Five Minute Interview with Abeer Hoque
Abeer Y. Hoque is a Nigerian born Bangladeshi American writer and photographer. She likes graffiti, sticky toffee pudding, and the end of the current US administration. It can’t come soon enough. Her books include a travel photography and poetry monograph (The Long Way Home, 2013), a collection of linked stories, poems, and photographs (The Lovers and the Leavers, 2015), and a memoir (Olive Witch, 2017). See more at olivewitch.com.
What are you reading right now?
The Sellout by Paul Beatty, Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit, Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong.
Where do you write?
Usually I write at home at my makeshift standing desk (a cheapy IKEA bookshelf with shelves at the right heights for my laptop screen and external keyboard). Once a week, I meet a writer friend at the New York Public Library for a work date.
Does travelling inspire your writing?
It does indeed! And not just because I am a travel writer and photographer, but because I am obsessed with the ideas of place and displacement and what that means to a person and her identity and perspective.
Paper and pen or laptop?
Mostly laptop. I used to write poems on paper, but even that is being taken over. My hand cramps now when I write more than a paragraph longhand, and my penmanship is degrading. It’s quite sad!
What was the first book you read that made a difference?
I still remember the folk tales that make the Book of Enchantments and Curses, retold by Ruth Manning-Sanders. They were from all over the world, and I didn’t understand all of them at the time, but even the ones that terrified me (like the Russian story about Baba Yaga the witch) have stayed with me.
What one book would you take to a desert island?
The book that is always on my phone/Kindle that I turn to when it’s 3am and I’m coming back from a late night party on the subway and I’m too tired to read properly and I’ve forgotten my headphones so I can’t listen to music, is Cheryl Strayed’s collection of advice columns, Tiny Beautiful Things. She’s so wise and compassionate and eloquent and I always learn and relearn from rereading her advice. But I’m not sure any book, even hers, would make up for the loss of human connection which I prize above everything, including my career.
Which new author should the world be reading?
Sri Lankan American writer Nayomi Munaweera. Her first novel, Island of a Thousand Mirrors, is a fast furious gorgeous and personal take on Sri Lanka’s war torn history. Her second, What Lies Between Us, is a dark, devastating, and internal story of motherhood, abuse, and family relationships. She’s a powerful and versatile writer and I’m looking forward to more.
What book or books are you most looking forward to reading next?
Ya Gyasi’s Homegoing has been recommended by many friends who’ve loved it. Hari Alluri’s debut collection, The Flayed City. Mary Oliver’s collection of essays, Upstream. And Robin Kimmerer’s deeply personal and scientific book, Gathering Moss.
What role does Wasafiri play in international contemporary literature?
I really appreciate Wasafiri‘s efforts to publish writers from different parts of the world. The publishing industry for both books and magazines is often centered around white Western writers and so it’s a gift and a strength to have editors reach deeper, farther. For example, a recent issue of Wasafiri was guest-edited by a Bangladeshi writer, and showcased some of the best Bangladeshi writers and translators working in English today. I would love for more editors to champion diverse writers, geographies, and narratives.