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Friday, April 12, 2013

Who Doesn't Love a Free NEW BOOK?

First, here’s a little about the book to be given away, followed by conversation with the storyteller and the writer, and then I’ll tell you how you can win a free copy.

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The Honey Thief  is a unique book of stories told by native Afghani Najaf Mazari to writer Robert Hillman. It is a portrait of the Hazara people – an ethnic group in the hills between Kabul and Kandahar. Man Booker Prize winner Thomas Keneally praised it as:
[A] dazzling narrative is full of wonders and unfamiliar magic, shadows and lightnings. The tales it tells are fascinating in their ordinariness and their strangeness. The Honey Thief is simply delightful to read on its own terms, but it also illuminates the real Afghanistan, that country many great powers have proved keen to invade but rarely to understand.
Filled with both fascinating facts and tall tales, The Honey Thief preserves the intimacy and beauty of the Hazara tradition of oral storytelling.

In “The Behsudi Dowry,” the character of Hameed is thought to be foolish and absentminded for his love of books. His parents can see no value in reading fiction. How was reading literature for pleasure viewed in your household and community growing up?

Najaf:  In Afghanistan, only a few very educated people read books other than the holy books. If my brothers or my father or my mother had seen me reading a novel, they would have thought I was insane and would have called a doctor or a mullah to fix me.

How did you become interested in the narrative of the refugee?

Robert:  At the time I first met Najaf, the Muslim refugees who were arriving in Australia on ramshackle boats were being characterised as criminals and terrorists in the press. This demonisation suited the politics of Australia just after 9/11 (or “11/9” as it is known here). It struck me that something vile was happening in my country—something that I might look back on in years to come and think, “Why didn’t you say something?” I wrote Najaf’s story as a way of saying something. The friendship we formed led to Najaf telling me more and more about the culture of the Hazara. The stories in The Honey Thief are, in a way, the backstory of Najaf’s life told in The Rugmaker of Mazar-e-Sharif.

The themes discussed throughout The Honey Thief—the importance of love, work, hope—are universal, crossing all kinds of boundaries of culture, faith, geography, and socioeconomic status. What is your hope for this book? More broadly, what role do you believe literature can play in uniting people across borders?

Najaf & Robert: Stories like those in The Honey Thief make a small difference here and there to the sympathy for people who are struggling through life. Literature cannot change people’s hearts completely. Just a little. A little is okay. We must remember that if stories that honour courage and enjoyment of life could suddenly change everything, then another book that teaches distrust and hatred might also change everything back. People don’t read stories like those in The Honey Thief in order to have their eyes opened. They read them for enjoyment; for pleasure. If it happens that some readers feel that they have gained more than enjoyment, that’s a good thing. We hope that readers will enjoy this book in the same way that they enjoy fresh food cooked by someone who loves good food. We hope that people will smile as they finish each story and say, “Well, that was wonderful!”

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Was that enough to pique your interest and whet your appetite? I’m sorry that (1) only readers with U.S. addresses (p.o. boxes okay) are eligible for the giveaway and (2) only comments, not e-mails, make for eligibility. So, to enter please leave a comment (that is the challenge!) saying what aspect of the information above interests you in reading this book. An assistant and I will put slips in a hat and draw out the winning name. We will then need your mailing address to send to the publisher.

Give it a try! Good luck!


Laurie said...

Pamela! Your giveaway is such a beguiling idea! I was immediately drawn in by the fact that it's a book of [short] stories -- my favorite genre -- from a place so different from my own. Keneally's words - wonders, unfamiliar magic, shadows and lightnings - convince me that I will be transported to fascinating world, and may get to know Afghanis better than through any other medium.
Thank you for helping me learn.

dmarks said...

I just ran across a post on a scifi geek news site/blog you might find interesting, especially the comment discussion:

Dawn said...

Laurie has said it perfectly! This is a way to learn more about a part of the world that we usually only see through the eyes of the media and politicians. I think these stories would tell us something closer to the truth than we'd see anywhere else other than traveling there ourselves. Well, that was an awkward sentence! Anyway...what I'm trying to say is I think Laurie has exactly the right reason for wanting to read the book and I hope she wins! :)

P. J. Grath said...

Laurie and Dawn, you are both in the running. (Hope a few more will try.) Looks like dmarks is taking a different direction – into outer space or the unseeable future?

Carson said...

This sounds like an interesting book that should be read by many people to better understand the reality of Afghanistan and its people. Other civilizations, especially those we war against, are demonized and the people are strangers to us. We cannot conceive of them as real people until we know a person from that country. Reading the stories helps us to "know" many people in a place that most Americans can barely define.

P. J. Grath said...

Another hat in the ring! Thanks, Carson!

Coincidentally, I'm reading a book of short fiction called FLASHES OF WAR, by Katey Schultz, that has what may be several common elements with THE HONEY THIEF. Doug Stanton writes of FLASHES OF WAR, "What emerges from these stories is a chorus of voices--American, Afghan, Iraqi...." Chances are good that Katey Schultz will make a visit to Dog Ears Books this summer.

But now, for THE HONEY THIEF, more contestants for the giveaway? Let's go until Wednesday with comments.

Anonymous said...

testing my acceptability for response.

Karen M said...

1. I love the title.
2. I am reading a book about the Maori and the change from their oral traditions to written
3. I lived in Australia and was appalled by this otherwise liberal country's treatment of refugees
4. I have had to explain on more than one occasion the value of reading fiction.

Do I get 4 entries? :-)

P. J. Grath said...

Anonymous, your test worked fine, so please come back and leave a comment and at least your first name. When a name is drawn from the hat (or saucepan or whatever), that person will have to e-mail me a full mailing address to send to the publisher.

Karen, thank you for entering the contest, and I love your reasons, but I think your name should only go in the hat (or pot) once, don't you? Otherwise, I'd have to figure out how to count reasons given by other commenters, and I'm not that big on counting. :)

Kathy said...

Even though I've had NO TIME to read any other blog posts since returning from Florida (yet) the alluring offer of a free book has impinged upon catching up. Besides the intriguing title--and the setting--I am always quite interested in learning about different Muslim perspectives. My daughter's boyfriend is a Muslim from Egypt. He says there is a big difference among Muslims from Egypt and those from Afghanistan. Any story which opens our eyes even wider to the humanity in us all is a gift...

Anonymous said...

(Kathie) A Man Booker endorsement works for me, and the combination of "ordinariness and strangeness" describing these stories entices. The dialog between the author and the storyteller interests me and I relate to their lovely desire for their work to bring enjoyment to their readers.
The Hazara people of Afghanistan and the cruelly-received arrival of some of them to Australia sounds like a story that needs to be told. We would do well learn more about these suffering people.

P. J. Grath said...

Okay, Kathy and Kathie have now thrown their hats into the ring. This book is definitely generating interest.

Still time to comment and have a chance to win!