Winner of Best Indie Book Award, Romance, 2013
Semi Finalist, Best Novel, eFestival of Words, 2013
Finalist, New Talent Award, Festival of Romance, 2013
"...a deliciously tangled plot and insight into life on the Persian Gulf." Kirkus Review
When newlywed Abdulla loses his wife and unborn child in a car accident, the world seems to crumble beneath his feet. Thrust back into living in the family compound, he goes through the motions—work, eat, sleep, repeat. Blaming himself for their deaths, he decides to never marry again but knows that culturally, this is not an option. Three years later, he’s faced with an arranged marriage to his cousin Hind, whom he hasn’t seen in years. Hard-pressed to find a way out, he consents to a yearlong engagement and tries to find a way to end it. What he doesn’t count on, and is unaware of, is Hind’s own reluctance to marry.
Longing for independence, she insists on being allowed to complete a master’s degree in England, a condition Abdulla readily accepts. When she finds an unlikely friend in Indian-American Sangita, she starts down a path that will ultimately place her future in jeopardy.
The greatest success of Rajakumar’s novel is the emotional journey the reader takes via her rich characters. One cannot help but feel the pressure of the culturally mandated marriage set before Hind and Abdulla. He’s not a real Muslim man if he remains single, and she will never be allowed freedoms without the bondage of a potentially loveless marriage. It’s an impossible situation dictated by a culture that they still deeply respect.
Rajakumar pulls back the veil on life in Qatar to reveal a glimpse of Muslim life rarely seen by Westerners.
Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar is a South Asian American who has lived in Qatar since 2005. Moving to the Arabian Desert was fortuitous in many ways since this is where she met her husband, had two sons, and became a writer. She has since published eight e-books, including a momoir for first time mothers, Mommy But Still Me; a guide for aspiring writers, So You Want to Sell a Million Copies; a short story collection, Coloured and Other Stories; and a novel about women’s friendships, Saving Peace.
Her coming of age novel, An Unlikely Goddess, won the SheWrites New Novelist competition in 2011.
Her recent books have focused on various aspects of life in Qatar. From Dunes to Dior, named as a Best Indie book in 2013, is a collection of essays related to her experiences as a female South Asian American living in the Arabian Gulf. Love Comes Later was the winner of the Best Indie Book Award for Romance in 2013 and is a literary romance set in Qatar and London. The Dohmestics is an inside look into compound life, the day-to-day dynamics between housemaids and their employers.
After she joined the e-book revolution, Mohana dreams in plotlines. Learn more about her work on her website at www.mohadoha.com or follow her latest on Twitter: @moha_doha.
Being Banned Ain’t What it Used to Be By Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar
When he came into my office and said “Put it up here!” expecting a high-five, I knew sentiments about having a banned book in the Middle East had changed.
I gave my colleague a weak smile and turned back to the student sitting at my desk.
“I’m super excited for you,” he said, bouncing out into the hallway. “I’m going to read your book now.”
He was referring to the news story that had posted the night before, on the national blog. Same online daily that everyone, expat and national, reads like the rest of the world peruses the Huffington Post. The breaking news around dinner time was that my novel, the one without any sex, atheism or politics, had been banned for sale in the country in which it was set because it was about the country and her citizens.
Not everyone was as convinced as my enthusiastic colleague that the ban was a good idea. A quick scan of the comments section on the blog revealed a deep suspicion the quality of the book and its author:
“The Author should thank the Ministry of Culture for the free publicity this book is receiving now. Otherwise it doesn't really deserve any mention.”
I published Love Comes Later, the book in question, in summer of 2012 as an e-book, funded by as an independent author. American literary agents told me it was too foreign, too male and therefore completely unsellable.
After two years of reaching out to book bloggers, 72 Amazon.com reviews, and several paperback editions, the Ministry of Culture in Qatar was telling me it was too racy to sell in bookshops.
This was clearly a book without a home; a literary identity crisis.
“Virginia Commonwealth U. Professor’s Novel Is Banned in Qatar” read the headline in the “ticker” section of that bastion of tertiary education, The Chronicle of Higher Education. Only if you clicked on the link did you discover that said professor was on the Qatar branch campus of the university. Despite the mention of professor in the headline, the writer kept referring to me as “Ms.” a title conjured a version of me as Harlequin romance writer, churning out bodice rippers at a desk in some moldy basement.
But was any or all of this helping your sales, is your question.
Well, that’s not a straightforward story either. The night that the news daily posted their piece, the Amazon.com ranking rose swiftly, climbing for about a week, peaking in the low 80s of top 100 paid listings for Family Sagas and Literary Fiction.
When I logged into my Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) sales report, however, I had yet another surprise. Yes, the notorious Love Comes Later, was selling steadily.
But also in equal measure was An Unlikely Goddess, my fourth novel that had nothing to do with Qatar. This was Sita’s story, an immigrant coming of age narrative about a South Asian girl growing up in the United States.
I’d done next to no publicity for this book, besides a small blog tour, but it was also an award winner plus it was a fourth of the price of said banned title.
A rising tide does lift all boats. Or in this case, some media attention does expose readers to all titles by an author.
I’m pleased not be in jail or to have lost my job due to the decision by authorities not to sell my book in the country where it was set. Both of these, and far worse would have been the consequences – and still could be – in parts of the Middle East region even five years ago. The congratulatory vibes from Arabs and Americans, the lowered voices asking where, by the way, can they get the book, are all indications of a changing ethos.
Leaving me with this odd cache of having done something objectionable, but as an artist, which others find admirable. Whether or not this is enough to sustain interest in a story that was three years in the making, however, remains to be seen.
Go to the author’s website to find out how to buy her great books. www.mohadoha.com or follow her latest on Twitter: @moha_doha.
Link to book at Amazon: http://amzn.com/B008I4JJES