By Nadia Cassim
I always look forward to reading debut novels simply because I believe that the author’s voice resounds loud and clear, setting the tone for forthcoming manuscripts to be expected by him or her. What’s evident from Ayesha Desai’s debut novel, Jasmine in the Wind, is not only the author’s ability to grab the attention of her reader with her captivating writing style, but her profound understanding of the subject matter she is trying to cast light on.
The story follows the journey of young Afraa, a Syrian refugee who as a result of violence and turmoil in her homeland, has to leave behind the only life she knows to begin anew in a foreign country. The narrative takes the reader on a journey of flashbacks to life in her hometown, when everything seemed promising, to the devastating point at which her family had no option but to make the journey across a tumultuous sea. We get to meet colourful characters such Abdo Reeza (an old, wise neighbour and family friend), Afraa’s best friend Nadiha who she often remembers of fondly, and Baba (her father who desperately tries to keep his family safe). As Afraa journeys with her family to safer lands, we get a taste of what life in Syria was like – exploring the smells and tastes of the culture and people who resided there- as well as what life shall hold in store for her and her family in the years to come.
Jasmine in the Wind not only tugged at my heartstrings, but captivated me from beginning to end- a must-read for young adults and adults alike.
Getting to Know the Author!
Please tell our readers a little bit about yourself. Your background, upbringing, career aspirations, hobbies and interests
I was raised in Port Shepstone, and have been living in Pretoria for the last 14 years. I currently work as a corporate training facilitator, where I present a range of business courses. I am happily married, and have 2 young children. I’ve always been creative, and have experimented with writing, painting and stain glass. I love being outdoors, and enjoy the simple pleasures in life.
This is your debut novel, but have you been published before either locally or internationally in any other genre and if yes, please elaborate?
No, this is a first for me. I have had my blog, Raising Young Believers, which was basically a journal of my attempt to parent both Islamically, and at the same time, to do so in a fun and relevant manner. I have contributed articles to other international blogs and websites, and was also a feature writer for the Muslimah Bloggers website.
When and how did the idea of writing a novel come about and what was your inspiration?
Alhamdulillah, in 2010, after we completed Hajj, we had the opportunity to spend a few days in Syria. Even though it was such a short trip, it left a strong impact on me. The culture, the food and the people were truly unforgettable. When the war began, and images of babies washed up on shore, or covered in dust were shared in the media, I realised that we were hearing a lot about the war from the perspective of adults, but the biggest victims were those with the smallest voices, and that’s where the idea evolved from.
Please tell our readers a little bit about your novel
The book follows the journey of a young girl as she and her family escape war. As terrifying as some parts of it is, it’s also interlaced with rich memories of the beauty of Syria before the war. It shows a child’s perspective, and how children are both resilient, yet at the same time, so very vulnerable. It is meant to be a glimpse into the bravery, challenges and courage of refugees.
Who do you think, will relate to the story and why?
I think on a certain level, every parent can relate. The details of the story emerged from when I was thinking what would happen if children we knew had to endure such hardships. I also think most young adults, teens and even young children who are independent readers would like the story. It presents a fictional view and invites an emotional response to a non-fiction issue.
Do you plan on writing more novels going forward?
InShaAllah (God Willing), I hope to also publish an anthology of my poetry. I love writing poems, and until this point have only shared a few on my blog, or with close family and friends. I’m also working on an anthology of short stories, which relate to current events. One of my other dreams is to publish a collection of stories for young Muslim children. So in short, the answer is YES. InShaAllah this is the first of many.
Where can an interested reader purchase the book?
At this point, the book is available for pre-order directly from the publisher, Prolance Publishing. It will also be available on all major outlets including all Amazons, Barnes and Noble, Chapters and Indigo. We are still awaiting confirmation of local distributors, but I will be attending the Jozi Books and Blogs Festival. Hopefully we will have books available for sale there. Should there be local distributors who are interested in stocking the book, they can email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.