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Book Review of Tight Rope & Interview With Its Author Sahar Abdulaziz

by in Lifestyle on 15th November, 2018

Don’t you just love the cover of this book? Anyone for cookies and tea?

The inside is just as good! If you’ve read THUG by Angie Thomas, then this is a brilliant read just like it, but in a different genre.

In a country that is socially and politically divided, after the presidential election. Nour Ibrahim, an American Muslim activist, is preparing to deliver a speech at an anti-hate rally. She’s speaking up against the surge of attacks against people of colour, immigrants, Muslims and anyone who’s seen as different.

We can never make excuses for bigotry and hate, because the minute we do that, the enemy wins, and the stakes are too high now to ever now to ever let hate be permitted to win again.

— Nour Ibrahim

Nour not only faces mental anxiety because of the racist, xenophobic hate mail filling up her inbox. Her physical health deteriorates too, as she neglects the warning signs her body is telling her. She makes excuses after excuses, not get it checked out. Although Nour is the main character, the story is told in many points of views and at first, I thought it might be way too many characters to connect with, but it honestly wasn’t.

I was able to spend just enough time with each character, to get to know them. They all had some sort of problems in their lives and I got to see how they were dealing with them from the inside and out. It was interesting to see how hate and love, both can grow at one time, in different places.

It got me thinking, you know. It made me empathise with and feel sad, for the lack of support and care for one couple. I wanted to jump in and help another couple. It made me want to shake one character- the mother in me! I wanted to get to know another one a bit more… if you know what I mean! Only joking, LOL. And some characters, well I just want to run away from.

Although I wanted Nour the protagonist to succeed, I couldn’t help but want to read more about Doris. YES, Doris! Doris, Doris, Doris, woooaaaaah, now that was some crazy woman. I used to love watching CSI, about 7 years ago. I’m happy to say that’s the only thing I have in common with her.

Something with a little pizzazz for God’s sake! Doesn’t anyone have any imagination anymore? At least when I plot to bump somebody off, I do it with genius and style!

— Doris Tetler

I loved the way the writer brilliantly crafted this story, how she weaved all the characters lives together was incredible.

The plot was unpredictable throughout. Every time I made a prediction, I was wrong, lol! It kept me turning pages for sure. I stayed up late a couple of nights reading until the book hit me in the face. Yes, that happened!

Some bits have offensive language, even racist slurs but it all adds to the story and the hateful characters wouldn’t be hateful if they didn’t use it. That’s what made the story feel real, for me.

I’ll finish off with something that surprised me in the book, it was George’s gender. All along I thought George was one gender, but halfway through I found out George was the other gender. See what I did there? You’ll have to read the book now. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

Here’s an interview with the author. 

1. Please, tell us a little about yourself?

To date, I have authored seven books: But You LOOK Just Fine [Health/non-fiction, As One Door Closes [Contemporary Fiction], The Broken Half [Contemporary Fiction], Secrets That Find Us [Fiction/Thriller/Suspense], Tight Rope [Thriller/Political Fiction], Expendable [Psychological suspense] and my children’s book, The Dino Flu. My work covers a wide range of hard-hitting topics: mood disorders [depression, anxiety, PTSD, OCD, PPD, SAD], domestic violence and sexual assault, marital and family dysfunction, racism, sexism, and prejudice, but most of all–survivorship. I hold a Bachelor’s degree in psychology and a Master of Science degree in Health and Wellness Promotion and Administration, as well as a certification in Community Health Administration.
Back in 1995, I earned a Certificate in Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Crisis Intervention Counseling, and shortly after, as a Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Counselor/Advocate.
I volunteered for many years as a hotline worker and counselor/advocate. Most recently, I have guest co-hosted for Sistah Chat Radio, WESS 90.3 FM, Gynesis Radio, and I am a member of the Pocono Liar’s Writer’s Club and The Lady Writers. On October 7, 2018, my book Expendable was presented by Page to Stage at the Pocono Cinema & Cultural Center in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Rep’d by Djarabi Kitabs Publishing.

