Simerg’s Special Series on Books by Ismaili Authors: “Monkey Tales and Other Short Stories” by Mahmoud Hirji of Toronto; Author is Featured on CTV’s Your Morning Show

By MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simergphotos

Simerg’s series entitled “Books by Ismaili Authors” continues with Toronto based Mahmoud Hirji’s book “Monkey Tales and Other Short Stories.” We follow the same Q/A format as our earlier presentations of books written by Zul Premji (Calgary), Azim Jiwani (Vancouver), Naznin Rahemtulla Hébert (Montreal), Shairoz Lakhani (London, UK), Shelina Shariff Zia (New York), Ali Lakhani (Vancouver), Nizar Sultan (Toronto), Nargis Fazal (Vancouver), Nazlin Rahemtulla (Vancouver), Azmina Suleman (Calgary), Alnasir Rajan (Mississauga), Shafeen Ali (USA), Mansoor Ladha (Calgary), Zeni Shariff (Toronto) and Shamas Nanji (Edmonton). We encourage Ismaili authors from around the world to participate in this series, regardless of when their books were published. See details of the series HERE and submit your responses accordingly to Simerg’s editor, Malik, at mmerchant@simerg.com.

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Simerg’s Interview with Mahmoud Hirji

Simerg: What is behind the naming of the title of the book?

Mahmoud Hirji: I have two stories out of the fourteen, anchoring the book of short stories. One of them, called “Monkey Tales” is about a French expatriate working on a project in Africa, in the fictitious land of “Nyani” (which means monkey in Swahili ) where he experiences riotous encounters with the police (which I’m sure many of your readers originally from the southern hemsphere, will identify with ) and with a troop of baboons. Another reason is because many of my stories also speak to “monkey business” between humans.

Simerg: Why would you want me or my family members to read the book, and what will we all learn from it?

Hirji: My stories are full of humor, suspense, poignancy and a-twist-in-the-tale that audiences will love to read. To lend authenticity to the places, period and construction industry they are set in, I write about racism, sexism, exploitation, greed and attitudes of the time — sentiments that we have all at one time or anther encountered as immigrants to western countries.

I also think these stories are important for present day and next generations to read and learn about their parents’ and grandparents’ struggles as new immigrants.

However, I want readers and especially young parents to realize that this is not a story book for their children due to strong language and content to be authentic in describing the times, places and workplaces in my stories. I recommend a rating of 18+ for readers.

Simerg: What inspired you to write Monkey Tales?

Hirji: I have always been a story teller and an essay writer — perhaps a little long winded, some may say — and the pandemic gave me the chance to devote time to this endeavour, working from home.

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Monkey Tales and Other Short Stories  by Mahmoud Hirji Ismaili author series Simerg
Cover page of Mahmoud Hirji’s book “Monkey Tales and Other Short Stories.” Published by Friesen Press, Altona, Manitoba, July 2022, 248 pp. Available as hardback, paperback and Ebook.

Simerg: How can I purchase the book and what are its available formats?

Hirji: My book is available through the publisher Friesen Press — in soft cover, hard cover and Ebook formats. They are also available through Amazon, Chapters Indigo (as a Kobo Ebook), Barnes & Noble (Nook) among many other on-line bookstores worldwide.

Simerg: How did you find a publisher for the book?

Hirji: A good family friend, Nizar Sultan, author of the recently published epic tale, The Roots and the Trees, reviewed options with me and recommended Friesen Press as my best choice. And I must say, I have been very pleased with their work.

[“The Roots and the Trees” has been featured in Simerg as part of our Ismaili authors’ series. Please click HERE for our interview with Nizar Sultan – Ed.]

Simerg: Did you hire an editor, an illustrator or did you do all the work by yourself?

Hirji: I self-published through Friesen Press who provide coaching and a menu of services at different levels that one can use, enabling creative control on my part. I opted to consult with and use Friesen’s editor services, graphic design services, print layout and publishing services — and of course coaching on pricing and promotions.

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MONKEY TALES: “A MOST PLEASANT READ”

The ease with which Monkey Tales and Other Short Stories transitions from one setting to another is fascinating.  There is no constant.  You don’t know if you should expect to be scared, excited, or amused when you finish one and start the next one.  The only constant is the superb writing style and the details that can come only from intimate knowledge of the settings or from sound research. Each story is unique, interesting, informative, and entertaining. A most pleasant read — Nizar Sultan, author of The Roots and the Trees

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Simerg: Which was your first book and how many have you written?

Hirji:Monkey Tales and other Short Stories” is my first book and I am now writing a sequel — my second book called “Monkey Business.”

Simerg: How long did it take you to write “Monkey Tales” from start to finish and to begin marketing it?

Hirji: Approximately two and a half years.

Simerg: Would you like to offer further thoughts about your book?

Hirji: There are 14 short stories, and the genre is autofiction. A central character that runs thorough many of them is Aziz, born and raised in Tanzania, then emigrating to Canada and about his adventures studying and working here and abroad as an expatriate, sprinkled with lots of mirchi masala! I cannot tell all here, so will mention 4 stories:

In my first story, “When the Sun comes Up,” inspired by my favorite author Jefferey Archer, I have challenged myself to write a story that is exactly two hundred words in length.

