DO YOU SPEAK AT EVENTS? WOULD YOU COME TO MINE?
Yes, I do! I've given talks on lots of different topics, from literacy and publishing to social mobility and integration. I mainly focus on working with young people in my home borough of Tower Hamlets, but am open to literary events of all varieties. Please feel free to contact me and tell me more about your event.
WHAT'S YOUR ADVICE FOR ASPIRING WRITERS?
Man Booker winner Anne Enright once said that the first 12 years are the hardest. That certainly rings true! In all seriousness, writing isn't an easy career choice. I have a fairly long answer about this on Goodreads, so do check it out there.
WHAT'S THE BEST ADVICE YOU'VE EVER RECEIVED?
When I was about 12 years old, one of my older sisters told me a quote she had heard at work. It sounds trite now, but it was eye opening then. I can't remember it verbatim, but it was something like 'confidence is like a swan: on the surface, it is smooth and elegant but, underneath, it thrashes furiously'. I was a fairly confident child (being the sixth of eight siblings) but this taught me that I could walk through worlds that weren't my own.
WHAT'S YOUR FAVOURITE BOOK?
You had to go there, huh? As a child, my favourite books were Anne of Green Gables, The Outsiders and To Kill a Mockingbird, and they have endured wonderfully. As an adult, I've added a fair number to that list. Among them are Middlesex, The Time Traveler's Wife and One Hundred Years of Solitude. I'm a bookworm through and through. As a child, I used to visit the library with my sisters every Saturday and max out my limit week in, week out. Reading really is one of life's great pleasures.
WHAT'S THE WORST BOOK YOU HAVE EVER READ?
Wow. I don't think I can answer that. I have a terrible habit in that I won't give up on books I'm not getting along with. I'll persevere to the bitter end. I suppose one book I didn't get on with is Lolita. Some say it's the best novel ever written, but I was bored by it. From personal experience, Lolita seems to split readers along gender lines. I haven't done an empirical study to back that up though.
WHAT'S THE LAST BOOK THAT MADE YOU CRY?
Good question! It didn't quite make me cry, but Frankenstein broke my heart a little bit.
KINDLE OR PHYSICAL BOOKS?
I prefer physical books, but I travel a lot for Alas & Boots so I'm on a Kindle more often.
AH, YOU'RE ALSO A TRAVEL WRITER. WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?
All over the place really. I've been to about 50 countries (embarrassingly, I keep a list). My favourite countries are Turkey, Samoa, Cambodia and Jordan.
WHAT FIVE PEOPLE WOULD YOU ASK TO DINNER?
I'd love to dine with Israeli historian and author Yuval Noah Harari so I could ask him more about Sapiens, one of the most fascinating books I've read in recent times. I'd also choose Edurne Pasaban who's the first woman to climb all 14 eight-thousander mountains. Jason Fried, founder of tech company Basecamp, because he always thinks innovatively about business. Novelist Jeffrey Eugenides to steal some of his greatness. And I'd throw in Ryan Gosling because I hear he's an excellent conversationalist...
WHAT'S SOMETHING WE DON'T KNOW ABOUT YOU?
I was once asked to stand in for beloved politician Tony Benn. On one of my early dates with my significant other, I took him to a lecture at the Whitechapel Idea Store hoping to impress him with my political intellect. Alas, the speaker, Benn, had taken a fall and therefore cancelled his talk. The staff recognised me as a local author and asked me to step in and give a literary talk instead. I declined (how DOES one fill in for Tony Benn?), but my aim of impressing my date was fulfilled nonetheless.
SO, LIKE, WHERE ARE YOU FROM ORIGINALLY?
I was born at Mile End Hospital in east London and have lived in London all my life. My family are originally from Bangladesh. I've visited the country twice (once when I was four and once when I was 13). I speak English and Bengali, but I think in English and Britain is home.