Meet the... author, Sumayya Lee
Author of The Story of Maha, Sumayya Lee talks to MWA about growing up Muslim, female and mixed-race in Apartheid South Africa.
Tell us about Maha – why did she come about?
Maha is an attractive Muslim girl whose life shatters when her Indo-African (Chaarou) mother and Cape-Malay (Bruinou) father are killed during a political rally. She is moved across the country to her grandparents’ comfortable home in a predominantly Muslim suburb – a place she dubs Slumurbia (from the SA slang for Muslim: Slumou). Maha is funny and feisty – and the world through her eyes makes for an entertaining read.
The idea for Maha was born while I was a teenager - inspired by the amazing talents and tales around me, I dreamt of writing about ‘people like us’ and opening a window into our unique slice of planet earth.
Why the need to tell her story?
So many reasons – but mainly because apartheid had repercussions that are not as obvious as a shantytown in a developed city. Our heritage - in spite of traversing the Indian Ocean and having over a century to evolve - continues to perpetuate the patriarchy. While Maha struggles to overcome the prejudices and oppressions that women from her socio-cultural background are faced with, she also experiences all of the tumult of adolescence that anyone can identify with.
What do you hope the reader will gain from the stories about Maha?
An entertaining insight into a foreign world… I believe we fear/hate what we do not know, so a bonus would be for a reader to view Muslims as human beings, like everyone else.
Anything else you’d like to say?
I always thought I was writing for the readers of the world – so it is always a special sense of wonder and joy when a non-reader from my community tells me that The Story of Maha is the first book she’s read (since school).
And my latest news is that I’m really pleased my books are finally accessible (albeit in e-book format) and affordable.