Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Review & Guest Post: A List Of Offences By Dilruba Z. Ara

Please join me in welcoming author, Dilruba Z. Ara's as she tours the blogosphere with her novel, A List Of Offences, courtesy of Pump Up Your Book virtual book tours.  Dilruba will be touring now through July 26th and you can find a complete list of her tour stops here.

About Dilruba Z Ara:
Dilruba Z. Ara was born in Bangladesh. Nurtured on Greek mythology by her father, and hearing Indian fairy tales as bedtime stories from her mother, Dilruba had her first story published when she was eight years old. While in university at the age of twenty, she met and married her husband, a Swedish Air Force officer, and moved to Sweden, where she obtained degrees in English, Swedish, Classical Arabic and linguistics. She now teaches Swedish and English in Sweden. An accomplished, exhibited artist, her paintings have been used as the covers for the Bangladeshi, Greek, and U.S. editions of A LIST OF OFFENCES.
Visit her website at
Connect & Socialize with Dilruba! 

The Story Behind A List of Offences
When you are inside your society you tend to be blind to its realties, but when I moved to Sweden I started to look at my society with different eyes, and to evaluate it. I also began to question why Bengali/Indian girls should allow themselves to be blackmailed into accepting their lot.

I have a friend from Bangladesh who was in love with a Hindu boy, but her family forced her to marry her cousin. She told me they had married her off behind locked doors. This cousin was at that point a Swedish citizen, and he brought her here. In the end, she stood up, divorced him, and married another man. Her parents disowned her for bringing shame upon the family.

And then Fadime, a Kurd girl, was murdered by her family in the name of honor, in Sweden…
It occurred to me that the main problem is the inherited mindset of traditional families, which follows you wherever you go. This perverse trend is becoming a global illness. Girls from traditional families are bullied, beaten and, in the worst cases, even murdered if they try to break with accepted family patterns, no matter where they are. But it’s more severe in third world countries, where the state doesn’t vouch for your welfare. That welfare depends on your family, and very often families misuse their power. I wanted to highlight that through the story of Daria, the heroine of my book.

As for publication, I sent the finished manuscript to a few literary agents in the USA. Within a few days, three of them called back. I chose the most passionate one ‒ Doris Michaels. She loved the book, and sent it out to quite a few publishers in the USA, who all found it very beautiful, relevant, etc., but too slow-paced. I had worked very hard with each word, so I did not want to cut it down to fit their demands. In the end, I took it to The University Press Ltd, the leading publishing house in Bangladesh, and met the publisher myself. Upon reading the letters from various US editors, he took the manuscript from me and asked me to wait, outside the closed door. After about three hours he reappeared, with a contract. This is how it started. Then it was sold to Spain and Greece. In parts of South America it even hit the top ten list along with The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. Even though only a few English copies were available, the book was reviewed in different newspapers and magazines, including The Chattahoochee Review in the USA. It also has been used as project material and studied at various universities. I have been happy about that, but at the same time I have been concerned that the English version had not been available to general readers outside Bangladesh. Hence, I decided to have my rights back. My publisher is a kind man, and understood me. Now I have published it independently.

About The Book:
Paperback: 380 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Release Date: February 22, 2013
ISBN-10: 1477481877
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Women's Fiction
A List of Offences
A much-longed-for daughter is born with hair the colour of sunlight on the river. The shock of Daria’s silvery hair makes the midwife wet herself in the birthing room – an omen for the village gossip. The impropriety surrounding Daria’s birth travels round the village of Gulab Ganga, as the neighbours and relatives speculate what the future has in store for such a girl. Daria grows up affected by the rumours that circulate around her beautiful village each and every time she does anything atypical of a girl of her background. At the same time she is keenly aware of her mother Jharna Begum’s atavistic fears of gossip and her fierce loyalty to traditional values. Against all odds, Daria however cultivates her own integrity.

Daria’s father, Azad Chaudhury, a sensible parent believes that he can release Daria from her inauspicious destiny by arranging her marriage with local boy Mizan, who loves Daria desperately and hopes to marry her. Daria, however, falls in love with handsome Ali Baba, a young anglophile lawyer, born and brought up in the seaside town of Chittagong. She marries Ali Baba and leaves her village for the city and “Baba Lodge”, Ali Baba’s Ivy mantled house, hidden behind an imposing wall, guarded by a paint flaking picture of a howling Alsatian.

There, the cast grows to include, Ali Baba’s father, the one-eyed Kasim Baba, Ali Baba’s sister Rani, who harbours quasi incestuous feeling for her brother, and his mother Alia obsessively bitter that Alia Baba has married a country bumpkin. Daria forces herself to put up with her new families oddities, for she is aware that as a married woman she no longer belongs to her parental family. Both pride and fear of angering her mother keep her mute for a long time.

Still blinded by tradition Daria gets pregnant hoping that a child will bring her closer to Ali Baba’s heart, but in reality it only exacerbates the situation. Daria realises that she never raise Jhinuk the way she wants as long as she remains Ali Baba’s wife. Her anger now takes a different shape. She flees to her riverside village ready to fight anyone who would dare to take her child.

My Thoughts:
With A List Of Offences, Dilruba Z. Ara has created a mesmerizing and profoundly insightful story of one woman's journey to persevere when all odds are against her. Rich with folklore, tradition,and the role of women within Bangladesh, Ara delivers a true literary gem for women across the globe. This novel is heart wrenching with its realistic representation of the oppressive traditions endured by women, and yet, at the same time it is full of hope and inspiration.  I was immediately captivated by her writing style and her well-crafted attention given to detail and historical background.  Daria's character was extremely well-developed and the divide across cultures quickly diminished as I truly felt an emotional connection with this heroine; she is sure to be a character that will stay with me for some time.  Ara has certainly proven herself to be a very talented and gifted storyteller, as well as a prominent new literary voice.  A List Of Offences would make for a great book club endeavor...there is so much in the novel you will want to discuss in detail!   I was amazed with this novel and easily give it FIVE stars...highly recommended!

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