What keeps Ahmad Danny Ramadan going?
Activist and writer Ahmad Danny Ramadan tells memoir-like stories through fiction. In The Clothesline Swing, the Syrian refugee and LGBTQ rights activist writes about Hakawati, a storyteller who prolongs the life of his dying partner by telling story after story about his youth in Damascus. The Clothesline Swing is currently on the Canada Reads 2018 longlist.
Below, Ahmad Danny Ramadan answers eight questions submitted by eight fellow writers for the CBC Books Magic 8 Q&A.
1. Tomson Highway asks, "What keeps you going — first as a writer, and second as a human being?"
As an author, I'm energized by taking in people's thoughts, memories, stories and emotions and then put the energy out by telling this mashup of stories and tales. As a human, I'm energized by small things: my partner's comforting off-beat singing while cooking dinner in our tiny kitchen, my reading socks — warm, fuzzy and festively colourful and my habit to say that I'm going to read a bit before bed and then fall asleep holding a book within two minutes.
2. Hoa Nguyen asks, "Do you have any musical training or practice? Does it (or its lack) inform your writing?"
Nope. No musical training. My father thought that learning the guitar is a waste of energy. I think I have a musical ear, though. Or at least I believe I do. I wish I knew how to play the guitar because, honestly, this whole hippy artist/author image I'm building would be made ever so cool if I did.
3. Jean McNeil asks, "What role do you think fiction has to play in contemporary politics, if any?"
Fiction is another way of exploring people's lives and reflecting on the intersectional challenges they face within their many identities. I believe fiction can bring to the light a different perspective to the lives of others that might sway the views of the mainstream society and bring change to the political world we live in.
4. Trevor Cole asks, "What emotion do you find best fuels your writing — happiness, sadness, anger or something else?"
I think I'm at my best writing driven by nostalgia. There is a deep feeling of complexity to nostalgia when you're longing for a place you can't access anymore; or doesn't even exist anymore. This sadness of departure mixed with joy of memory topped with the anger of separation.
5. Sandra Ridley asks, "You're having a dinner party. (Of course…) Which ghosts would you invite? Who gets to cut the pie?"
Gabriel García Márquez will sit on the head of the table. He will be cornered between my overbearing grandmother and myself. On the other side, my partner Matthew will be chitchatting with Janie Chang, author of Dragon Springs Road, neither is a ghost as of yet but they adore each other and I love their conversations. Maya Angelou should be there somewhere for moral guidance, and hopefully Nizar Qabani, my favourite Syrian poet, will be the one cutting the pie.
6. Melanie Mah asks, "Who is a writer you love that you wish more people knew about? Why do you love them?"
I'm going to go with Radwa Ashour, Egyptian novelist and poet. She and I met in 2007, a couple of years before her passing, and I was trying to get her to sign my copy of her intensely beautiful novel The Granada Trilogy. I passed her a copy of my first collection of short stories with my email address written on the back of it and wished she would read it. A couple of weeks later, this celebrated, award-winning author sends me an email and invites me to her office, and for two hours she explored and criticized my book. She made me the author I am today, and for her, I'm thankful.
7. Hiro Kanagawa asks, "When do you feel like a fraud (assuming you do now and then)?
All the freaking time; especially now that I'm working on my next novel.
8. George Murray asks, "When is enough enough?"
Depends. The answer can either be "right now" or can be "never." Enough is a big word, my friend.