Posts Tagged 'books'

Dream Land review

very nice review here of Dream Land from Bookwitch.

I never thought Dream Land was such a sad book really – it ends pretty positively, and I knew Crimean Tatar families were indeed succeeding to build good new lives for themselves. But as Bookwitch points out, that was before recent events in Crimea.

More wisdom

My friend Lutfi helped me so much to understand his people’s history and culture when I wrote Dream Land, about the deportation of the Crimean Tatars from Crimea in 1944 and their return fifty years later. He greeted me today in Bakhchisaray:

So now you’ll be able to write a new book about the Crimean Tatars losing their homeland. Only this time you’ll get to witness it happening first-hand.

I add an E

Riding Icarus and Dream Land, my two novels with Walker books, are now available not just as paperbacks, but as eBooks at Amazon (Kindle), Waterstones, Kobo and iTunes iBookstore.

Dream Land, set in Crimea, is based on the true story of one of the Second World War’s more forgotten atrocities: the deportation of the Crimean Tatars; and their return home over fifty years later.

Riding Icarus is an urban fairytale introducing younger readers to a surreal world of witches riding trolleybuses and mafiosi driving Mercedes’ in modern-day Ukraine.

Back in print

Dream Land is back in print, after a short period of being unavailable. So if you have been trying to get hold of it recently and failing, please try again!

...and it now has the Amnesty logo on the cover!

…and it now has the Amnesty logo on the cover!

Anyone not wishing to support a certain Internet giant which doesn’t pay its taxes, but lacking a local English bookshop to turn to, now has the option of ordering Dream Land from cornucopia.net. ‘Cornucopia’ is a beautifully-produced magazine about Turkish (and Turkic) art, history and culture; its excellent current edition is dedicated to Crimea.

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I’m so pleased to see my novel about the Crimean Tatars in the company of books dedicated to all things Turkish and Turkic. Turkic influence is only one aspect of the Crimean Tatars’ story, but I do feel that Dream Land sometimes gets  a bit lost on general YA fiction shelves amid all those future dystopias and paranormal romances…

Eating or reading the wrong thing

Ive posted on ABBA today about the Flower Fairy books, and how if my niece had read them she probably would have been spared a nasty experience after eating some poisonous arum or lords-and-ladies berries (they were green, and she thought they were peas. At least she knew that peas do actually grow somewhere, and are not born frozen in a supermarket; it’s just a pity she didn’t know that they grow in pods).

It’s got me thinking about some of the classics of children’s fiction I grew up on, like Richard Adams’ Watership Down or The Sword in the Stone by TH White, where absolutely accurate, close observation of the natural world informs and indeed forms an imaginative narrative.

I can’t think of any contemporary children’s fiction that is based so comprehensively and accurately around observation of nature – which seems odd, considering our preoccupation with threats to the environment, Can you?

The lords-and-ladies fairy, from Flower Fairies of the Autumn by Cicely Mary Barker

Mother tongue

Хаял мекяны, the Crimean Tatar translation of my book Dream Land, is making quite a splash in Crimea. There has been plenty of TV and newspaper coverage; I have even, to my amazement, been recognised on the street. It’s all a bit overwhelming. Coverage here and here for Crimean Tatar speakers, here and here in Russian.

My favourite headline, from Голос крыма, reads ‘Now Lily Hyde is a daughter of the Crimean Tatar people’

Dream Land is the first and, so far, only fictional retelling in any language of the Crimean Tatars’ return to Crimea in the 1980-1990s. To my mind, its translation into the mother tongue of the Crimean Tatars is a unique and important event. If only it has not come too late.

I spent a lot of time with Crimean Tatar families between around 2000 and 2007. To me they spoke Russian, because I don’t speak Crimean Tatar. But between themselves they spoke Crimean Tatar.

Revisiting some of those families just a few years on, I’m struck by a big change. Their children have grown older, and are spending more time in school or college or work – and they are bringing Russian language home with them. Just a few years back, the whole family spoke Crimean Tatar with a sprinkling of Russian words. Now it is the other way round.

The older people, and many younger ones too, feel this is a tragedy. But it’s one they don’t know how to reverse. One mother told me she wants to keep her son back a year before sending him to school, because she’s afraid that as soon as he goes to school he will start forgetting Crimean Tatar. Two university students told me they hope that when they have families, their children will know Crimean Tatar. They told me this in English, which they speak quite fluently. Neither of these girls speaks their own native language beyond a very basic, household level.

I wondered even as I gave them copies of Хаял мекяны, whether they would not find it easier to read Dream Land in the original English. I couldn’t bring myself to ask.  But all the interest in the Crimean Tatar translation gives me hope that it is not too late to save this language from extinction.

What happens next

is the question I’ve been asked most often in the last few days.

I’ve been in Crimea for the presentation of the Crimean Tatar translation of Dream Land, my novel about the return of the Crimean Tatars to their homeland in the 1990s. This entire nation of people was deported from Crimea, then part of the Soviet Union, in 1944, and fought a peaceful campaign for fifty years for the right to return.

People want to know if I’m pleased about the book translation (I’m absolutely delighted – I blogged about it previously here), why I decided to write the book in the first place (because I thought it was a fascinating, compelling and important story that begged to be told) but most of all they want to know ‘Are you going to write a sequel? What happens next to Safi?’

It’s always gratifying when readers want to know what happens to your characters outside the pages of the book. I myself find it hard to abandon characters after I’ve created them. The heroine of my first novel, Riding Icarus, so grabbed my imagination that I went on to write two more novels about her.

It’s a bit more complicated with Safi, because although she’s a fictional character, her story is closely based on real events. Dream Land ends in the summer of 1992 on a moment of hope, that Crimean Tatar families like Safi’s will be able to build houses with permission from the Ukrainian authorities and settle in to a new life in Crimea with support and acceptance from their Ukrainian and Russian neighbours. And in truth, this is by and large what has happened, although no one can pretend that prejudice and discrimination do not still exist. I never planned a sequel to Dream Land. I thought that if readers really want to know what happens to Safi, all they have to do is read a newspaper or visit Crimea.

Safi would be thirty-three now, if she really existed. Does she stay in Crimea or does she emigrate? I’ve been asked over the last few days. Does she remember the stories she heard from her grandfather in Dream Land? Does she teach her children Crimean Tatar language? What about her brother Lutfi – does he marry a Russian girl like the one in the book, or does he get involved in radical Islam?

I don’t know the answers. All these things have happened to my friends in Crimea, the ones whose lives in the 1990s inspired Dream Land. It would be nice if I could create happy and fulfilling futures for all these people I love and admire. But this is real life, not fiction.

There’s a fascinating, compelling and important story still to be told about the Crimean Tatar national movement since 1992. About political and social change, about the steady loss of the Crimean Tatar language, and the continuing struggle to uncover and declare the truth of what happened in 1944.

I’m amazed and honoured and touched that so many people have asked me for a sequel. But I’m not sure I’m the person to tell this story. My friend’s daughter in Crimea has just started writing stories. She’s Crimean Tatar, and around the same age now as Safi is in Dream Land. Perhaps she will be the one to write What Happens Next.

The Crimean Tatar cover of Dream Land

The Crimean Tatar cover of Dream Land

This post also appears on ABBA today


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A novel about the Crimean Tatars' return to their homeland


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