• Subscribe to The Spark

    A curated newsletter full of dinner-table worthy topics, thought provoking stories, promo codes and the spiciest memes straight to your inbox.

‘The Marriage Clock’ Author Zara Raheem Shares her Creative Journey

4 min read

I hope that Leila’s story will resonate with readers and show them that there are multiple ways to live happily and successfully, and it’s up to us to define what those terms should look like.”Zara Raheem

Brown Girl Magazine chatted with Zara Raheem, author of “The Marriage Clock,” about her novel, thoughts on South Asian representation in Western literature, and advice for young writers. Check out the interview below to get into the mind of an author.

The Marriage Clock by Zara Raheem
“The Marriage Clock” by Zara Raheem [Amazon]

Can you tell us about the journey that led to you writing “The Marriage Clock,” what inspired you?

The idea for the novel came to me while I was going through the arranged marriage process myself. Although the idea of arrangement has been explored more recently in TV shows and movies, we don’t typically get to see this experience exclusively from the South Asian female perspective,” Raheem said to Brown Girl Magazine. “Therefore, I wanted to write a story that would not only capture the challenges and frustrations that so many of us face in our search to find love, but also one that would highlight the social and cultural pressures placed, particularly on women, in regard to marriage and children and how these expectations impact our views of self and the choices we make.

[Read Related: Book Review: Maulik Pancholy’s “The Best At It” is Heartfelt, Honest and Relatable]

What are your thoughts on cultural representation in literature?

As a community, it’s obvious that we just don’t have the same scale of representation in certain fields as other groups do. I think a primary reason for this is because many young South Asians are often encouraged to pursue careers in engineering, medicine, and other science-related fields and often there isn’t the same value placed on the humanities. As a result, there’s a huge lack of writers, journalists, artists, etc. who are of South Asian and of Muslim descent.

I feel like there is a shift that is beginning to occur though, and we’re seeing more South Asian creatives taking the initiative to help fill in these gaps, especially within the literary industry. The truth is, we need more of our stories out there. We need a broader range of perspectives, so that one book on arranged marriage isn’t seen as reflective of every South Asian-American woman’s experience. As writers, we need to continue making our voices heard and the only way to do that is by telling our stories, writing our truths, and representing our culture and communities in a way that is honest and authentic to our own experiences.

Do you think that Western publishing companies take our stories seriously? Are they seeing our community’s writing as mainstream or is it still considered niche?

I do think there’s been a greater focus on representation and inclusivity in recent years, but there is still a lot of progress that needs to be made. Initiatives like the #OwnVoices Movement and organizations like We Need Diverse Books are definitely steps in the right direction. Even the success of books/movies like Kevin Kwan’s “Crazy Rich Asians” has helped tremendously in creating more awareness on the need for more diverse stories. I strongly believe that as the demand for fresh new voices and perspectives continues to grow, it will become increasingly impossible for the publishing industry to ignore the importance of these stories if they want to appeal more widely to their readers.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Zara Raheem (@za_ra_heem) on

Back to The Marriage Clock. What can you tell us about your similarities and differences from the main character Leila? And what about the guys in the novel? Which of them are real and which are a little embellished?

Like Leila, I also grew up in a fairly traditional family and did not really experience ‘dating’ until I was in my early to mid-twenties. Although I was never given a three-month deadline (thank goodness!), I was admittedly overwhelmed with the arranged process and a bit naïve and unrealistic in my expectations. Over time, however, my experiences have helped me gain a better sense of who I am and what I wanted in life—just as Leila discovers through her own journey. In terms of the dates, I think I’d rather not reveal which ones are real and which ones are fictional for my own best interest! But after spending about four years fully immersed in the arranged process, let’s just say I didn’t have to look too far for inspiration.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Zara Raheem (@za_ra_heem) on

Do you have any advice for brown girls (and boys) facing a similar situation to Leila? Is there an overarching takeaway you want your readers to have when they’ve completed reading this book?

My advice is to keep doing you. There are always going to be external forces telling us, especially as women, what we should be doing and how we should be living in order to lead a happy and successful life. But in reality, there’s not just one path to that outcome. I hope that Leila’s story will resonate with readers and show them that there are multiple ways to live happily and successfully, and it’s up to us to define what those terms should look like.

[Read Related: 5 Books that Portray the South Asian LGBTQIAP+ Experience]

What’s the next project you’re working on? Inquiring minds want to know.

I am currently working on a short story collection that centers around Muslim-American characters, the South Asian diaspora, and first-and-second generation immigrants. For my second novel, I am really inspired by Tania’s character and am interested in exploring in more depth the negative stigmas attached to South Asian-American women who have been previously married and divorced. Whether this novel will be a sequel to “The Marriage Clock” or a stand-alone work is yet to be decided, but I’m definitely excited by the many possibilities.

2 Comments

  • Avatar
    Shweta Roy
    Dear Editor, This is Shweta Roy from Houston, TX and I am the author of the book, 'The Unexpected Adventures of Remi', published in India, by APK Publishers in September 2019. My book has received 4-star review from US Readers' Favorite and Midwest Book Review (will be published online on July 10). I am emailing to know if you would be interested in reviewing my book for your magazine. Please see book details below: Book Title: The Unexpected Adventures of Remi Author: Shweta Roy Length: 146 pages (20,000 words) Genre: Children’s book ( 8-14yrs) Book blurb: Pet life doesn't meet Remi's expectations. The little canine finds out that humans are more technology-obsessed with barely any time for their pets. She teams up with a few friends from the Creature-World and leads a movement called ‘The Petinists’ to conquer back human affection. Will she succeed or an unexpected twist will change her life completely? Amazon.com- https://www.amazon.com/Unexpected-Adventures-Remi-expectations-neighborhood-ebook/dp/B07XDSD49J/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=The+unexpected+Adventures+of+REmi&qid=1567786452&s=gateway&sr=8-1 Amazon.in- https://www.amazon.in/Unexpected-Adventures-Remi-Shweta-Roy/dp/9381791775/ref=sr_1_4?keywords=shweta+roy&qid=1567786512&s=gateway&sr=8-4 Publisher: APK Publishers (September 1, 2019) - https://apkpublishers.com/book-store/childrens-stories/unexpected-adventures-remi/ Publication Date: September 3, 2019 Sold by: Amazon.com Services LLC Language: English ASIN: B07XDSD49J Thank you so much for your time. Looking forward to your reply.
  • Avatar
    shweta
    Please ignore the above comment. I sent it in the wrong site.

Leave a comment