Recap: Monia Mazigh launches Mirrors and Mirages

On Wednesday, October 22, Librairie Drawn & Quarterly was pleased to welcome Monia Mazigh for her launch of  Mirrors and Mirages. The event was hosted by the Silk Road Institute, whose executive director Mohamed Shaheen introduced Monia and facilitated a conversation and Q+A following her reading. Mohamed also said a few words about the Silk Road Institute, which is dedicated to promoting cross cultural exchange and artistic expression via art, music, spoken work, speakers, book clubs, and so on. Their aim is to create “places where people can come and explore our shared experience.”

Born in Tunisia, Monia moved to Canada in her early twenties. She has a PhD in Finance from McGill and has worked in academia as well as politics. She rose to prominence in the public eye following her husband's deportation to Syria, where he was tortured and held without trial. Monia campaigned tirelessly for his release, and has remained dedicated to human rights activism ever since.

Following Mohamed's introduction, Monia spoke about Mirrors and Mirages, explaining that it was originally written in French, and that it is a book about Muslim women, focused on four main characters from very different backgrounds. The diverse group includes Emma, a highly educated Tunisian immigrant, who finds herself in a women's shelter with her daughter after leaving an abusive marriage; Louise, a Quebecois student who comes to Islam through her romantic relationship with a Muslim classmate, to the dismay of her ex-Catholic mother; Sally, a student from Pakistan woman who breaks with the traditional Islam of her parents in favour of a more stringent version she learns about online; and Lama, who dreams of working alongside her father in Dubai while she lives in Canada, and clashes with her fashionista mother. 

Following her reading of some passages from the Mirrors and Mirages, Monia explained that she wrote the book after asking herself, “where are the Muslim women?" She mentioned that although Muslim women receive lots of media attention, we rarely hear about the women themselves. She wasn’t interested in writing a statistic-laden non-fiction book, as she likes writing stories. 

Regarding her process, Monia said that she took a year to write the book. She is s a daily writer, so she sits down to write in the mornings. She also explained that her characters are a mixture of her own observations, and that each one represents something from her. She wanted diversity, and did not wish to stereotype her characters. Monia let the audience know that the book's conclusion is open-ended, and that sinc people have asked her what happens to the characters, there is a tiny chance that there will be a sequal. (If that does happen you heard it here first!)

After an on-stage conversation with Mohamed, Monia fielded some audience questions, and wonderful refreshments were served. There was, in fact, too much delicious food to fit on the table! Needless to say, everyone thoroughly enjoyed this way of wrapping up the evening. We would like to thank Monia, Mohamed, the Silk Road Institute and all of the attendees for making the launch such a success. 

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