What drives, inspires, feeds your artistic work?
My grandfather, born in Iran, moved to Lebanon where he and my grandmother gave birth to my father, and subsequently moved to the United States. My grandfather died young and my grandmother remarried a Catholic. This explains my loaded Christian name, and is a starting point for my fascination with religion. The first significant event that shaped me as a writer was The Satanic Verses controversy during my college years. Soon after, I had a Muslim fiancée, Ayesha, yet my agnosticism could not reconcile with her faith. Her life, as a war refugee and humanitarian, fascinate me, and we remain friends. Subsequent travels and jobs led me to Pakistan, Oman and the UAE, where I spent a year teaching at a government high school. While in the UAE I also taught evenings at a private school and met Ceza. The lives of Ayesha and Ceza, combined with my experiences with Islam, provide the basis for my current work in progress on Muslims as individuals in flux with the big picture, persecutions of Muslims, interfaith gestures, and the pressure the fatwa on Salman Rushdie places on writers confronting the dialectic between Islam and the West.
If you had to arm wrestle a famous writer, poet or artist, either living or dead, who would it be? Why? What would you say to distract your opponent and go for the win?
When you are gone and all that is left is what others remember of you and your work, what would you like the world to remember?
The subjects, lives, people, and arguments that are the topics of my writing.
Caleb Powell co-authored, with David Shields, I Think You’re Totally Wrong: A Quarrel, published by Knopf and also a film premiering in the spring of 2015 at Vancouver’s DOXA Documentary Film Festival. He blogs for the Karachi based Express Tribune. “Honor” is an excerpt from Ayesha and Ceza: Two Muslim Women. Other excerpts are forthcoming from Harpur Palate, New Madrid, Pleiades, Quarter After Eight, and Whiskey Island Magazine.