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The Locust and the Bird: My Mother's Story

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US sports. Rugby League. Movers List. Geoffrey Macnab. Tech news. Tech culture. News videos. Explainer videos. When she found love, she jumped at the chance to hold onto it. She used her gift as a storyteller to not only explore her own memories, but to finally grant her mother the recognition she desired all her life. Al-Shaykh used her pen to give her mother a voice, and the result is The Locust and the Bird. We recently asked her a few questions about the book, her writing, and her life.

Your writing deals with subject matter that is controversial throughout much of the Islamic world. Does your work challenge your own personal beliefs?

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  5. I depict on Arab societies in my novels, and yes, my subjects are controversial due to my strong feelings towards the complex society I lived in which, alas, is now more stifling and wrenched with sorrow and backwardness. What was the process for obtaining the information you needed for the book? How much of it came from your mother, and how much came from other family members?

    Of course, I was enchanted with what I heard and included these stories in the English edition. Was there any point while you were working on the book that you had second thoughts about finishing it? Yes, I had second thoughts about finishing the book when my mother suddenly changed her mind about being very descriptive and frank about her poverty—especially a description of how she used to search in the soil of her village for something to eat.

    But a wise friend of mine pushed me to write the chapter and read it to my mother; and this is what I did. My mother became so happy, and at the same time so emotional. Are there any aspects of the story which you improvised? How did you go about writing dialogue that had originally taken place so many years earlier? Because my mother was totally illiterate, she had sharpened all her senses and had to memorize proverbs, dialogues of films, and people around her…she was so sharp and obsessed in saving every word she heard.

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    Difficult only emotionally. Otherwise, it was easy to inherit her personality. Whilst writing, I discovered great similarity between her and me. But as a fiction writer, I felt frustrated here and there. I wanted to intervene and change things; to give a bigger impact. Do you see parts of your own memoir in The Locust and the Bird?

    What do you do if you get stuck? I write and write, searching for the narration voice and for what I want to write about, though I always start with an idea. She always had the answer immediately. Many of your books—including this one—have been translated from Arabic to English. In "The Locust and the Bird," she recounts the true story of her mother, Kamila. She clearly envisions the feelings In a masterly act of literary transformation, celebrated novelist Hanan al-Shaykh re-creates the dramatic life and times of her mother, Kamila.