3 things that inspired Canada Reads longlisted author Ahmad Danny Ramadan's debut novel
Ahmad Danny Ramadan's novel The Clothesline Swing is about a storyteller trying to stave off the death of his partner by telling stories of their life together in Syria and beyond. The novelist and gay refugee activist spoke about the inspiration for The Clotheline Swing with CBC Radio's The Early Edition.
1. The refugee experience
"Writing this book was a healing process for me. When you go through an experience like being a gay person in the Middle East, refugee in Lebanon, and then coming here to Canada and facing the culture shock, the survivor's guilt, the post-traumatic stress disorder, the only way up is to be resilient. You don't have any other options, you have to be resilient. The Clothesline Swing helped me to understand my own experiences. It helped me to understand my own identity. And I wanted to share that identity with the Canadian people."
2. Syrian storytelling
"Syrian people are Hakawatis — storytellers. You'll find them in cafés in downtown Damascus, in the old neighbourhoods. They tell beautiful stories that are filled with magical realism. They're filled with ghosts and ghouls and phoenixes, and it's the way things have been done for over 500 years. Syria has been an occupied country under many different regimes over the past 2,000 years. One way of resisting this occupation and remaining truthful to the Syrian identity was to use storytelling as a way of keeping our identities and our traditions alive."
3. The desire to share unheard stories
"I tried to imagine what it would look like if I had multiple Syrian refugees telling multiple stories to one another. I did model the main character after my own journey. But at the same time, I've met multiple other gay and lesbian Syrian refugees and heard multiple other beautiful stories that I wanted to include in this book. I wanted to tell the story of many Syrian refugees — many Syrian queer refugees — and be truthful to that experience. I believe that The Clothesline Swing tells a story that hasn't been heard before, and I hope that someone will listen."
Listen to the complete interview below.
Ahmad Danny Ramadan's comments have been edited and condensed.