The Tower's Online Book Launch
The Tower -- An Interview with the Author
Shereen Malherbe’s second contemporary novel The Tower debuts this April 2019, and we’re excited to pick the author’s brain with the following interview. So let’s get to it insha’Allah.
Q1- Shereen, have you ever been to Syria and did you have to interview actual Syrians for this novel?
A1 - I haven’t ever been to Syria, but I did interview a range of people for the book. Especially refugees and migrants with experience of London like their expectations versus the reality. Interviewing helped me with my major plot points and I think that is the beauty of research. Often life is more interesting, and in this case, it was more harrowing, than fiction.
Q2 - I liked the plot of The Tower and the writing masha’Allah. It’s a very smooth novel that fits a night when you want your mind to unwind and lull a bit. So while you write this genre of books, what other types (genres) of books do you like reading?
A2 - Thank you. I think studying English Literature and making sure you read widely contributes to how smoothly you write. Dissecting books is an important part of creating your own! I have heard that what you read always contributes more to how you write, even subconsciously and I would go further to say it isn’t just what you read, it is everything you experience. And that experience can come through books. Personally, I enjoy reading different types of fiction, historical fiction, contemporary fiction and the classics.
Q3- The Tower was a bit of stranger than fiction occurrence; the attacks on Muslims in their places of worship or their residences is a reality. The greed and politics that let this happen was also exposed in your book. Do you think this will be an eye-opening experience for readers?
A3 - I hope that in some way, all reading experiences are eye opening in some ways. My editor and I discussed the way reality happened and was mirrored in a scene in my novel. I had drafted the idea over a year ago and I did debate excluding it. However, I am glad we didn’t. Often, when communities pick up on a certain environment, like in this case rising islamophobia, the consequences are often predictable and that is exactly what happened in The Tower.
Politics have played a part in this and therefore I wanted to reflect that. Although this is fiction, I believe it is important to reflect how communities are feeling and I wanted to bring some empathy, humanity and hope in an increasingly hostile world.
Q4 - Your Palestinian heritage merges with Syrian heritage in this book. Do you have any Syrian roots?
A4 - I don’t myself, but I am aware of refugees from Palestine to Syria, made refugees again after the war. In that way my heritage shares perspectives with this view of movement and shifting homelands which I wanted to explore throughout the book. I think most of us are capable of shared empathy despite where we are from and the global refugee crisis is affecting millions so we are all part of it in some way.
That is the beauty of fiction; it doesn’t matter where you are from, we all have shared experiences.
Q5 - What else do you want your readers to take away from The Tower?
A5 - It’s hard to really expect certain responses from readers so as a writer, I believe the finished novel belongs to the readers now. So, I don’t like to say what I expect readers to take from it because it will mean different things to different people. However, if I had to say something, I would hope that it offers, even in a small way, a different, positive perspective of how we can all contribute something good to the world.
Shereen, thank you for being with us.
Readers, please check out the review below of The Tower.
The Tower published by Beacon Books is the second contemporary women’s fiction novel written by Shereen Malherbe; a British Palestinian writer based in both the UK and the United Arab Emirates. Shereen Malherbe is also a writer for Muslimah Media Watch, a forum for critiquing the images of Muslim women in the media and pop culture.
Reem is a Syrian refugee who has arrived in London, trying to discover the whereabouts of her 10-year old brother, Adar. Obsessed with history and consumed by her fragmented memories of home, Reem is also hiding secrets she hopes will never be revealed. After being placed in a tower block, she befriends Leah; a single mother who has been forced to leave her expensive South Kensington townhouse. Their unlikely friendship supports them as they attempt to find their place in a relentless, heaving city, and come to terms with the homes they left behind. Both bold and timely, The Tower shows how Reem and Leah’s lives change and intersect in the wake of individual and communal tragedy, as well as in their struggle to adapt to a rapidly shifting society.
In The Tower, Malherbe explores fictionalized real events and realities such as the Grenfell tower incident, the remnants of the war in the Middle East and women's mental health like she did in her first novel Jasmine Falling .
Reem finds herself triggered by the apparition of her detractor out of nowhere. Secretly battling a possible gestation, domestic and emotional abuse, she can't help but chase her brother's ghost in London.
Reem also faces both hardship and ease while trying to communicate in English, while looking and finding a job and while carrying herself around because while some strangers might be kind to you, some won't. And a Muslim woman wearing hijab is always targeted for some nonsense.
Thus, meeting Leah and the welcoming ummah in Reem's new UK apartment building— the tower—and neighborhood brings her comfort until tragedies/blessings in disguise rip the little struggling pieces of her life she had left.
In the narrative of Leah, Malherbe lightly touches on the positive privilege this character brings to society and the self-discovery journey Leah treads. Leah finally finds her call and Reem gets a happy ending with a decent chap.
We can definitely say that Malherbe's great narrative skills of the setting bring us to the scene, making The Tower a moving tale. The book shows that when stricken with deep love rejection, tremendous loss of family members, etc. human nature shows its resiliency by making an effort to survive the darkness.
Find it on Amazon here.