2019 Purple Dragonfly Book Awards – Honorable Mention in Memoirs
2019 Global E-Book Awards – Honorable Mention in Memoirs
About the Book
As for me, if it were not for you (Papa), never would I have been to the places I have been and done the things I have done, which have shaped me into the writer, teacher, and reader I am.
One might say Fiza Pathan’s father started her on a path toward books. He wanted a boy child and got a girl, and as a result, Fiza went to live with her mother and uncle at her grandmother’s house.
This book of personal essays documents the relationship Fiza Pathan has had with the many libraries, secondhand bookshops, boutique bookstores, and writing haunts that have made her into the writer, publisher, and teacher she is today. Fiza believes that she is an amalgamation of the books she has read over nearly twenty-seven years and the places that have provided her with excellent reading material. As we journey along with her, we notice how her life intersects with these places—we not only learn about the place, but about Fiza herself. Her struggles in life. Her start as an only child who loved comics. The teenager who escaped social awkwardness literally by hiding out in the library of her school and entering worlds distant from her own in the form of books. The twentysomething who frequented book boutiques that provided hot drinks and excellent people-watching opportunities. These pages describe the places in Mumbai that have made Fiza into the book lover she is—into the person she is. Her recollections are nostalgic and emotional as she grapples with her relationship to her estranged father, the father who rejected her because she was a girl child.
Places have a way of making us into the people we become, and we take them along with us wherever we go. But what if all of those places are libraries, bookshops, and writing huts? What if you have used these places as launching pads to get to destinations beyond what you can see—places in your mind. And what if these places within you have defined the recluse you are—the recluse who has actually lived a thousand lives.
Reviewed by Vincent Dublado for Readers’ Favorite
With its cartoon-like illustrated cover, essay titles that do away with capitalization, and a style of word repetition for emphasis, The Reclusive Writer & Reader of Bandra is a charming and thought-provoking anthology of essays by Indian-born writer Fiza Pathan. Underneath the simplicity of her writing voice, Pathan’s compositions are pulsating with power and are unequivocally alarming. She reveals the harsh truths about her years growing up, forsaken by her father simply because she was not born a male. While she does not identify as a feminist, her writing has undercurrents of a pervasive societal norm that undermines the role of women despite worldwide espousal for gender equality. Growing up under the care of her mother, uncle, and grandmother, she found comfort in reading and writing. Libraries and bookshops became her sanctuary.
Pathan’s India is a landscape of contrasts. It is a land where wealth and poverty touch at the horizon. She describes the enticing cafés of Bandra as the rendezvous of affluent intellectuals where she eavesdrops on conversations by sitting down for a hot drink. On the same level, she gives us a red carpet walk toward the facets of Mumbai that became instrumental in her love affair with books. She appropriates the sanctum of libraries as her fortress, refuge, and treasure-house of wisdom and pleasure. Pathan is a dynamic essayist, writing with an intelligent appraisal while looking at the world fair and square. Yet at the heart of all her pronouncements is a struggle to overcome her unsettling relationship with her father. She does not come across as angry. The strength of The Reclusive Writer & Reader of Bandra comes from her sense of gratitude and mature treatment of her experiences.