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This just came in the mail today! Attestation for finalist in the 2019 Eric Hoffer Grand Prize. Am super excited and feeling extremely grateful.

Okay, I know this is not the Man Booker. Oh, what would I give to win one like the incomparable Ondaatje or Atwood. Still, Eric Hoffer is a serious literary organization spearheaded by a US Presidential Medal of Freedom awardee and is where university presses and publishers vie for attention. So I’m stoked. As a debut novelist, I couldn’t ask for more.

Yes, my books don’t have the tortuous entanglements of a Salmon Rushdie novel. Nor do they have the weighty complexities of an Umberto Eco tome. I too write about the social ills of this world, but I work hard to make my stories accessible to everyone. I want every women, man and teen to read my books and open their eyes and ask themselves how they can make this world a better place for everyone, especially the most marginalized of our societies.

That 130 million girls around the world have been pulled out of school by their own families, to be married off, bartered, or sold for labour breaks my heart. That the majority of the 800 million illiterate people on earth are female deeply saddens me, especially since books have been my oxygen ever since I could read my ABCs. This is what happens in cultures where women are considered second class.

And since these girls and women have no voice, since their words and dreams are stifled and silenced, I will speak for them. I will tell their stories the best way I can.

I’m currently reading Michio Kaku’s fascinating book, The Future of the Mind, where he talks about AI, robotics and the ethics of how we treat our robot workers. I can’t help wonder, though, if we must first consider the morality of how we treat our own human compatriots before we worry about how artificial intelligence “feels.”

That young girl who is pulled out of school and forced to become the fourth wife of a forty-year old man has so much untapped potential that will be buried with her at death. What if we free her and allow her to flourish, live a fulfilled life (not to mention a physically safe one) and contribute to society with her innate talents? Because that’s all she yearns to do in the end, just like you and I.   

Elon Musk dreams of taking us to Mars soon – a commendable goal for the human species, one which I excitedly await to see myself. But I believe there is much work left to do right here on earth before we look outward. And I will do my small part here.

So, the Eric Hoffer Foundation doesn’t do galas. I have my little black dress but nowhere to go…. 🙂

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