By Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé

Abeer Hoque (photo by Kat Burdick)
Abeer Hoque (photo by Kat Burdick)

Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?

I can’t say it’s because I must. I’m privileged in that I have been trained to do many things (making spreadsheets, balancing budgets, editing, organising), and some of those things keep me housed and fed, happy even. I write (on the side, obsessively, as a career) because it makes me feel more satisfied than pretty much anything else I know how to do. I get intense pleasure from both the process and the end game. It took me a while to understand that liking to do something was important, more important than being good at something else. It’s definitely not an Asian immigrant thing to follow the joyous light but I’m a bit of a hedonist, so I got there eventually J.

Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?

My earlier work had to do with a kind of recording. My memoir, “Olive Witch,” is experiential, about what it was like for me as a Bangladeshi girl in Nigeria, a Nigerian born teenager in America, an American woman in Bangladesh. My linked stories collection, “The Lovers and the Leavers,” is loosely based on my own diasporic experiences and the stories of those I met while living in Bangladesh and India. My work in my latest project is a little bit different, more like trying to answer questions rather than tell stories. I just finished a draft of a novel called “Memory Alone.” In a way, it’s completely fictional, following the life of a white bisexual religious male drug addict in California. In a way, it’s the truth of what I imagine and wonder about relationships, addiction, memory, and dementia.

By Syeda Samara Mortada

OliveOlive Witch by Abeer Y Hoque, is a personal journey and one of self-reflection. To start off, the description of Nsukka, a suburb in Nigeria and its landscape, from the green fields that Abeer and her sister Simi run through, to their daily life routine is too poetic and visionary not to be true to the word of Abeer’s actual childhood. However, the sudden shift of the story from narrative to (medical) report style writing, on many occasions jolts the reader, and makes them curious about the end result of the story.

Is it the lead character, Abeer herself who is admitted to a mental asylum? When we learn at one point that Abeer tries to commit suicide, that seems like a plausible option. But what demands praise is the neat way in which her story ties to that of her old friend Nneka, (whom she wonders about at certain points in the novel) and how she commits suicide; the life of these two girls who were once school friends in Nigeria is shown in juxtaposition, and even though both go through a period of crisis, one gets a second chance in life while the other does not.