2. I’ve read your book Tight Rope, and it left me feeling like, woah. What is the main thing you want readers to take away from your book?

Certainly, the main takeaway from this novel is that oppression, micro-aggressions, bigotry, and racism–as well as misogyny, are all toxic behaviors which devastate and destroy countless innocent lives. These dangerous behaviors are cruel, brutal and inhumane. They must not be permitted to continue and stopped without excuse, but more importantly, that there is no room in this equation for maybes or ambiguities. This madness–this evilness has got to end. Now.

3. Absolutely. Typically, when I read books, I’m drawn to the protagonist. Don’t get me wrong–I loved following Nour–but I was drawn to Doris Tetler. Does that surprise you?

Not at all and I’m so glad you brought her up. Doris is one of my favorites as well. I thoroughly enjoyed writing this character–who, by the way, initially was no more than just a name in the story. I never intended for her to play such a pivotal role. However, once I started writing, her personality bounded off the pages and refused to get boxed in. [I LOVE when this happens with a character and as a writer, I embrace it.]
The character Doris Tetler is a culmination of conflicting nuances and shades of dysfunction all stuffed into a can of lunacy. However, like many people, Doris never set out to become this way, but she’s a prime example of what happens to a hurt, broken, and wounded spirit who never fully acquired the proper toolsets necessary to combat the legacy of tragedy.
Eventually, she turns into exactly what she despises: bitter, devoid of empathy, and dangerously pathological. As Doris channeled her energy to seek retribution, her unraveling magnified, ultimately suffocating and controlling her life and subsequent decisions.

4. You’ve done a brilliant job with Doris’s character. She is and will remain my favourite. There were so many twists and turns. You have to tell us your secret to plotting? or are you a panster?

There are a ton of twists and turns in Tight Rope, which I would describe as a real psychological, political thriller bursting with suspense. I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to hear that you couldn’t book the book down. Alhamdulillah.
My secret to plotting? I would say that I’m a bit of both, plotter and panster, but not in the traditional sense. I tend not to outline my stories on paper.
In the beginning, when I am feeling out the validity of a story, I will write a few pages in a haphazard, disorganized fashion, retelling to myself the most fundamental elements [beginning/middle/end] to see if it works. Then I ask myself: What do I ultimately want to achieve in the telling? Is this story need to be told, worthy to be told, and why? To me, this is more important than the plot, characters or setting–initially.
Then I sit down at my desk, never to refer to those papers again and write. I allow the story to bleed out on paper, step by step, the way I see it happening in my head. [Scary-right?] In truth, how the story ultimately turns out is news to me as well.
I mean, I know how I would like the book to end, but more often than not, my characters throw those ideas out the window. Nevertheless, I think because I listen to my characters [my gut], and honor their voice instead of the one I wanted to superimpose, I wind up writing a story that not even I could have anticipated. So, to answer your question, I guess that makes me a plotting panster or a pantsing plotter.

5. I’ve noticed your book themes cover tough topics. Domestic violence, xenophobia, trauma just to name a few. We’ve heard about your background but Is there a reason why you choose to write about these difficult topics?

Yes. Most definitely. I believe that words hold the power to change hearts, feed souls, soothe pains and ignite dreams. They can expose, unpack, validate and authenticate even the bleakest and painful experiences.
Therefore, I believe, as a wordsmith [writer] I carry the always daunting responsibility to convey these types of painful, sometimes ugly truths with nothing less than honesty. With that said, I am well aware that my books are not the most popular genre [no fooling] but they do comprise important voices and experiences which have a right to share the shelf. These stories need to be written and shared, and we cannot (as writers) ignore injustice and ‘hope and pray’ it fixes itself. It doesn’t work like that. For many writers, the pen is our weapon, our form of resistance, and our accountability.

6. Couldn’t agree more. I’ve got all your books on my TBR list and I honestly can’t wait to get hold of them. What are you currently reading?

I’m currently reading, The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris.

