Authors are incredible folx. They spin stories full of splendour and wonder with a simple set of twenty-six letters (or more or less given their preferred writing tongues). These tales can inspire us and motivate us to pursue our own dreams. They can instil within us a sense of fulfilment within our identities. It can help us reconnect with our roots and cultures, or even take us on mesmerising adventures to different universes where we can experience the magnificent spectrum of diversity in ways we never imagined.
Today, as a way of celebrating these glorious talents, I wanted to spotlight some of my favourite writers. They are individuals who have always helped me to find positivity in the midst of seemingly unending hopelessness. Through their works and their actions they have helped me to confront my own insecurities and fears with regard to writing, thus encouraging me to keep fighting in the passionate pursuit of my own hopes and dreams—authorial and otherwise. Each one is a person whom I respect and admire greatly with every ounce of my heart and soul.
Sandhya Menon – My appreciation for Ms Menon runs quite deep as she is the person who introduced me to my pleasure for the contemporary romance genre. Prior to reading her works (From Twinkle, With Love and Make Up Break Up), contemporary romance was something that I could barley stand to enjoy. The warm-hearted interaction between two nigh perfect individuals as they develop feelings for one another in a sugary-sweet manner felt incredibly unrealistic (which is silly considering how much I adore fantasy and science-fiction, the wilder the better). Yet, her novels have shown me that everyone has their own set of imperfections and infallibilities, and these are truly what help to establish bonds between folx. Reading about two people that feel utterly incompatible via their differences finding common ground that then builds into a lovely foundation of respect and affection is positively uplifting.
Another reason I admire Ms Menon so much is her candid musings on her writing processes via Instagram. She was one of the first authors that I ever started following and I adored her stories on how she keeps track of her word counts during writing sessions, how she breaks down sessions so they are not overwhelming and daunting, and the importance of self-care during periods of tight deadlines. Her anecdotes are always wonderfully heartful, sincere, and pragmatic.
S.K. Ali – Ms Ali is one of my two favourite Muslima authors out there. Her debut novel, Saint and Misfits, allowed me to see myself within the pages of a book for the very first time in twenty-eight years of living (at the time). The protagonist is self-assured, hijab-wearing teenager who struggled to balance her culture, faith, and family with her friendships and avocations. Those struggles were never demonised or portrayed as being anything beyond a normal part of growing up, and it took my breath away while utterly changing my life as a fellow Muslim individual with similar personal conflicts. It shall forever hold a very special place for me in my bibliophilic spirit.
Then I read Ms Ali’s Love from A to Z, which is an Islamic YA contemporary romance, and she did it again, this time with the character Adam. I picked up that book when I was undergoing treatments for a congenital illness. The story made me confront my fears of living with chronic illness as well as the terrifying notion of how it would impact my loved ones to see me in so much pain, or to eventually succumb to my illnesses. Love from A to Z brought me comfort and solace in such a profound way that I shall never be able to truly express it in words alone. But after reading this book, I began to see Ms Ali’s works as a blessing from Allah (SWT), finding their way to me whenever I began to lose my sense of hope in the world, and for that I shall always respect and appreciate this author.
Nafiza Azad – Ever since I was a child, I have been writing. I began with poetry and then in my adolescence I graduated to full stories. My preferred style of expressing tales is via vivid, descriptive words that can transport a reader into the very depths of the settings that are being expressed. Flowery, lyrical prose styles are absolutely my cup of chai. Even so, I was always afraid that readers would not prefer such wordy tales. Then I read Ms Azad’s The Candle and the Flame, and I was mind-blown. It was one of the most beautiful books that I ever read, with such marvellous cultural vibrance and sweeping atmospheres and awe-inspiring magic. The author’s way of crafting a world with multi-dimensional characters and plights that one cannot help but get so provocatively invested in—it is positively exquisite. Her way of writing fantasy is precisely what I always crave from the genre, regardless of target audience, as both a reader and a writer.
