Tag: First Pass Pages

Where the Air is Sweet_finalsmallWhere the Air Is Sweet is the title of my first novel. It is being published by the wonderful people at HarperCollins Canada. The publication date is May 2014. The on sale date (when you can buy it from booksellers) is June 3.

Here is a blurb about the novel taken from my agency’s website:

In 1972, dictator Idi Amin expelled 80,000 South Asians from Uganda. Though many had lived in East Africa for generations, they were forced to flee in 90 days as their country descended into a surreal vortex of chaos and murder.

Spanning the years between 1921 and 1975, Where the Air Is Sweet tells the story of Raju, a young Indian man drawn to Africa by the human impulse to seek a better life, and three generations of his family who carve a life for themselves in a racially stratified colonial and post-colonial society. Where the Air Is Sweet is a story of family, their loves, their griefs, and finally their sudden expulsion at the hands of one of the world’s most terrifying tyrants.

In the writing of the novel, I relied, in particular, on two excellent books for background of the Idi Amin years. General Amin by David Martin and A State of Blood by Henry Kyemba. Both books provide some great insight into the politics of the time.

I also relied on family members’ recollections. I was born in Mbarara, Uganda (where a good chunk of the novel is set) in 1969, about three and a half years before Idi Amin expelled Asians (South Asians) from Uganda, a group which included my family. Officially he expelled only non-citizen Asians, but it was a little more complicated than that. In any case, I obviously have a personal stake in the telling of this story.


Asian Ugandans board a plane at Entebbe, Uganda,
in September 1972 after Idi Amin’s expulsion order.

I have read a number of long and short histories on Uganda, encyclopedia entries, news articles, whatever I could get my hands on. I was astonished by the almost complete absence of information about Asians. In a book-length rendering on the nation of Uganda from pre-independence until today, it was not uncommon to find a lone paragraph (made up of about two sentences) that summed up the entire history of Asians in Uganda (a history that spans a century or more), including their expulsion.

Someone had to tell their story. So I did. It is not the story. It is one story.

BlogFirstPassMy publication date for Where the Air Is Sweet is confirmed. May 2014. The pace of everything has picked up. In late August I received the copy-edited manuscript for approval. And now I have the typeset page proofs, the first pass pages. They came by UPS. I can hold them in my hands: my words.

The book is taking shape, taking form, manifesting. Finally, after all the work, after rewrites and rewrites, after years of gestating, the book is being born.

Writing is solitary. Creating happens in my mind; sometimes it is expanded, built upon in conversations with my editor, but ultimately it’s something I do alone. I have created this novel from a deeply personal place. It feels strange, then, preparing to share it (broadly, beyond people I know). It feels as though I am about to be transformed. In the way giving birth transformed me, added a new dimension, a new layer, to my being.

I’m not writing here about my fears: fears that people won’t like the book – I know some people won’t like it (not everyone loves everything); or that the book won’t sell well – it may not; this business, and it is a business, is fickle. No one can predict how a book will be received.

I’m writing here about how it feels to share what I’ve considered for so long “unshareable” because it was (I believed) true only for me and not something anyone else would care about. I am sharing the unshareable, going even further, allowing people to connect to it, relate to it, perhaps gain from it.

It’s extraordinary. This process of creating art. And the impulse to share it. I used to think it was ego. But it’s not. Not entirely. Ego is, I think, wanting validation when you don’t have it for yourself. When ego is at work the sensations and thoughts I experience are unpleasant, cloying. I feel powerless and desperate for approval, acceptance, almost at any cost. This impulse to share what I have created from the depths of myself feels entirely different. It feels generous. The easy kind of generous, like when you have so much you are not at all concerned about sharing because there is no question in your mind you will always have enough.

There is a joy in this giving, in this sharing. Nothing is lost.

With this novel, I feel as though life has given me a gift that will grow in ways I cannot even begin to imagine when I share it. And so my sharing is a responsibility, a privilege and a pleasure.

And on this weekend of Thanksgiving I can say, for this, I am grateful.

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