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Brick Lane Bookshop(2019)Description / Buy at Amazon

Melody Razak
Melody Razak is a British Iranian writer from London, and has an MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck. She has had short stories published in the Brick Lane Short Story Prize, the Mechanics Institute Review, and the Bath Short Story Anthology. Previous to writing, Melody owned a treacle&co, a cafe in Brighton, and worked in the kitchens of Honey and Co in London as a pastry chef.

Melody has always loved reading and, when she was a child, she spent her free time with books while others may have been playing outside. When she first found Roald Dahl’s “The Witches”, it was as though she had stumbled upon pure perfection, that a story could feel so mischievous and have characters so transgressive.

Her first career of choice was always to become a writer however, through the years, she put that aside as an impractical and impossible dream and trained instead to be a pastry chef. As somebody that lives inside her head, the practical and creative side of cooking brought a welcome balance.

During her mid twenties, she went on this solo trip to Laos and Thailand, and found the joy of keeping up a travel journal. Through the years, she traveled extensively and mainly on her own as an excuse to write. Having a master’s in creative writing was the only prompt that she needed to think about writing as a possible career, so when she was 40 she made all of the necessary changes in order to make it happen.

The inspiration for her debut novel, called “Moth”, came to her one evening when she was at work at the cafe, possibly while icing a cake, and listening to this Radio 4 program, which was called “Partition Voices”. The raw emotion behind each of the words from the survivors being interviewed struck her heart.

She began thinking about the nature of storytelling, about oral history telling, the differences between historical fact and the most intimate memories of each individual. It seemed to Melody that the unreliable stories being passed down through memory were just as important, in piecing together a moment in time, as the statistics. There was something behind the said words, particularly those of the women being interviewed, the nuances of the things they did not say, the silences, which stuck with her.

“Moth” is a narrative which tries to comprehend, not just the grand political and geographical scale of Partition, the shocking brutality of a country unraveling overnight, but also the minutes of an individual woman’s life. It explores exactly how women survive in times of crisis and trauma. How the domestic rituals and hearth become a lifeline.

She spent one extraordinary year traveling and researching through India as she was writing “Moth”. The temples she visited, the food she ate, the people that she spoke with, and the long train journeys from one end of the country to the other, all have their place in the pages of this novel.

She wrote every day, with her daily experiences of the people and food and colour filtering through into this novel. Melody was lucky to have this time and space to fully immerse herself, and the experience was rewarding, both on a personal and practical level.

To research the novel, she spent a summer in the British Library, where she looked at contemporary essays, newspapers, historical documents, and travel writing. She listened to recordings, read poetry and fiction, and absorbed so many folktales and Hindu philosophy, she utilized whatever she was able to get her hands on.

She wrote a minimum of 1,000 words each day, drank a bunch of incredibly good coffee, and every now and then she’d lose sight of her word count, of hunger and time, and these were the good days when her characters would take over.

Once Melody had a 200,000 word first draft, she spent many months fine tuning and cutting it down in order to get a manuscript ready for submission. She dropped whole plot lines and characters through this process, however she hopes that the nuances and layers are still present in the finished book.

“Moth” is the first stand alone novel and was released in 2021. Melody Razak makes her literary debut with this internationally acclaimed saga about an Indian family’s trials through the tumultuous partition: the 1947 split of Pakistan from India, exploring its full impact on women, what it means to truly be “othered” in one’s own society, and the redemptive power of family.

1946 in Delhi. Alma, age fourteen, is about to be married despite her parents fearing that she is much too young. However times are perilous in India, where the country’s long awaited independence from the British empire heralds this new era of hope, not to mention danger. And in its wake, political unrest ripples through the subcontinent, marked by violent confrontations between Muslims and Hindus.

The conflict threatens to unravel the rich tapestry of Delhi, which is a city where different religions, cultures, and traditions have co-existing for centuries now. The solution is partition, which is going to create a wholly Muslim and new, sovereign nation, called Pakistan, carved out of India’s northwest shoulder. Given these uncertain times, Alma’s parents, who are intellectuals that teach at the local university, are praying that marriage is going to provide Alma with safety and stability.

Alma is headstrong and precocious, and her excitement over this wedding rivals just her joy in spinning wild tales about evil spirits for Roop, her little sister. However when Alma’s grandma, who is a woman determined to keep the family’s honor safe no matter the cost, interferes with the engagement, her meddling kicks off a series of events which is going to wrench this family apart. This will force its members to find some new and increasingly desperate ways to survive in the wake of this partition.

Set during the most tumultuous years in modern Indian history, Melody recreates the painful turmoil of this rupturing nation and its reverberations across the fates of just one family. Powerfully atmospheric and evocative, this novel is a testament to survival and is a celebration of the beauty and resilience of the human spirit.

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