In my title story, “Monkey Tales,” you will read about the daily conflicts between man and animal, among peoples and races, about greed and corruption, and sadly, about the way our world turns.

In “Churro,” I have attempted to shock and entertain the reader at the same time, sprinkling it with macabre humour in the style of another great author, Steven King.

And finally, in “La Colorada,” my most ambitious and complex short story — a novella, really — I have written about a family’s sad, poignant history, switching back and forth across almost two centuries, with threads of love, romance, terror, the supernatural, and the omnipresent greed and savagery of mankind running through it.

Date posted: September 10, 2022.

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We welcome feedback from our readers. Please click Leave a comment. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation.

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Mahmoud Hirji’s Book is Featured on CTV’S “Your Morning” Program: Watch Short Clip

Monkey Tales” was featured on CTV’s “Your Morning” show that was aired across Canada on September 6, 2022. You can watch the full episode by clicking on CTV: Your Morning Show; Mahmoud’s interview with the host, Anne Marie Mediwake, begins at around the 1:14:09 mark. Below, we provide our readers with the clip that was aired on CTV.

Mahmoud Hirjis’ interview with Your Morning host Anne Marie Mediwake. Video Credit: CTV and Mahmoud Hirji

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Mahmoud Hirji, Osmaili author Monkey Tales Simerg
Mahmoud Hirji

Mahmoud Hirji grew up in Moshi, Tanzania and finished his high schooling in Canterbury, England before moving to Vancouver, BC, Canada. Mahmoud studied Civil Engineering, and worked on several remote area construction projects around BC.  Mahmoud later moved to Toronto, where he worked on a multitude of engineering and construction infrastructure projects in Canada and overseas as an expatriate. Now a professional construction consultant, the globe-trotting Hirji has lived on four continents, worked on projects in 23-countries and travelled to 46-countries.

Mahmoud lives in Toronto with his wife and daughter. They enjoy a shared passion for travel and the outdoors — hiking, canoeing, cottaging, skiing. They currently actively volunteer within and outside the Ismaili community.

Monkey Tales and other Short Stories is Mahmoud’s first book. His next book, Monkey Business, which he has begun writing, will be out next spring.

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Calling all Ismaili Authors

We encourage Ismaili writers to introduce their books in a similar format as has been done in the post above. Please also see the series launch article and submit your responses to Malik at mmerchant@simerg.com. All submissions will be acknowledged. If a writer has published multiple books, each book will be highlighted in a separate article, and not combined with other books into one post. All writers should include a brief profile with a portrait photo.

We welcome feedback from our readers. Please click Leave a comment. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation.

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The Ismaili Authors’ Series so far (in chronological sequence, oldest article first):

  1. “Justice Bertha Wilson Pushes the Boundaries of Humanity” by Shamas Nanji (series start, February 10, 2021)
  2. “Little One, You Are The Universe” by Zeni Shariff (February 25, 2021)
  3. “Memoirs of a Muhindi” by Mansoor Ladha (March 6, 2021, and see also 15, below, by the same author)
  4. “To Be One With God: Seven Journeys to the Meaning of Life” by Shafeen Ali (March 25, 2021)
  5. “Invisible Birthmarks” by Alnasir Rajan (April 13, 2021)
  6. “IN THE NAME OF JUSTICE – Portrait of a ‘Cowboy’ Judge” by Azmina Suleman (April 28, 2021)
  7. “RSVP Rice and Stew Very Plenty” by Nazlin Rahemtulla (May 28, 2021)
  8. “Coughdrops” by Nargis Fazal (June 12, 2021)
  9. “The Roots and the Trees” by Nizar Sultan (June 25, 2021)
  10. “Faith and Ethics: The Vision of the Ismaili Imamat” by M. Ali Lakhani (July 4, 2021)
  11. “Nairobi Days by Shelina_Shariff Zia (July 21, 2021)
  12. “Shine Brighter” by Shairoz Lakhani (December 8, 2021)
  13. “This is My Life” by Naznin Rahemtulla Hébert (February 26, 2022)
  14. “Humanizing Medicine – Making Health Tangible” by Dr. Azim Jiwani (March 9, 2022)
  15. “A Portrait in Pluralism: Aga Khan’s Shia Ismaili Muslims” by Mansoor Ladha (June 8, 2022, and see also 3, above, by the same author)
  16. “Malaria Memoirs: My Life Journey as a Public Health Doctor in Tanzania” by Dr Zul Premji (June 30, 2022)
  17. “Monkey Tales and Other Short Stories” by Mahmoud Hirji (September 10, 2022)

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Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos.

The editor may be reached via email at mmerchant@simerg.com.

One thought on “Simerg’s Special Series on Books by Ismaili Authors: “Monkey Tales and Other Short Stories” by Mahmoud Hirji of Toronto; Author is Featured on CTV’s Your Morning Show

  1. A very well written book. I really enjoyed this book Monkey Tales and other short stories by Mahmoud Hirji. He has articulated and written well about all the nuances and vagaries of life in East Africa and then in Canada after the migration in the 1970’s.

    Well done Mahmoud.

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