Monday, September 7, 2015

Rajia Hassib

Rajia Hassib was born and raised in Egypt and moved to the United States when she was twenty-three. She holds an MA in creative writing from Marshall University and her short fiction has appeared in Upstreet, Steam Ticket, and Border Crossing magazines. She lives in West Virginia with her husband and two children.

Hassib's new novel is In the Language of Miracles.

Last month I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’m currently reading Ann Beattie’s new collection of short stories, The State We’re In: Maine Stories. Ann Beattie is one of my all-time favorite authors, mainly because she writes beautiful, humorous and simultaneously poignant prose while exploring human relationships in the most intricate ways. On the sentence level, her work truly is riveting—I can flip any page open and enjoy fresh, smart imagery, and her choice of details gives even the shortest of her stories the ability to evoke an entire universe. This particular collection features linked short stories, which makes me love it even more, just because it lets me see how Beattie weaves and interconnects those details from one story to the next. I’ve also always found her dialogue particularly fascinating. Economic yet wonderfully natural, Beattie’s dialogue does it all, from adding details to enhancing characterization to moving the plot forward. From the point of view of craft, her dialogue is certainly worthy of close study.

While I usually never read more than one book at a time, I’m currently breaking this rule—mainly because I couldn’t wait until I finished the novel I was on before I started Beattie’s collection of short stories. The novel is The Death of Artemio Cruz by Carlos Fuentes, and I’ve been nibbling on it for some time now, partly because it’s one of those works of fiction that, to me, are to be admired, respected, and studied—even if not necessarily enjoyed. I find Fuentes’s depiction of the protagonist’s emotions, reaction to his impending death, and memories masterful, and he has the ability to change the style of his prose to reflect the scene’s emotional state, which is always fascinating to read, even if, at some points, it can get a bit cumbersome. I picked this novel up mainly out of interest in novels set in periods of political turmoil (something I’m researching for my own work), but I’m drawn to it for the interesting way Fuentes draws the character of his dying, quite immoral protagonist.

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, by Mohsin Hamid, is a novel I read a couple of months ago but that has made a lasting impression on me. I’m a big fan of Hamid’s work in general, but this particular novel is a study in detail as well as in structure. I found his ability to portray his protagonists’ entire life—from his childhood to his death of old age—in a slim volume of 222 pages quite impressive. Hamid’s mastery of the second-person narrative continues here, a technique that I admired even if I found it, at times, a bit jarring (all the more so because of his repeated references to the novel as a self-help book in the beginning of each chapter). The novel’s true pull, for me, stems from Hamid’s exquisite, playful language, his spot-on choice of details, and, of course, the various themes he tackles, particularly the theme of social mobility. Hamid has also written one of the most fascinating last sentences I’ve ever read in a novel—18 lines long and such a wonderful ending to a truly admirable work.
Visit Rajia Hassib's website.

--Marshal Zeringue