Posts Tagged Skeena English Edition
‘This incredible book is both haunting and beautiful. Fauzia Rafique writes with clarity and honesty, forcing the reader to think about elitism, racism, patriarchy, love, honour and obedience. It is told exclusively through the eyes of a Muslim woman, including her early life in Pakistan & later years in Canada. Skeena’s life affords a chilling glimpse at how easy it is to innocently fall back into like circumstances after finally escaping, at great personal cost, similar harm. I highly recommend this remarkable book by a remarkable writer.’
Retired teacher and book lover
Born in 1949 in a small town in Ontario, Bubbles McKegney graduated from the University of Waterloo with a Bachelor of Mathematics degree at the age of 19 & the following year from Althouse College of Education, Western University. She’s lived briefly in Kenya, Sweden, the United States, and Austria & has resided in Kincardine, Ontario for the past 40 years. She has been a feminist throughout her life, volunteering at the Women for Change Centre, Rape Crisis Centres and the local Women’s Shelter. An avid reader with particular sensitivity to gender issues, she juggled teaching high school and elementary school with raising two sons. Now retired, she lives with the love of her life with whom she’s been happily married for 49 years.
There is a sweet backstory to share. Sam McKegney, Associate Professor at the Department of English in Queen’s University Kingston ON, bought my novel Skeena at the 2017 Conference of Indigenous Literary Studies Association (ILSA) in Chilliwack BC, and he passed it onto his mother Bubbles, a ‘chronic’ reader who had a powerful experience reading it. She later shared her impressions with Sam. Last month, it was Bubbles’s 70th birthday and since she is not into acquiring material objects, Sam thought of giving her a present that would really make her happy. He contacted a few of her favorite authors and requested them to send video messages for the occasion. ‘Skeena is a work that has resonated for her significantly since she first read it back in 2017’, wrote Sam. And that became the reason for me to know Bubbles and to appreciate her thoughts about Skeena. In case you are curious after reading the last line of her bio above, here she is ‘with the love of her life’, Ian McKegney. Happy Birthday Bubbles!
Sunday, June 26
1 to 3 PM
(Columbia Skytrain Station)
‘Passion Fruit – Tahnget Phal’ combines some of Fauzia’s original English and Punjabi poems. Punjabi presented in both Gurumukhi and Shahmukhi scripts.
Published by Uddari Books (Surrey, British Columbia) with support from Author Manolis of Libros Libertad.
Valerie B. -Taylor
Author Fauzia Rafique’s highly acclaimed novel ‘Skeena’ is a compelling story of a young Muslim Canadian woman’s transitional evolution which spans 30 years from the land of her birthplace to the land of her rebirth.
Skeena’s journey is set in a framework of a life of oppression caused by cultural, religious, racist, patriarchal, familial, political, and societal conditions. Although told in a narrative based on Skeena’s Muslim identity and birthright the story transcends all cultural boundaries of violence against women. The story is layered in memorable characters and details so rich you will want to savor every word. The novel documents yet another personal account of a powerful voice that breaks the code of silence in the world of violence against woman and oppression of all peoples.
A page turner from beginning to end. A potential best seller.
Essential reading for high school and university students.
Aurhor/Presenter Valerie B. -Taylor is the President of New West Writers group. More information here: http://newwestwriters.wordpress.com/.
April 10, 2011
I feel as if I have been consumed by this novel; this is the most powerful effect, I think, of writing, when it grips you and does not let go. Skeena has done this to me. It is a beautiful and in some ways frightening thing, that kind of power of words.
What do we find in this novel? It is a portrait not just of a woman, but of many of the most intimate and beautiful, the closest and most terrible, parts of our humanity.
This book tells us of the specificity of Pakistan, of being a woman in Pakistan, and of the politics that have shaped the country since independence in 1947. And the continuing legacy of colonial occupation, and the ongoing intervention of global powers in the making and unmaking of the region. Bit it also speaks to the most general features of the Human Condition. It is thus deeply particular, and deeply humanist, like all real works of art. And I think this is that, one that will not only make its mark in Punjabi—in India and in Pakistan and in Canada—but in its English form, in these countries and farther afield.
The book tells us of religion, of its limits, but its deep and abiding humanity, that draws us together. It’s portrait of religion is thus complex: the politics that govern religion and how it is used as a means for control. But also of the beauty of the festival, and the joyful abandon of sufi celebration, dance, music, and poetry. It speaks of that terrible violence that is found in religion, as religious minorities are persecuted in different contexts—the novel is absolutely clear on this, too, as a feature of our lives as humans; there is no position of easy comfort here. The narrative voice is as critical of bias and oppression as practiced by her own class and her own family as she is critical of others. And thus it is deeply humanist, exploring these things terrible and beautiful that bring us together and tear us apart. It is perhaps because of this honesty, this simple truth-telling that makes the portrait of that other thing that also joins us, patriarchy, so compelling. Women, like men—and indeed, sometimes more women than men, in the intimate locations of patriarchy’s working—perpetrate and exploit this form of domination, deeply imbedded within the structures of love and proximity that bring meaning, also, to our lives. Thus our narrator tells us of how “both of my families dealt me the same card of dependence.” Her husband and mother-in-law, she tells us, did so with contempt. Her mother and brother, with love. But, it was the same card “that makes someone spend their life fulfilling other people’s wishes. Whoever gave me this card knew it and was also a beneficiary in some way.” (162-3).
Through it we see the enactment of power, and its connection to intimacy, how it is woven through our relationships and into our beings.
We see control. Restraint. The disciplining of the self by the daughter, for the daughter, and for service. Thus her mother tells her that “youth is a mare without restraint… you need to develop restraint for your own good” (67). As a seven year old, she is told not to throw “her feet on the floor like a donkey” (29), She tells us “I lift my right foot from the ground and place it, noiselessly, a foot ahead of me. Then I pick up my left foot and place it ahead of the right foot.” (30). Walking carefully, disciplined. Cultivated to internalize in her walk, in her very being, the meaning and action of service and restraint. When she was young, she was told that “education is the jewelry of a woman”; as she aged, “now education was not the jewelry but an imitation jewel in a cap made up entirely of diamonds of various household chores.” (108).
This is that control is tied to the intimate, but intimacy in this book cannot be subsumed within the workings of power. It is palpable and real, and it draws us in. It is this same seven-year-old’s hands that her mother says “have the healing touch” (28), revealing the beautiful affection, closeness, of mother and daughter. These hands massage, touch and bring pleasure, bring warmth. I think this book is so successful because of its celebration of such intimacy, of the moments of humanity that we all seek out, that sustains us all.
And amidst the violence portrayed, its intimacy, we find the learning of a new way of being, a new language. The ending of the book, with its allusion to suicide, and its reaching past it, this moving through and past, reminds me of that moment that many reach, to speak this language:
But there come times—perhaps this is one of them—
when we have to take ourselves more seriously or die;
when we hae to pull back from the incantations,
rhythms we’ve moved to thoughtlessly,
and disentrall ourselves,
bestow ourselves to silence, or a severer listening,
cleansed of oratory, formulats, choruses, laments,
static crowding the wires.
We cut the wires, find ourselves in free-fall,
as if our true home were the undimensional
solitudes, the rift in the Great Nebula,.
No one who survives to speak new language
has avoided this:
the cutting-away of an old force that held
her rooted to an old ground, the pitch of
utter loneliness where she herself and all
creation seem equally dispersed, weightless…
Or another poem, by Lucille Clifton, that speaks so beautifully to the final moments of this novel:
won’t you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay,
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.