A Brand New Novel
Josephine Baker, the early-20th-century African-American dancer, comic, and singer–hugely famous in Paris. Did you know that she was also a spy for the French Resistance during WWII?
Controversy continues over “The Jewel of Medina” — first the question of UK distribution and then a small protest at a book fair in Albania, where the novel has “record sales,” according to a rough translation of an article — and reviews are starting to come in of “The Sword of Medina” (so far, very positive). I’m fuming over another writer’s online boasting of getting a Muslim death threat, even publishing the threat, validating the nut who sent it, all for the purpose of self-promotion. Publishers in various countries are still bringing out “The Jewel of Medina” and its sequel to create a never-ending cycle of interviews and reviews. And I’m trying to research my next book while gearing up for the U.S. release, in October, of “The Sword of Medina,” which reveals the origins of the Sunni-Shi’a split and A’isha’s role in it.
With all this going on, it’s easy to forget what I’m doing, and why I’m doing it. Until I curl up with a truly good book.
Yesterday I began reading “Ahab’s Wife,” by Sena Jeter Naslund, and I was captivated. From the first page, Ms. Naslund transported me to another time and place and gave me beautiful writing to admire, as well. Enthralled, I marked passages to share on Twitter (I’m @sherryjones, if you want to follow!) and on Facebook (username: authorsherryjones). And I thought, If only one person feels this way reading my books, then I’m satisfied.
In fact, I have had letters and comments from many readers who really loved “The Jewel of Medina.” Yes, others hate the book — either for its content, deemed “too soft on Muhammad” or, for some Muslims, too feminist a work, or for its writing, which was never properly set up as the voice of a poet (according to Islamic tradition, A’isha could recite more than 1,000 poems).
The positive responses, however, have far outnumbered the negative ones. A Muslim woman wrote to me recently praising “The Jewel of Medina,” saying it “blew me away.” An Indian journalist living in Canada told me he’d underlined many phrases he found beautiful and was reading it a second time, and a fellow author in California who writes on honor killings praised my book for its authentic presentation of the pre-Islamic poetic style. Wherever I go, women and men tell me how much they loved the book, and how inspiring they found A’isha to be.
The controversy over “The Jewel of Medina” has stirred up a lot of anger and hatred, much of it directed at me. Sometimes it gets to me. I feel depressed, or angry. I forget, in those moments, about the people who love my book. But then I open a novel that, like “Ahab’s Wife,” reminds me of the joy of reading, and I remember why I do what I do. The rest falls away like turned pages, already read, not forgotten but discarded, in a sense, as I move ahead to the next chapter, eager to discover what comes next, knowing the answer is, to my great relief, not in my control.
Go to my website, http://www.authorsherryjones.com, to learn more.