Fatima Farheen Mirza Interview

Called “absolutely gorgeous” by the Washington Post and a “miracle of a book” by NPR, Fatima Farheen Mirza’s debut novel A Place For Us is a deeply moving and resonant story of love, identity and belonging that follows an Indian American Muslim family in Northern California. The novel is the first title in Sarah Jessica Parker’s new imprint, Hogarth, and is narrated by Audie Award nominees Deepti Gupta and Sunil Malhotra.


Ross McMeekin: What first drew you to writing fiction?

Fatima Farheen Mirza: Writing has always been a part of my life, ever since I was very young, whether that be stories, poetry, or keeping my own journal—which I’ve done throughout my life. When I was in undergrad, I started to really dedicate myself to writing in a much more intentional way. At that time I was working on my own poems, but I’d also begun writing this novel. It was after I began writing this novel, and after I began discovering who the characters were and what they were concerned with, that I put all other writing projects I might have been considering on the backburner in order to write the story of the family to the best of my ability.

RM: I’ve heard that some writers approach writing as a discovery process—coming to the desk each day, discovering the story as it unfolds—while others have a firm structure or outline that they work out beforehand. Where are you at on that spectrum?

FFM: I had no firm structure or idea of the events that would happen (in A Place for Us). I wasn’t approaching the novel in a plot way. I realized that there were certain ages of the characters that I wanted to write about, and when I was with, say, Hadia at nine or Amar at seventeen, I then asked myself why do I want to write about them at this particular age? What is happening to them at this particular juncture of their life? I would eventually be able to find a plot or arc from it, but that wasn’t my approach. There was a certain image in the novel that I was trying to arrive at, but I didn’t know how I would get there. So it was both very loose—a process of instinct and discovery of certain moments of their lives—while at the same time I knew that they were all going to gather one day at a wedding. And I knew that certain things would have to have happened at that point.

RM: Is your writing space messy or clean?

FFM: For A Place for Us, I didn’t have one set writing space. For many years I would write on a kitchen dining room table, so my writing space would be one that I would lay out every day and then pack up every day, so it would be kind of messy looking. I would have my laptop and my notebooks piled next to me and the books I would be reading at the time, oftentimes poetry if I felt stuck and needed to break away my work and enter into somebody else’s, and then tons of post-it notes. Every day that I would begin to write, I would set out various post-its, and on them wouldn’t be a goal, per se, but something in a scene that I wanted to approach, like some question I was asking, or something about writing itself that I wanted to keep in mind.

RM: Do you have any superstitions about writing?

FFM: I don’t write with pencils, it has to be a pen with the finest tip I can find. I can’t write with a thick tip. It has to be .38. But as far as superstitions go, I don’t think so. I always have to have a hot drink near me. At first it was coffee, but when I realized I was drinking too much coffee I transitioned into tea and water.

RM: Do you see yourself in the characters of A Place for Us? Is it in any way autobiographical?

FFM: The novel is not autobiographical in terms of what happens to the characters and the plot points, etc., but the context that the characters find themselves in is really familiar to me, and through them I was able to explore questions that were deeply personal. This may be a cliché thing to say, but I see myself in all of them as well as none of them, or none of them more than others, if that makes sense.

RM: What aspects of the novel did you find most difficult to write?

FFM: The novel is about characters who are trying to understand their relationship to one another, as well as to their family as a unit and to themselves as individuals. They are also trying to understand their relationship to the faith they have been born into—they’re a Muslim family. There were times in writing it that I felt as though I was moving away from the home that I had come from, which was similar to the home of the characters. But now that it’s done, I realize that what I had been doing, through fiction—through these characters—was returning to that home over and over again. Returning to that relationship between the individual and their society, the individual and their family, and the individual and their own faith and spiritual belief system, but much more deeply than when I was a child actually growing up in that family, that culture, and that community. So what I’ve realized is that I’ve returned home in fiction in order to understand it in a way that I could not had I not begun writing about it. So in that way I feel very grateful to the novel.

RM: Do you have any book recommendations?

