On Being Brave

Blog image with a photo of the SEVEN cover and the words, "On Being Brave by Farzana Doctor"

On Being Brave

Posted on September 15 by Farzana Doctor in Fiction, Recent Releases
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Today, I recorded an interview for The Last Chapter with Shelagh Rogers. We talked about writing SEVEN and the complexities of shining a light on one's own community through fiction.

SEVEN is about Sharifa, who accompanies her husband on a marriage-saving trip to India, and stumbles upon controversies within her insular and conservative religious community. The community practices khatna, and her cousins are on opposite sides of a debate about whether it is a harmless tradition or a form of female genital cutting. She has to sort out her own position and in doing so, discovers a family secret that forever alters her life.

Shelagh asked me whether I've had to be brave to write this particular book. Such a good question.

While crafting any book can be challenging, it's SEVEN's release and promotion that's been most daunting for me to consider. I wrote about this in Chatelaine this week.

What I've come to understand is that I've needed to prepare myself to be brave. Here's how:

1. I had to expect that while the book is fiction, I would be called on to talk about the real-life issues that inspired it, and how khatna personally impacted me.

2. I needed to go back to therapy and do the healing work so I could speak publicly about khatna and remain emotionally well. This is an ongoing process.

3. I've had to consider my boundaries around what I'm willing to share, and what needs to remain private. I did this by doing practice interviews with a couple of friends and then trusting my body to tell me what's okay and what's not okay. Then I wrote a blog post called Seven Things Not to Ask A Khatna Survivor.

4. I've alerted the people closest to me that I might need extra support when I'm called on to be vulnerable. I remind myself that I'm not alone; I'm part of a community of feminist activists, friends and family, writers, publishing professionals, and readers.

5. I'm paying attention to my calendar (those who know me know I love scheduling) and made sure there was plenty of open space to buffer me between public events. Today, I gave myself two free hours after the interview with Shelagh, which allowed time to rest and start this draft.

6. I need to meditate. I have to dance and walk and shake out the tension that builds up in my body.

7. I remind myself it's our collective duty to fight injustice in whatever ways we're able. Without bravery, we can't write novels, shift cultural norms, or make the world a better place for the next generation. We all have to be brave.

Farzana Doctor

Posted by Dundurn Guest on December 6, 2014
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Farzana Doctor

Farzana Doctor is the author of Stealing Nasreen, All Inclusive, and Six Metres of Pavement, which won a Lambda Literary Award and was shortlisted for the Toronto Book Award. She lives in Toronto.