Not Here, Not Us
Earlier this month, Bronwen Griffiths published her book of short stories and flash fiction, Not Here, Not Us, about Syrian refugees and the situation in Syria. HOT’s Zelly Restorick asked Bronwen about her interest in the conflict, her support for the refugees, the organisations she’s involved with, her inspiration for writing the book and how we can find out more about the crisis.
“I’ve always been a social activist, both in the peace and environmental movements”, says Bronwen “and much of my writing reflects this. I became interested in the Arab Spring because, at its core it is a movement for social justice and freedom. Tragically, since the heady optimism of its early days, the movement has been ruthlessly repressed and it has also been co-opted by other groups with completely different agendas.
“After a trip to Libya in February 2011, I wrote a novel – A Bird in the House (2014) – about a family caught up in the Libyan Revolution. I made Libyan friends through Facebook, some of whom I have subsequently met in real life. As a result of my interest in Libya, I slowly began to make contact with Syrians and in 2013, I became actively involved in Syria Solidarity UK. We are a campaign group: we lobby Parliament and others, we organise actions and we work with other groups in Syria and across the world who support the aims of the Syrian Revolution.
“Because of this work, I made contact with a number of Syrian refugees both here in the UK and in Europe – and I support one particular individual in Sweden. I also have many Syrian friends on Facebook, some of whom are still in Syria.
Fiction based on fact
“I didn’t set out to write about Syria but I found myself drawn to the stories of those I had spoken to and met, as well as the stories of men and women I had read about. I have connected with several citizen photojournalist friends on Facebook from Syria and their pictures also inspired me.
“I found that writing in the form of flash fiction and short observations was the best way for me to record what was happening in Syria. This is the way I write anyway: I am either working on a novel or writing short pieces.
“I must make it clear that all the work is fictionalised and those who did contribute their stories read the work before publication. I also want to stress that the work is my response to the crisis in Syria and no other. However, I make absolutely no apologies for my partisan approach.”
The Syrian situation
“Since I completed the book the situation for those opposed to the tyranny of the Assad regime – a regime that has tortured, imprisoned and butchered its own people – has worsened, and it looks as if the regime, with the military support of Russia, will succeed in crushing the Revolution. Many Syrians, who have fled to Turkey, Jordan and Europe, will probably never return to their country of birth.
“Syria has been, and continues to be, one of the most serious humanitarian disasters of our generation. I am not optimistic about its future, and, like many of us, I am now deeply concerned for the future of Europe and America. I do believe that most people are, at heart, decent and moral, but globalisation, the rise of poverty and the loss of jobs has given rise to a hateful, blaming rhetoric that we must all fight against.
“I began writing in the 1990’s when my son was small, although my first book, Sammie the Jam Bear, was written in 1966. It remains unpublished! After I moved to the wonderful and artistic town of Hastings in 2000, I attended a Creative Writing course at the new University building. I then went on to do an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Sussex in 2007.
“Any of you who are writers will know how hard it is to get published, especially if your work does not fit any overly commercial category. I therefore decided to approach Earlyworks Press in Hastings to get this collection published. Kay Green at Earlyworks has been very supportive of the project and I am grateful for her help.”
Women Now For Development
“10 per cent of profits from the book will go to a women’s charity, Women Now For Development, a Syrian NGO. The organisation was established in 2012 by Samar Yazbek, a Syrian writer and journalist. The charity is the largest women’s organisation working to empower Syrian women both inside Syria and its neighbouring countries.”
Where to buy ‘Not Here, Not Us’
“You can order ‘Not Here, Not Us’ (Publisher: Earlyworks Press : 5 Dec. 2016 : ISBN-10: 1910841412 : ISBN-13: 978-1910841419) from your local bookshop or through Amazon. The book will also be available to purchase direct from me at the book launch, priced £8.50. The launch will be at the Jenny Lind on 12 January from 6.30 – 8.30 pm. All are welcome.”
Further information about Syria
For those who wish to learn more about the Syrian Revolution, Bronwen recommends the following books:
Burning Country, Syrians in Revolution and War. Robin Yassin-Kassab and Leila Al-Shami. (Publisher: Pluto Press : 20 Jan 2016 : ISBN-10: 0745336221: ISBN-13: 978-0745336220.)
A Woman in the Crossfire – Diaries of the Syrian Revolution. Samar Yazbek. (Publisher: Haus Publishing : 2 July 2012 : ISBN-10: 1908323124 : ISBN-13: 978-1908323125.)
Syria Speaks – Art and Culture from the Frontline. Edited by Malu Halasa, Zaher Omareen & Nawara Mahfoud. (Publisher: Saqi Books : 16 Jun 2014 : ISBN-10: 0863567878 : ISBN-13: 978-0863567872.)
The Morning They Came for Us – Dispatches from Syria. Janine Di Giovanni. (Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing : 25 Feb 2016 : ISBN-10: 1408851083 : ISBN-13: 978-1408851081.)
My House in Damascus – An Inside View of the Syrian Revolution. Diana Darke. (Publisher: Haus Publishing Limited : 3rd edition : 4 Feb. 2016 : ISBN-10: 190832399X : ISBN-13: 978-1908323996.)
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