When you are inside your society you tend to be blind to its realties, but when I moved to Sweden I started to look at my society with different eyes, and to evaluate it. I also began to question why Bengali/Indian girls should allow themselves to be blackmailed into accepting their lot.
I have a friend from Bangladesh who was in love with a Hindu boy, but her family forced her to marry her cousin. She told me they had married her off behind locked doors. This cousin was at that point a Swedish citizen, and he brought her here. In the end, she stood up, divorced him, and married another man. Her parents disowned her for bringing shame upon the family.
And then Fadime, a Kurd girl, was murdered by her family in the name of honor, in Sweden…
It occurred to me that the main problem is the inherited mindset of traditional families, which follows you wherever you go. This perverse trend is becoming a global illness. Girls from traditional families are bullied, beaten and, in the worst cases, even murdered if they try to break with accepted family patterns, no matter where they are. But it’s more severe in third world countries, where the state doesn’t vouch for your welfare. That welfare depends on your family, and very often families misuse their power. I wanted to highlight that through the story of Daria, the heroine of my book.
As for publication, I sent the finished manuscript to a few literary agents in the USA. Within a few days, three of them called back. I chose the most passionate one ‒ Doris Michaels. She loved the book, and sent it out to quite a few publishers in the USA, who all found it very beautiful, relevant, etc., but too slow-paced. I had worked very hard with each word, so I did not want to cut it down to fit their demands. In the end, I took it to The University Press Ltd, the leading publishing house in Bangladesh, and met the publisher myself. Upon reading the letters from various US editors, he took the manuscript from me and asked me to wait, outside the closed door. After about three hours he reappeared, with a contract. This is how it started. Then it was sold to Spain and Greece. In parts of South America it even hit the top ten list along with The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. Even though only a few English copies were available, the book was reviewed in different newspapers and magazines, including The Chattahoochee Review in the USA. It also has been used as project material and studied at various universities. I have been happy about that, but at the same time I have been concerned that the English version had not been available to general readers outside Bangladesh. Hence, I decided to have my rights back. My publisher is a kind man, and understood me. Now I have published it independently.
Dilruba Z. Ara was born in Bangladesh. Nurtured on Greek mythology by her father, and hearing Indian fairy tales as bedtime stories from her mother, Dilruba had her first story published when she was eight years old. While in university at the age of twenty, she met and married her husband, a Swedish Air Force officer, and moved to Sweden, where she obtained degrees in English, Swedish, Classical Arabic and linguistics. She now teaches Swedish and English in Sweden. An accomplished, exhibited artist, her paintings have been used as the covers for the Bangladeshi, Greek, and U.S. editions of A LIST OF OFFENCES.
Visit her website at www. www.dilrubazara.com.