Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Blog Tour & Giveaway: MOMMY BUT STILL ME by Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar


Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar is here today as part of her blog tour for MOMMY BUT STILL ME. She is giving a copy of her ebook to one lucky commenter so please share your thoughts below.
The modern woman's guide to switching from jet setter to incubator, MOMMY BUT STILL ME retells the story of a first time mother with humorous and honesty. From sex with a purpose to ankles swelling into cankles, this is a no-holds barred look at the all the changes, big and small; from knowing "hipster" as a term that describes your generation to using it describe where you like to carry things.

Imagine a man volunteering to trade in his game nights for heart burn and back ache. Good thing there are women around to ensure the survival of the species. This hilarious look at the journey from high heels to high blood pressure, as a jet setter turns into a bed wetter, is what your doctor won't tell you and your own mother may have forgotten in the years since she was blessed by your arrival.

"At our first meeting my future father-in-law waited until we sat down in the Thai restaurant, the oblong menus placed in our hands and the waiter was a distance away, tending to other diners, before turning towards me, his eyes glowing. This was the first time we were all seeing each other after his son had proposed to me. "When will I get to hold my first grandchild?" He asked. For my father-in-law and everyone else, I have a question of my own: When will any of you be satisfied?"

What Have You Risked?
By Mohanalakskhmi Rajakumar

For the first time in seven years, getting ready to go to Gaza, knowing I would be one of four non-Arabs amongst forty Arabic speaking people had me outside my comfort zone.  The trip was something I had been working on for several months, while writing proposals for creative writing workshops with high school students. But as the departure date rushed forward, I couldn’t remember why I thought this had would be a good idea. First there were the safety and security concerns of my welling meaning husband and friends. Then there was the hectic semester of teaching five classes which culminated in hosting a surprise birthday party, then grading final exams on the eve of departure. We even stopped in on a two year old’s birthday party before going to the airport. When I got out to give him a kiss, the sight of my own nearly two year sleeping in his car seat, showed for a crystal clear moment all that I was risking.

I strengthen my resolve and said goodbye, still doubting why this trip and at this time. I flew to Cairo and prepared for the six hour bus ride that would take us to the border. This part of the journey, cocooned in the bus’ air conditioned interior, I put my head against the window and slept for the first three hours. Waking up for lunch, I then read a magazine that was several months old which I was contemplating cancelling the subscription to because I was so busy. During the five hours we spent at the border waiting to get into Palestine, I read a book I had only dipped into a few pages at a time at night when at home. The physical rest and mental replenishing helped me gather my bearings.  The fact that all my electronic devices were depleted of battery probably didn’t hurt either.

We arrived into Gaza City, one of the most contentious places on earth. After this, the most exciting stamp in my passport would have to be from North Korea (not that I have plans to get that one). I went to Gaza as part of the Palestine Festival of Literature or PalFest. For the past five years PalFest has taken writers into Palestine to meet with students, artists, and readers whose mobility to other countries is limited.

This year’s festival was four days, the mornings of three of them were spent giving workshops to high school students.  These students are hard workers: they’ve mastered good writing in fusha, or classical Arabic, which would be somewhat like teenagers knowing how to write in the style of Shakespeare. The students were startled out of their rigid teaching methods when our gang of writers showed up. Men and women from a range of ages, they conducted workshops in poetry, short story, and blogging. While the workshops were in Arabic (and mine is still faltering) I did interview the writers afterwards to get a sense of what their experiences had been. Their comments apply to these students and their immediate situation but also to anyone wanting the foundations of good writing:

·         Be specific, not clichéd: don’t go for the easy or over used image. Use the one that is unique to you and your experiences

·         Write in your own voice not what you think you should sound like: I tell this to my own students as well – readers despise fakeness, whether in fiction or nonfiction. Tell it like you see it.

·         Read, read, read as much as you can. The classics aren’t bad for you unless, as in this case, they’re all you read. Mix up the styles, the genres, the nationalities of the writers you read. Each book teaches you something different about technique, literary devices, style.

They sound simple, almost elementary, but hearing them repeated from six different writers, Egyptian, Tunisian, Palestinian, male and female, from twentysomethings to seventsomethings, I was reminded that good writing isn’t posturing for the reader. Puffing up and pretending to be what we’re not. Instead it’s the ability to lay bare our inner most thoughts and feelings and share with someone else parts of our journey so that in some small way theirs may be enriched.

I’m glad I went to Gaza not only because everyone we met was starved for culture: They wanted to talk (often late into the night) about writing, the concert we hosted was the first one many people had seen in ten years. But also because I remember now what it’s like to take risks and feel scared. That’s a great place to start with when writing a piece and it’s very much how I started my journey as a professional woman becoming a mother which became my memoir for newbie moms Mommy But Still Me.

What’s the latest risk you’ve taken either in your personal life or in writing? What did you learn from it?


Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar is a writer who has lived in Qatar since 2005. She has a PhD from the University of Florida with a focus on gender and postcolonial theory. Her dissertation project was published as Haram in the Harem (Peter Lang, 2009) a literary analysis of the works of three Muslim women authors in India, Algeria, and Pakistan. She is the creator and co-editor of five books in the Qatar Narratives series, as well as the Qatari Voices anthology which features essays by Qataris on modern life in Doha (Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing, 2010). Her research has been published in numerous journals and anthologies.

She was the Associate Editor of Vox, a fashion and lifestyle magazine based in Doha and a winner of the She Writes We Love New Novelists competition.   She has been a regular contributor for Variety Arabia, AudioFile Magazine, Explore Qatar, Woman Today, The Woman, Writers and Artists Yearbook, QatarClick, Expat Arrivals, Speak Without Interruption and Qatar Explorer. She hosted two seasons of the Cover to Cover book show on Qatar Foundation Radio.

Currently Mohana is working on a collection of essays related to her experiences as a female South Asian American living in the Arabian Gulf and a novel based in Qatar. She believes words can help us understand ourselves and others. Catch up on her latest via her blog or follow her on Twitter @moha_doha.

The Tour Continues…

6-9  My Friends Say I am Just Like June
6-13 Blog O’ The Irish
6-14 Infinite House of Books
6-15 Sugarbeat’s Books


Rachelle Ayala said...

Mohana, what a wonderful story of your trip to Gaza. I've always wanted to go to Israel and see the places I wrote about, but I will have to wait until my last child is out of school to travel.

I love being a mother. It's much more fulfilling than business meetings and company politics. Those baby hugs are so worth it, and cleaning them up after they mess their diapers is so cute and a good way of bonding with the little darling. Their expressions are so funny, and oh, even if they keep you awake at night, they still look absolutely adorable when they finally go to sleep.

Good luck with your book! It sounds absolutely lovely.

ayala (dot) rachelle (at) gmail (dot) com

Calisa Rhose said...

Your book sounds interesting, Mohana. Thanks for sharing your trip to Gaza! I'm sure I would be scared too. Most recently I started guardianship procedures for my 7 yo granddaughter. I'm sure by Christmas I'll be asking myself and everyone around me "What was I thinking?"

mohadoha said...

Thanks Rachelle and Calisa for sharing your motherhood stories. What an amazing service women have been doing for humanity! And you remind me of the rewards....

The children in your life are lucky to have you!

Debby said...

I love kid stories. I teach 8th grade and my stories are not as much fun.,
debby236 at gmail dot com