My interview on Ahlan mag June 5- June 10 2013 issue:
Lamiaa ElKholy Under the Limelight:
A reporter and a film critic and lately an author; her first novel Anomaly transcends norms and crosses red lines. She is brave enough to discuss subjects our communities fear to come near it or even think about it. Supporting of women with all her power and wishes to make it clear to the whole world that the female is not a weak creature with limited abilities but rather an intelligent one capable of changing the course of events. She has enormous energy and big dreams that she hopes to communicate through ink and paper to enrich both the Arab and the International cultures.
We would like to know more about you:
I am an English news editor on the web, a film critic and an ex- English language teacher. I love writing, photography, photo editing and Painting. I was born in Cairo and I got my BA in English literature from Cairo University and my MA in African American Feminist literature and the subject was the standards of white beauty and their negative psychological effects on black women in the novels of noble prize winner Toni Morrison. I have worked for years as English language instructor at the CACE in the American University as well as the Marine Academy besides my work as writer and film critic at Abyad w Eswed mag. I am married and have a son in high school.
What made you write novels?
I wanted to work on my PhD to analyze the figure of the savior and trace its religious roots in novels that was later adapted into films as I noticed a pattern and a recurrence that I wished to document in a critical study but generally professors are not enthusiastic when the subject is bizarre or sensitive. Then I moved to the United Arab Emirates so I decided to jot down my thoughts on a blog because I was moved by the biblical story of the woman and child who will defeat the devil in the Book of Revelation. I regarded it as an honor to women and her divine right for existence. I started writing in 2008 and posted a chapter after another online until it was complete after four years so I published it in the UK and it is now available for purchase via the web and from any place in the world.
Tell us about your debut Novella Anomaly:
Anomaly treats a theme very popular in western films and books that advocate the coming of the savior but what is original in my story is that the end of time savior this time is an ordinary woman. I have imagined a contemporary context for the life of this mysterious woman that the bible describes as “The Woman Clothed with the Sun” and considers her one of the signs of the end of time known as the apocalypse. The book touches upon topics such as rejecting texts that support animosity while the divine messages stressed peace, coexistence and grant women their rights for equality and these values are mostly ignored.
In short, Anomaly honors a woman’s right for existence and calls for the retrieval of her sacred status as it is mentioned in divine books and her ability to achieve the impossible.
What does the title Anomaly mean?
My choice of the title is very descriptive and accurate to the content as I have searched the literal meaning only to find that it describes a unique and rare person who refuses to be lead like cattle just like a small planet that has deviated from the drawn orbit and creates its own. The novella focuses on the element of deviation that distinguishes the characters – I thought it was perfect for the vision I wished to express.
Why did you choose such a tricky theme?
I am always drawn towards controversial issues as they create a desire within me to search for the truth beyond the limited realms of our culture and knowledge. I also want to assert that as Muslim I am highly respectful of the Christian and Jewish faiths that Islam emerged only to complement not to invalidate. I also want to use my voice to stop the contempt for religions because it is not even remotely the essence of any faith. I tried to assert the value of the common word that the creator has called for and within which humanity and woman will find peace and safety under its shelter.
What is the secret of the attention towards Women and the message you which to address your readers?
Woman’s immense ability and intelligence is at the center of the story and the concept that she is the deliverer and savior from all evils is a strong message that is reinforced by its actual existence in a holy text. I am in search for everything supporting the image of woman which was distorted by man and society so she became a prey for extreme thought that robs her of her right to equality and existence as a human in our unjust world no matter what ideology or faith she is always the powerless victim and still calls all around the world for her rights.
Why did you write your book in English?
I initially noticed the motif through my passion for western movies specially the apocalyptic genre and I saw that addressing the west through talking about a subject that is so central to their culture would be intriguing specially that the whole world has their eyes on our region and is particularly curious about hearing the voice of the Middle Eastern woman. I also sensed that our communities are more interested in realism at the expense of imagination and even more so if it has to do with faith. We don’t have the tolerance to discuss “the other” or his beliefs; creativity within that frame is a red line.
Could we see the book adapted one day into a movie?
I am sure that once Anomaly reaches the hands of a director who supports women and their struggle he won’t hesitate to turn it into a movie. The novella is very visual and detailed and it takes the reader to different times and places through the timeless scope of the heroine’s visions. There are many dramatic situations that a film would definitely highlight. I certainly would love Anomaly to become an International film as it will require a massive production and the use of visual and sound effects in my opinion. This is not out of conceit but rather a huge ambition on my part. The eyes of the West are directed to the gulf region now as the pioneer of the Arts especially the United Arab Emirates which has become a leader in film productions.
From where can we get Anomaly?
