This is the 3rd in our series “Books by Ismaili Authors.” The two previous books highlighted were Little One, You Are the Universe by Toronto’s Zeni Shariff and Justice Bertha Wilson Pushes the Boundaries of Humanity by Edmonton’s Shamas Nanji. We ask each author to introduce their book(s) to our readers by answering a series of short questions. In this post, award winning journalist Mansoor Ladha of Calgary, Canada, responds on his book “Memoirs of a Muhindi.”
Simerg: What is behind the naming of the title of the book?
Mansoor Ladha: Memoirs of a Muhindi is a story of a descendant of immigrants, brown in colour, living in a black society (Tanzania), who later became a brown immigrant living in a white society (Canada). The book, which has been endorsed by Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, sheds light on the experiences felt by immigrants, the challenges of cross-cultural differences, the hurt of discrimination, and other hardships of displacement. It has received favourable reports from the media and literary journals.
Simerg: Why would you want me or my family members to read the book, and what will we all learn from it?
Ladha: For those who lived in East Africa, the book is a historical document, providing memories of life during pre and post-colonial Africa. For those not born during the time, it describes what their parents went through before they came to Canada. This is the story of Ismailis who migrated from India to Africa to the west. Many immigrants, including myself experienced discrimination in Africa as well as in Canada. This book contains several interesting episodes and is a valuable, well-written historical document which should be on everyone’s book shelf.
Simerg: What inspired you to write the book?
Ladha: Western writers who have published books on Africa have neglected to describe contributions made by South Asians. As a South Asian journalist, I was prompted to publish a book depicting the prevailing political situation, how Asians adapted to the changing political landscape and their contributions in developing African nations.
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Simerg: How can I purchase the book and what are its available formats?
Ladha: The book is available from Amazon.ca in hardcover and kindle and from Chapter/Indigo or can be ordered from any neighbourhood book store. You can also buy it at Amazon.com as well as Amazon’s affiliated websites worldwide. Signed copies are available at a special reduced price from firstname.lastname@example.org but postage is extra.
Simerg: How did you find a publisher for the book?
Ladha: There are two types of book publishers. First type will not accept any submissions from an author unless the query comes through a literary agent. Second type are those who will accept manuscripts directly from authors, without an agent. It is very difficult to get a literary agent interested in a submission. There are authors whose submissions have been rejected by 20 literary agents; and this is not considered to be unusual. I researched for publishers who will accept unagented submissions and was fortunate to get University of Regina Press interested in publishing my book.
Those authors who have not been successful to get their books published through a traditional publisher can resort to get their books published by self-publishing companies. You do not have to pay anything if your book is published by traditional publishers while one has to pay the entire cost when self-publishing.
“Mansoor’s is a brilliant story teller and he writes very simply. I loved his narration of the Dar University days, Nyerere, his work, discrimination etc. For me the greatest contribution Mansoor has made in his memoir is the last sentence on page 249. “I do not want to be a dweller of several lands, accepted by none.”….I was actually teary as I read Mansoor’s cry for a homeland based on UNIVERSAL HUMANITY. That is a powerful message given Eric Hobsbawm’s statement: “Our world risks both explosion and implosion. It must change.” The world must be our collective homeland. Mansoor has given us some message to live for.” — Dr. Willy Mutunga, D.Jur,SC,EGH, Former Chief Justice/President, Supreme Court of Kenya
Simerg: Did you hire an editor, an illustrator or did you do all the work by yourself?
Ladha: Once your book is accepted for publication, the publishing company would send a contract for you to sign. Under the contract, they would provide all editorial services, including a graphic designer until the book is published. The editor would suggest some revisions/alterations and seek your approval until the final document is ready. Same would go for the designer. I was fortunate in that as a copy editor on daily newspapers my job has been to correct and edit stories of reporters. Hence, this background helped me to send clean, edited submission to publishers.
“Ladha has written Memoirs of a Muhindi with a universal audience in mind. Immigrants can learn perhaps how to avoid the pitfalls of settling in a new country, and employers can learn different ways so that they can treat immigrants with fairness and equality,” he says. “One should be able to learn from past incidents and derive positive policies for future use.”– Margaret Anne Fehr, Prairie books NOW
Simerg: Which was your first book and how many have you written?
Ladha: My first book was Portrait in Pluralism: Aga Khan’s Shia Ismaili Muslims published by Detselig. Memoirs of a Muhindi: Fleeing East Africa for the West is my second book. I was also among a group of journalists and scholars invited to contribute a chapter in a book called “The Story that Brought Me Here” published by Brindle & Glass.
Simerg: How long did it take you to write Memoirs of a Muhind — from start to finish and to begin marketing it?
Ladha: I had written bits and pieces of the above book when I was a full time publisher of Morinville Mirror and Redwater Tribune newspapers. However, I concentrated in completing it full time after my retirement from active newspapering and working diligently for about four months. I was fortunate in publishing both my books with traditional publishers, unagented, and so the publishers also took marketing duties in sending books to Amazon, Chapters/Indigo and other publishers. One main piece of advice I would like to offer is that no one but you, as the author, must try to promote your book through your contacts, friends, relatives and colleagues. My third book has been accepted by a Toronto literary agent for publication this year and I am working on my first novel.
Date posted: March 6, 2021.
Mansoor Ladha has held senior editorial positions as a copy editor in Canada (Edmonton Journal & Calgary Herald), features editor (The Standard in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania), copy editor (Daily Nation, Nairobi, Kenya) and was the only owner/publisher of colour of a mainstream English newspaper in Canada for 25 years. Since retiring, he has been travelling around the world as a travel writer on assignments and has published travel features in leading Canadian newspapers and magazines. He has numerous awards to his credit including being a Citizen of the Year in the Town of Morinville, Alberta; Silver Quill Award by the Alberta Weekly Newspapers for distinguished service to newspapers as well as Canada’s Caring Canadian Award for “outstanding and selfless contribution to your community and Canada” by the Governor General of Canada. He has most recently completed another non-fiction book and a novel, both of which are scheduled to be published in 2021. Ladha was also contributor to Simerg’s highly acclaimed series I Wish I’d Been There with a remarkable piece His Name is Jawhar.
We encourage Ismaili writers to introduce their books in a similar format as Mansoor Ladha, Zeni Shariff and Shamas Nanji have done in their respective interviews. Please also see the series launch article and submit your responses to Malik at Simerg@aol.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.
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