Beyond her storytelling prowess, I also greatly admire Ms Azad for the emotion and dedication she puts into everything she crafts, where she is writing books or doing arts and crafts or supporting fellow creators. She has such a kind and compassionate heart, and fiercely independent will to succeed that I find her to be stunningly motivating. Additionally, she has impeccable taste in food.
Clarissa Goenawan – One of my dreams as a writer has always been to write a story akin to Japanese literature, as it is my favourite literary genre in existence. Yet, whenever I came across books written by people who are not Japanese, they have been terribly appropriative or rudely fetishized. Yet, Ms Goenawan’s works have been nothing short of outstanding and I appreciate the respect and care that she puts into creating her stories. Her love for Japanese culture and literature shine in the flowing, eloquent manner in which she weaves her tales. Through Ms Goenawan’s works (Rainbirds and The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida), I see that the potential to write outside of one’s own cultural identity is quite possible. One just has to be willing to be patient, considerate, and mindful of the cultures that they are representing.
Another reason that I respect Ms Goenawan so much is because she cares for the world and the people in it. Her enthusiasm for raising awareness for people with mental illnesses and the importance of social justice subjects is brilliantly uplifting, making me want to work hard at being a much better person, bit by bit, day by day.
Hafsah Faizal – The one thing that I am sure everyone can agree on is how much privilege there is to unload within the publishing industry. It seems that a person has to either be rich or white or Christian or highly educated to get a foot in the door. It can be daunting and incredibly discouraging, especially when someone does not meet those specified criteria. One of the things that I admire the most about Ms Faizal is what she represents within this cutthroat industry. She is a proud niqabi Muslima who does not have a college education. Even so, she wrote one of the best written young adult fantasy novels to come out of 2019, We Hunt the Flame, and by doing so, has shown those of who have felt inadequate that we do not have to play peon to privilege.
Due to my personal experiences in trauma, I was never able to complete a college education. Because of this fact, there is a large part of me that feels maybe I am not qualified to become an author, or much of anything else. Yet, reading Ms Faizal’s inspiring posts on Instagram about her own journey with publishing and how just because someone else needed a degree to accomplish their dreams, does not necessarily mean that everyone does, gave me a magnificent sense of hope and faith. Her powerful words of wisdom and comfort and encouragement not only help me to keep writing every single day, but they also me overcome other obstacles that life tosses into my path as well. Her fortitude is brilliantly remarkable.
Ken Liu – When I was younger, while I dreamt of publishing books, I also wished to become a translator. My goal was to translate books from Japanese into English and Hindi. Mr Liu is one of the most hardworking authors around and what he has accomplished for Chinese literature is absolutely incredible. Because of his diligence and passion, many phenomenal works of Chinese speculative fiction have English translations making them more globally accessible. For example, due to Mr Liu’s Chinese science-fiction anthologies (he was the editor for the following collections Invisible Planets and Broken Stars), I came across writers like Chen Qiufan and Cixin Liu, who changed the way that I perceived the science-fiction genre, and what it can accomplish outside of the confines of mere storytelling.
I admire how meticulous he has been in the field of Chinese speculative literature in translation, as well as his own narrative prowess. Mr Liu’s own epic fantasy series, The Dandelion Dynasty, is one of the finest works of adult epic fantasy that I have read to date, and it is one of the biggest sources of motivation for me with regard to writing my own culturally rich adult fantasy serials. Mr Liu shows me every day that there is nothing a diligent mind and a fervent spirit cannot accomplish.
Those are just a handful of authors that inspire me to be the best version of myself every single day, whether I am trying to put together a book or pursuing other professional undertakings or even merely trying to survive in this unpredictable adventure known as Life. I would like to take a moment and thank Neelam from The Tsundoku Chronicles for writing about the authors that she admires, as it inspired me to put together my very own list.
Who are some individuals that you look up to? People who help encourage you to keep moving forward through the black clouds of uncertainty, especially during the chaotic era of 2020?