. After reading “Sapiens“, “Homo Deus” for Yuval Noah Harrari and “Why We Age And Why We Don’t Have To” for David Sinclair, I realised that I enjoy reading informative scientific books and decided to order “The Body”. It didn’t disappoint me at all.

The Body: A guide for occupants

What about you? How have you been managing during the lockdown?