Anomaly is available for purchase and shipping on various online portals including amazon.com and ebay and hopefully soon in bookshops.
What is next after Anomaly? Your new projects and dreams?
Currently, I am working on a scenario called “The Dreamer” in which I collect the details of the story of Joseph from the three divine texts and I tackle it from a perspective that highlights the role of women. The story is crucial to the history of Egypt and is forgotten by the world while the story of Moses and the wrongdoings of the Pharaoh distorts the image of my country abroad. I found out that I love enhancements, reformation and optimism and the rejection of hate and these meaningful values will always be the motive behind any projects that carry my name in the future.
This is the video of my interview for my book Anomaly on mbc Arabia
Good Morning Arabs – mbc
Lojain: Dear viewers, it’s a journey of self-discovery and the search for hope and the awakening of goodness within humans, summed up in a story of a woman who is wronged by her society who is destined to fulfill along with her child the prophecies and ancient beliefs to become end of time saviors who rid the world of evil forces that has persisted among humans. This is the theme of the novel “Anomaly” by Egyptian author and film critic Lamiaa ElKholy who is a guest with us today – good morning…
Lamiaa: Good morning, thank you Lojine very much.
Lojain:The first thing that attracts attention is that you chose to write your first book in English – Some may wonder as you are an Arab (Egyptians are considered Arabs in the region as they speak Arabic) why didn’t you write it in Arabic?
Lamiaa: I chose to write in English language because I’m aware that Arab readers are not curious about issues beyond the norm, they want to hear and read about familiar stories that tackle their daily problems. While the West allows you the range to go beyond the norms and traditional frames and discuss new worlds an experiences that women are OK to discuss.
Lojain: May be if you write in Arabic you may help some change their minds and think outside the box, as they are surrounded by ideologies that have never changed for decades or maybe centuries, may be it would help.
Lamiaa: Definitely I would be honored to offer my book in Arabic and I hope it receives the attention of Arab people who would be interested in reading about a woman who achieves the impossible and breaks the chains…
Lojain: Courage and heroism always belong to men even in the West; the lead figure is always Superman, Spiderman, Peter Pan, all men, no women! It is about time that mind takes over muscles using the power of knowledge – and that is what you have attempted to express in your novel, but is it a mix of fantasy and realism?
Lamiaa: Well, the fantasy part in the novel is that it is dealing with the apocalypse- the end of the world – as it is represented in the Bible, in the book of Revelations where we have a vision of a woman and child saviors who will emerge to defeat the devil and all evils. This story is the inspiration behind many Apocalyptic Western movies that tackle it in a supernatural manner, and generally a man is the hero, the savior and the chosen one. This is because of our faith as Muslims, Christians and Jews, we await Al Mahdi, the return of Christ and the Messiah. We are all waiting for someone to save the world of evil and destruction. If you observe the prophecy or that section that describes the woman and her child within the perspective that they will be real people with no supernatural powers, and are normal humans like all the good people who came before into the world, you would imagine that their story would take place now in this age of destruction and doom and you may wonder how would this woman seek her power and strength--The story asserts that the intellect is the source of true power and that women do not need muscles at all.
Lojain: Don’t you fear the wrath of religious men – some don’t even like us to mention issues about men and women how about discussing religion?
Lamiaa: There will always be someone who would object and criticize. When Dan Brown wrote “The Da Vinci Code,” and I am a huge fan of his work, he crossed the boundaries, also the British poets who produced the paintings you are projecting now were attacked for portraying their own visions and interpretations of this story--to be criticized shouldn’t be a reason to stifle creativity and thinking.
Lojine: Do you expect your story “Anomaly” to be adopted into a movie?
Lamiaa: It would be a dream coming true if my book becomes a film as it would be known that it originated from our region and that is an Arab woman who is behind the story. That would be a great gain for our nations who have always been trapped within the stereotype of inferiority as the people who never deliver or accomplish anything.
Lojine: Obviously your message isn’t just for Arab women but women at large.
Lamiaa: Exactly, I tried not to limit myself and it is universal, I wanted it to touch any one when they read it whether Arab or Western. I bear in mind that the reader is not necessarily familiar with that culture. Many People know nothing about the book of revelations or that there is a story in it that inspires the West to make many films. It’s a little dingdong to announce that we also read, view, analyze and everything…
Lojine: We need any effort that would support women at large – Our main issue today was the dilemma of divorced and widowed women who can’t stand the scorn of society after separation but rather tolerate abuse in a failing marriage, which is a huge insult to their dignity and person.
--We are looking forward to the Arabic version of the book to change some of the Arab mentalities because we really need it, thank you Lamiaa.
Lamiaa: Thank you so much Lojine for receiving me and for your hospitality…
Anomaly is available here