I’m so excited to not only be hosting the first author interview for #RamadanReadathon, but also the first ever interview on my blog! Today’s guest author is Atia Abawi, author of The Secret Sky and upcoming novel A Land Of Permanent Goodbyes.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Atia Abawi is a foreign news correspondent who was stationed for almost five years in Kabul, Afghanistan. She was born to Afghan parents in West Germany and was raised in the United States. Her first book for teens was the powerful The Secret Sky, about forbidden romance between different ethnic tribes. She currently lives in Jerusalem with her husband, Conor Powell, and their son, Arian, where she covers stories unfolding in the middle east and the surrounding areas. You can follow her on Twitter @AtiaAbawi.
ABOUT A LAND OF PERMANENT GOODBYES
Tareq lives in Syria with his warm and loving family, until the bombs strike. He, his father, and his younger sister are the only survivors, and they have no choice but to go to Raqqa, where they have extended family. But Raqqa is a stronghold for Daesh, the militant group claiming to follow the tennets of Islam, yet who really exist only to enable violence and intolerance. Tareq’s family leave quickly, and Tareq heads to Istanbul with his cousin. From there, reunited with his younger sister, they flee successfully to Greece.
This is a story of resilience in the face of darkness, and of one boy’s courage in desperate circumstances. But it is also the story of all wars, of all tragedy, and of all strife. With Destiny as a narrator offering perspective and context, readers see that this conflict in Syria is part of a long chain of wars throughout time — and that, throughout all of those wars, there have also been heroes, small and large, who prove that humanity is ultimately inclined toward good.
Hi Atia! Thank you so much for joining us! A Land Of Permanent Goodbyes is your second novel and touches on timely issues like the conflict in Syria and the refugee crisis. As the book is yet to release, can you briefly tell us, without spoiling, what we should expect as readers?
AA: Hi! Thanks so much for having me. The aim of my new book is similar to the aim of my last, to give the reader a deeper glimpse into a world that they only see in snippets of news. The story follows a family in Syria whose lives and country are destroyed by the choices of others. Destiny narrates their heart-breaking journey as their family members are killed and their home destroyed, to them trying to find refuge in Turkey and then Europe – and the continuous challenges they face along the way.
Do you think your work as a foreign news correspondent influenced you to write this story or, as a former refugee, is it one you’ve always wanted to tell?
AA: I think both influenced me.
I had taken time off of work after my first child was born and I remember watching the refugee crisis unfolding on television. I was holding my baby in the comfort of my home while I was watching other mothers carrying theirs on the side of highways in Europe trying to find a way to give their children a better life. Watching these mothers reminded me of my own mother who went through a similar journey in the early 1980s – she had grown up with a comfortable warless life in Afghanistan until one day her life was flipped upside down with the onset of a brutal war and she and my father had to escape while she was 8-months pregnant with me and my brother was only two. Afghanistan was never the same again.
At the time of watching the latest crisis I was in the process of researching another book but asked my editor to change subjects. As soon as I got the go ahead, I used my journalistic skills again and flew to both Turkey and Greece to meet and talk to the refugees so I could compile the proper research to try and share their stories.
You mentioned that you wrote A Land of Permanent Goodbyes ‘to humanize the refugee crisis we see today.’ How important was it to have first-hand experience rather than relying heavily on mainstream media for research?
AA: Very important. If I can’t make this as authentic as possible I will have failed. Small snippets from news stories don’t always convey the true depth of human suffering. Looking into the eyes and listening to the voices of those who lived it is vital in trying to capture the true essence of what is going on. The media tries to do this themselves but they are often given limits in how many words they can print or how or what kind of video they can show.
How did the process of writing this novel differ to that of The Secret Sky? What are the similarities and differences between the two stories?
AA: The stories are actually quite different for many reasons. The Secret Sky focused on the innocence of falling in love in Afghanistan and how that could be a dangerous thing with the surrounding elements of culture, fundamentalism, etc. In A Land of Permanent Goodbyes the focus is more on the love of a brother and sister. Also, Syria and Afghanistan are two very different countries with very different histories.
With Afghanistan, I lived there and covered the story for many years. With Syria, I had to do a lot more research for the book – speaking and interviewing Syrians. One gentleman in particular was my most important eyes inside Raqqa (the defacto capital for Daesh/ISIS), because I had never been and can’t get into it now but it was his home and where he grew up. There was a family from there as well who provided me such important historical color to a city that had been stripped of its color.
Finally, what do want young readers to take away from this story? Aside from educating ourselves, how can we help and support refugees?
AA: I just hope that people can empathize more with those who are struggling. Open their hearts and minds in a way they may not have before.
As for supporting refugees, not everyone has the finances to help but we all have voices. We need to be vocal in our support and love – especially in the divided world we live in today.
Thank you so much for answering these questions! A Land Of Permanent Goodbyes is expected to publish January 23rd 2018 by Penguin.