Guest Post by Hawaa Ayoub – ‘The Personal in Fiction Writing’

I am delighted to be joined by Hawaa Ayoub today who has a moving guest post on The Personal in Fiction Writing. Hawaa’s novel When a Bulbul Sings is about forced child marriages and Hawaa hope to raise awareness of this issue. So, I wil hand you over to Hawaa.

The Personal in Fictional Writing by Hawaa Ayoub, author of When a Bulbul Sings

A while back, in 2007 while still living in Sana’a the capital of Yemen, I was approached numerous times by friends and colleagues whom suggested I should write a book about my experience of child marriage. Although they were well intentioned, for I was a strong character by then, my visceral feeling was that of embarrassment of not wanting my personal life known so publicly although everybody whom knew me already knew (would find out) how old I was when I married, especially when they couldn’t believe my children were not my siblings (safe to say that mistake won’t be made nowadays!). I wasn’t ashamed of my life, it wasn’t my fault being forced as a child to marry a man so why should I be ashamed? They said many British Asian and British African girls in the UK, some as young as twelve, would disappear from schools, probably taken to their country of ethnicity and married, they believed I should write a story about my experience as a child bride so as to make the world aware this happens.

Truth be told, at people’s shocked reaction at my reply of being fourteen, embarrassed I would be. I couldn’t control it, but it’s how I felt; for how do you and why should you explain how you were forced as a child when some memories are harsh, when all you want to do is leave the past behind and concentrate on the now? Yemenis and expatriates alike expressed the same surprise, outrage and empathy towards learning I had married so young and forced at that.

Forced and child marriage is not a clear-cut issue, there are many reasons why it still exists today which would need a number of posts to explain and delve into properly, but raising awareness about the issue of child marriage is important as is understanding why and how it happens, and its consequences and effects upon girls and women.

There are many other reasons why I write. To begin with, I enjoy writing. If I don’t put the words onto paper or screen, the ideas and thoughts crowd my head and occupy my mind until I’ve written them. Characters’ conversations and actions keep running on a loop and developing and nag me when I’m nowhere near pen and paper.

I write because I have stories to tell. Like many writers, there are autobiographical elements in my stories which can make writing about things too close to personal experience embarrassing, that I might be tempted not to include it; this can be tough.

I have a message to convey from an experience I had, to share through writing fiction. It’s about a personal issue which not only affected me but continues to affect millions of girls and women, worldwide. Telling stories about topics which affect us or affects people in other parts of the world can help towards raising awareness thus contribute in a little way towards ending matters such as child marriage, FGM and other forms of gender inequality. Especially if done with the aim of spreading knowledge, unbiased information; if it can be done in an entertaining read – even better!

Which is why I write about child marriage and gender inequality.

A huge thank you, Hawaa, for taking the time to write this guest post and for raising this important issue.

Hawaa’s debut novel When a Bulbul Sings is out now. Here is what it’s about:

Eve, a highly intelligent fourteen-year-old British girl, is lured to a mountainous Yemeni village remote from civilisation where she is forced to marry an adult. Her desire to return home and enter university fuels her escape attempts, but Uncle Suleiman’s addiction to qat and greed for money give him an equally matched desire to stop her from leaving. When Eve is taken by her parents to a remote mountainous Yemeni village, where life has remained the same since ancient times, she is forced to marry Adam and her life becomes a dystopian novel caught in a real-life limbo. Her constant attempts to escape the mountains are not only hindered by the treacherous terrain, but her Uncle Suleiman, who planned for her marriage since first setting eyes on her, keeps her captive to ensure his son sends him a monthly allowance. Eve’s captors want to subdue her strong personality, and individuality; Eve is put under pressure to be like all the girls, to be a woman not a girl. She struggles with the way of life, but also the mentality and culture. She fights for her freedom, but her captors’ constant criticism, chip at her spirit. Eve is set on returning to Britain to resume her education before she misses her chance at university, before her genius is wasted, but Uncle Suleiman’s addiction and greed give him an equally strong determination to prevent her from leaving. She witnesses forced marriages and child marriages as well as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). She lives amongst a beautiful people in an intriguing ancient culture, but the beauty of her surroundings jar with the ugliness of captivity where her freedom has been confiscated and she becomes Uncle Suleiman’s hostage. This is the story of Eve and her fight for freedom. It is a story about the inequality, injustice and violations of human rights millions of girls around the world face due to their gender when forced or entered into underage marriage as child brides.

When a Bulbul Sings can be purchased HERE.

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