This spring we've made it our mission (even more than usual) to celebrate new releases in the wake of cancelled launch parties, book festivals, and reading series. With 49th Shelf Launchpad, we're holding virtual launch parties here on our platform complete with witty banter, great insight, and short and snappy readings to give you a taste of the books on offer. You can request these books from your local library, get them as e-books or audio books, order them from your local indie bookseller if they're delivering, buy them direct from the publisher or from online retailers.
Today we're launching Keepers of the Faith, by Shaukat Ajmeri, which Farzana Doctor calls, "complex, beautiful, and essential reading for our times."
The Elevator Pitch. Tell us about your book in a sentence.
It’s a story of two young lovers caught in their community’s religious strife, are forced to separate and meet again years later to face soul-destroying moral dilemma.
Describe your ideal reader.
Loves a good tale written well, reads widely and diversely and has a healthy contempt for all that is popular and conventional.
What authors/books is your work in conversation with:
What is something interesting you learned about your book/yourself/your subject during the process of creating and publishing your book?
Writing the first draft, in hindsight, seemed the easiest. Editing, revising and polishing the manuscript is a hard and long process. That is, after you have found a good editor and publisher which is another herculean struggle.
What parts of the books were easy for you to write and what were the most difficult?
The easy parts were the ones about which I had knowledge and experience such as historical events and politics etc. The most difficult were the ones dealing with relationships which took me to unfamiliar territory and I had to be in the character’s head to imagine how they would behave and think and speak in a particular circumstance.
An important part of any book launch are the thank yous. Go ahead, and acknowledge someone whose support has been integral to this project.
I am indebted to M.G. Vassanji for helping me edit and polish the manuscript. I am also grateful to Farzana Doctor for her advice and support.
What are you reading right now or next?
Keepers of the Faith is set within a small Muslim sect of India, ruled by an avaricious priesthood that demands absolute submission while enforcing archaic social customs. When a section of the community rebels, it is summarily excommunicated, shunned by friends and family and denied religious rites. The peaceful community is split into two.
The novel follows the fates of two blissful young lovers, Akbar and Rukhsana, in the historic city of Udaipur. When the communal split occurs, their families are on opposite sides; the lovers' dream of a happy life together is shattered, and they are forced into separate destinies. Akbar, from the rebel group, goes on to become a writer and family man in Mumbai, while Rukhsana gets married to an immigrant engineer from the United States fanatically devoted to the priesthood.
Years later, Akbar's and Rukhsana's paths cross again. Much has changed and much has not, and they are presented with soul-destroying choices about the rest of their lives.
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