Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Fiction: The People With No Camel by Roya Movafegh

We’re told on the cover that The People With No Camel (Full Court Press) is “based on a true story” and at first that puts me off. After all, in one way or another, what story is not? It’s hard, however, to stay irked with Roya Movafegh who, in her debut novel, shows the same sort of poetry and sensitivity that have stood her in such good stead as an artist. As we begin:
I lie in this desert of no name and feel the night sky pulling me towards its limitless depths. Sparkling diamonds scattered over black velvet, I see some more and catch my breath. Why have I not seen this sky before?
It is 1981 and a ten-year-old girl of the Baha'i faith -- the people of no camel -- and her family escape Iran. As the girl becomes a woman, we see her plight from a different angle. Like the same story, seen through another prism, though in this case the prism is a parable. “The parable that follows the escape of the girl is where readers can examine their own levels of freedom,” Movafegh has said. “What does it men to be free? What are the costs? Where do the journeys begin?"

Movafegh has developed several art-based programs for children, including The Children’s Theatre Company of New York and a photography workshop for children and youth, The Young Harlem Photographers. ◊

Sienna Powers is a transplanted Calgarian who lives and works in Vancouver, B.C. She is a writer and conceptual artist.

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