Books·How I Wrote It

Monia Mazigh on how fearful memories inspired her hopeful new novel

Monia Mazigh tells the story of two women in two political uprisings in Tunisia in her new novel, Hope Has Two Daughters.
Monia Mazigh is the author of the novel Hope Has Two Daughters. (Courtesy of Monia Mazigh/House of Anansi Press)

In her new novel, human rights advocate Monia Mazigh draws upon early memories of fear and unrest in Tunisia. Hope Has Two Daughters charts the political awakening of two women during two pivotal moments in Tunisia's history: the 1984 bread riots and the 2010 Arab Spring.

Mazigh, author of the memoir Hope and Despair, describes the inspiration behind Hope Has Two Daughters below.

Spark of hope and change

"There was one moment of inspiration in particular that I remember: when I first started watching and reading about what was going on in Tunisia in 2010, what we call today the Arab Spring. I immediately thought about the events that happened while I was living there. I asked myself, 'Is it possible that this time, this will be the good kind of spark that changes the situation?' This is how I got the idea that I would love to write the story about these two historical moments. One I knew well because I was living there at the time, and the other I was watching from afar.

"I was 14 years old [at the time of the Tunisian bread riots]. Going back, reading about it and understanding it now, helped me grasp what had happened. In 2010, I was far from those events so I didn't live through them. Talking and reading about them gave me the impression I was living in them.

"When I finished writing, I felt very hopeful, which is not always the case. I feel these stories keep us dreaming for a better day, keep us dreaming for calmer situations."

Spirit of 1984

"One thing I remember from the riots in 1984, though I didn't include it as I remembered it, was hearing bullets, or at least what I thought were bullets. I don't know if they were real bullets, but I remember hearing that probably for the first time in my life, not far from where we lived. I remember also seeing a young man jump over the fence of our house and asking us to protect him because he was so scared. I don't know who he was. I don't know whether he was a troublemaker or he was throwing stones, but he was very scared. I was with my parents and we opened the window. He was able to come in and then we let him go. He was a really young man and I was somehow shaken by that image of seeing someone so scared. I included those emotions of not knowing what was going on. This is a novel where there is some part of me there, not necessarily with the facts of the story, but with the spirit of the story."

Monia Mazigh's comments have been edited and condensed.