On feminism, writing and Bangladesh

Tahmima Anam introduces her new book ahead of her appearance at Alchemy 2016

Posted: 23.05.16

Last week saw the release of Tahmima Anam's third novel The Book of Grace the final instalment to the fictional saga about three generations of Bangladeshi women in the Haque family. Anam's first novel, A Golden Age, was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award and the Costa First Novel Award in 2007, and was the winner of the 2008 Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best First Book. The story is set during the 1971 War of Independence, bringing this significant historical conflict to a wider global audience. Her second novel, The Good Muslim, was shortlisted for the 2013 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature and was also long-listed for the Man Asian Literary Prize 2011. She was selected as a Granta Best of Young British Novelist 2013. The Book of Grace this final book in the trilogy however is very different. The new novel is about Zubaida, Maya's daughter from the second novel. The focus in this work is more on migration and takes a more contemporary in direction.

London based Anam was born in Dhaka, Bangladesh and has known many homes including New York and Bangkok. She inherited feminism from her mother but this augmented with her own motherhood and 'the harsh realities when you get to a certain age' of being a woman in the world. She describes Bangladesh as 'a place where women's rights are not take for granted' Yet she is also strongly aware of her status and sees this as a responsibility of all from privileged backgrounds and not to be afraid of the word feminist: 'I celebrate all feminism.'

Anam's ambition was to write a trilogy about Bangladesh: 'My father is committed to Bangladesh. I wanted to write a series of novels of three generations of women in one family and the next generation.' Unlike literature in English from India and Pakistan, Bangladeshi literature has not been exported to the English speaking world in the same way. In many ways, Anam has opened up the history of Bangladesh yet she is a strong defender of the rich literary tradition in Bangladesh. 'Bangladesh is exciting. It's a country on the move' 'I felt I wanted to write a story about the Bangladesh War. I went into debt. I did a lot of research. Everything I knew was from my parents' with the stories of her grandmother who hid weapons for the army.

'I always dreamed of being a writer. I wanted to write stories to help people imagine worlds they don't know. There's a kind of magic that happens when you enter the mind of someone else. It's an incredible privileged to write'. Tahmima already has ideas for her next work: 'There will be a fourth book. It will be different. New adventures.'

The Bones of Graces is available to buy in all reading formats.

Tahmima will be at The Southbank's Alchemy 2016 on Monday 23rd May 2016, 7.15pm – 8.30pm reading from and discussing her new book The Bones Of Grace with publisher and editor Deborah Smith. 

By Lubjana Matin-Scammell



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