7.  What was the last book you read? 

White Fragility by Robin Diangelo, Foreword by Michael Eric Dyson.

8. Can you tell us three books, you think everyone should read and why?

Hmm, reading is so subjective, hence why I find it difficult to tell others what they should read, however, I have a few provocative suggestions.
1.    Hillbilly Elegy, A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance. A compelling memoir that unpacks in wrenching detail the familial dynamics of those residing in Appalachia. This story speaks to a specific culture but simultaneously magnifies the broader culture crisis prevalent in America today.
2.    On Tyranny by Timothy Snyder. This was a thought-provoking read. Insightful but not pretentious. The author wasted no time exposing the historical and current social issues and maladies which have manifested in the political quagmire we as a nation face today. Not a long read but a worthy one for anyone refusing to drink the Kool-Aid.
3.    Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare by Shahida Arabi. This is a compelling read. A journey behind the many masks of toxic people, narcissists, and sociopaths. The author is an advocate for survivors, and she wrote this book for those struggling to cope and navigate the aftermath of emotional/narcissistic abuse. It’s a guidebook filled with self-help strategies on healing, survival and ultimately, a pathway to recovery. I found this book to be proactive and highly accurate.

9. These sound like hard reads like the one’s you write. I’ll have to add them to my list too. Is there anything about the writing life that you feel people misunderstand?

I think people who don’t write, tend to believe that it’s a monumental and insufferable task–which in many ways it could be for sure, but writing is so much more than that.
It can also be enjoyable, challenging, and unquestionably rewarding. Writing is the culmination of a trillion thoughts and compelling emotions strung together and applied to a variety of places throughout a vast apex of time and circumstance. It can be immensely subjective, often struggling to remain objective, but has continued throughout history to be a force to be reckoned with.

10. I couldn’t agree more. What do you like doing when you’re not writing?

I’m a bit of a readaholic, so I belong to two book clubs and two writing groups. I know that sounds somewhat manic, but it genuinely works for me. The people I have met are brilliant. Their talent and energy are contagious and their insights to literary works [of every genre] intriguing. I deeply cherish these friendships and honestly leave each get-together feeling reenergized.
To give my brain [grey] cells a break at home, I can be found in the kitchen cooking or baking bread. Cooking allows me to zone out. I sometimes use the time to plot out a book, fix a storyline that has died mid-chapter or build on a character’s dialogue––all while busy with my hands. Plus–I get to eat. Can’t beat that.

11. Book clubs are fantastic if you have the time. Please answer with the first thing that comes to mind:

Favourite food? NY PIZZA—like seriously, from New York.
I love pizza! I need to get to New York now. 
Favourite colour? Pastel Yellow
Yellow has grown on me recently, but the more bright sunny yellow.
Something sweet? Chocolate
Favourite drink? Tea
Favourite genre to read? Cozy murder mysteries.
Favourite word? Family

12. Before I let you go, are there any new books or projects you’re working on right now?

Most definitely. I have completed two more manuscripts: One is a psychological suspense which attempts to address dysfunctional familial relationships [and choices], various mood disorders [depression, anxiety, OCD] as well as the complexities of coping with a neuropsychiatric disorder.
The other book I wrote is entirely way out of my typical chosen genre. This is a contemporary fiction story. A light-hearted and endearing book with a cast of charming, quirky, loveable characters––and a happy ending! It’s a warm and engaging story which unpacks the heartbreak of loss and celebrates the discovery of love, friendship and family.

Brilliant! I look forward to reading it, InShaAllah. Jazakallahu Khair for your time. It’s a pleasure interviewing you. May Allah pour more and more Baraqah into your endeavors, Ameen. 

Alhamdulillah, it was a pleasure, and thank you for inviting me.
Shoohada Khanom

Shoohada Khanom

Born and raised in London, writer and children’s author Khanom recently published four pictures books. Today a mother of six, Khanom lives a busy life, splitting her days between home educating her children and her motherly responsibilities. She shares her home in Bolton with her family, and anytime she has a moment to herself, she reads and writes.