& occasionally about other things, too...

Friday, June 30, 2017

The Minerva Reader

My friend Lisa de Nikolits has recently started The Minerva Reader, “a site showcasing unsung literary heroes,” and she featured my debut novel Belief on the site earlier this week.

Lisa is a Toronto-based novelist.  When I first saw the site recently, I was intrigued by its name – the Minerva Reader. Lisa explains why she choose that name:

“But why call it Minerva? Because back in 1995, in Johannesburg, South Africa, I saw an advert for a publishing house in London, UK. They called themselves Minerva and were incredibly good at passing themselves off as the traditional publisher which was also called Minerva, only the latter was legit and they published beautiful, unusual literary works.

"The shysters I contacted operated a smooth scam and I was taken for a ride. Later reports say “They went bust (in 2002) because they were a scam. They were sued by more than 40 of their authors, and were the subject of two exposés on the BBC.” And that’s good to know!

"Now, many years later, I am about to publish my seventh book with my dearly beloved publisher, Inanna Publications – so yes, after a wobbly start, the goddesses have indeed been kind to me!”

I’m reproducing the content below. The link to the site is: www.theminervareader.com

Mayank Bhatt immigrated to Toronto in 2008 from Mumbai (Bombay), where he worked as a journalist. His short stories have been published in TOK 5: Writing the New Toronto and Canadian Voices II. In Canada he has worked as a security guard, an administrator, and an arts festival organizer. He lives in Toronto with his family. He is the author of Belief (Mawenzi House).

I thought this novel was a timely, touching, well-written book and while Mayank was featured in the Toronto Star and the Quill & Quire and was not therefore entirely unsung, I wanted to give the book another shoutout.

My review of Belief on Goodreads:

A sensitive, eloquent and timely novel. Beautifully written, Belief brings moving insights not only into the lonely immigrant experience, but, in particular, examines in detail the religious and racial tensions that Muslims suffer today The book also explores familial relationships that carry the unwieldy weight of traditions and legacies from former homelands, as well as the scars from battles fought there. Marriage, aging, love, complicated sibling tangles – all these are magnified and brought into focus under the microscope of Mayank Bhatt's thoughtful observations.

The Quill & Quire Review of Belief

Novelist Mayank Bhatt, who immigrated to Canada from Mumbai in 2008, delivers a taut, timely debut focused on one immigrant family and the devastating experience that threatens to destroy the life they have struggled to build in their new country.

Having left their home in the 1990s to escape recurrent violence between Hindus and Muslims, Abdul and Ruksana Latif and their two adult children, Ziram and Rafiq, find themselves “misfits in Canada as much as they had been, as Muslims, in India.”

Nevertheless, by the fall of 2008, the Latifs are relatively settled, with a home they own and jobs that promise more than mere survival. The family’s comfortable existence is thrown into turmoil when it is revealed that Rafiq may be involved in a terrorist plot to blow up a number of locations in and around Toronto. Rafiq’s questionable treatment at the hands of the justice system, and the family’s fear regarding the potential repercussions from his alleged crime, illustrate their terribly vulnerable position in Canadian society.

In part, Belief may be read as a cautionary tale urging those with extremist leanings to “steer a calmer, more sober path.” But even more importantly, it reads as a message to mainstream Canada that the isolation and marginalization of the immigrant experience have the potential to result in unintended consequences when faced with individuals who “[don’t] know what one could do about an unjust system except fight it.”

At the novel’s end, the future for the Latifs is undetermined. It is clear that their lives have been irrevocably altered, though not entirely for the worse. Through the experience of arrest and interrogation, Rafiq is forced to re-evaluate his religious faith, as well as his understanding of his parents; in so doing, he gains a clearer perspective on the older generation’s struggles.
Bhatt’s illuminating, plain-spoken novel could be instrumental in generating substantive discussion about the immigrant experience in a country that is still a long way from understanding what that really entails.

Quill & Quire, reviewer Dana Hansen. Publisher, Mawenzi House.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Dear Mayank! It was a pleasure to feature you! I hope many people will read your book.