FFM: A book that is coming out in August that I recommend is Other People’s Love Affairs by D. Wystan Owen. His short stories have meant so much to me for many years, so I’m really excited they will be shared with the world. Ohio by Stephen Markley. A Lucky Man by Jamel Brinkley. St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell. In terms of poetry, Look by Solmaz Sharif and Don’t Call Us Dead by Danez Smith. Also, Yiyun Li’s essay collection Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life.

August 2018 Audiobook Bestsellers

Libro.fm is proud to present the August 2018 audiobook bestseller list that captures what’s selling in independent bookstores nationwide.

Find your next great audiobook below or by viewing the top 50 bestsellers and pre-order bestseller list.


Fiction

1. Less

by Andrew Sean Greer (Hachette Audio)


2. There There

by Tommy Orange (Penguin Random House Audio)


3. The Death of Mrs. Westaway

by Ruth Ware (Simon & Schuster Audio)


4. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine

by Gail Honeyman (Penguin Random House Audio)


5. A Gentleman in Moscow

by Amor Towles (Penguin Random House Audio)


6. Pachinko

by Min Jin Lee (Hachette Audio)


7. Lincoln in the Bardo

by George Saunders (Penguin Random House Audio)


8. Magpie Murders

by Anthony Horowitz (HarperCollins)


9. Circe

by Madeline Miller (Hachette Audio)


10. Crazy Rich Asians

by Kevin Kwan (Penguin Random House Audio)


Nonfiction

1. Calypso

by David Sedaris (Hachette Audio)


2. Educated

by Tara Westover (Penguin Random House Audio)


3. How to Change Your Mind

by Michael Pollan (Penguin Random House Audio)


4. The Soul of America

by Jon Meacham (Penguin Random House Audio)


5. Killers of the Flower Moon

by David Grann (Penguin Random House Audio)


6. Fascism: A Warning

by Madeleine Albright (HarperCollins)


7. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark

by Michelle McNamara (HarperCollins)


8. The World as It Is

by Ben Rhodes (Penguin Random House Audio)


9. Kitchen Confidential

by Anthony Bourdain (Penguin Random House Audio)


10. Yes We (Still) Can

by Dan Pfeiffer (Hachette Audio)


The August 2018 audiobook bestseller list is based on sales through independent bookstore locations during the month of July 2018.

Where you shop matters.

We have a message for book readers and audiobook listeners on July 16th: Where you shop matters.

On a day when a giant retailer promotes deep discounts during its annual sale, Libro.fm is celebrating all the things that make independent bookstores the heart and soul of their communities. This message has proudly replaced our home page on Libro.fm for the day and remains part of our story.

For the team at Libro.fm, it’s about book lovers having a choice in where they purchase books (and audiobooks) and understanding that their choice has an impact on their local community. We are using this day to thank independent bookstore customers and communicate why bookstores matter.

Join us in supporting local bookstores today and every day. Find your bookstore here Libro.fm/indies.

July 2018 Audiobook Bestsellers

Libro.fm is proud to present the July 2018 audiobook bestseller list that captures what’s selling in independent bookstores nationwide.


Fiction

1. Lincoln in the Bardo

by George Saunders (Penguin Random House Audio)


2. Less

by Andrew Sean Greer (Hachette Audio)


3. Pachinko

by Min Jin Lee (Hachette Audio)


4. The Death of Mrs. Westaway

by Ruth Ware (Simon & Schuster Audio)


5. Circe

by Madeline Miller (Hachette Audio)


6. There There

by Tommy Orange (Penguin Random House Audio)


7. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine

by Gail Honeyman (Penguin Random House Audio)


8. The President Is Missing

by Bill Clinton, James Patterson (Hachette Audio)


9. The Woman in the Window

by A. J. Finn (HarperCollins)


10. The Word is Murder

by Anthony Horowitz (HarperCollins)


Nonfiction

1. Calypso

by David Sedaris (Hachette Audio)


2. Educated

by Tara Westover (Penguin Random House Audio)


3. How to Change Your Mind

by Michael Pollan (Penguin Random House Audio)


4. Kitchen Confidential

by Anthony Bourdain (Penguin Random House Audio)


5. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark

by Michelle McNamara (HarperCollins)


6. The World as It Is

by Ben Rhodes (Penguin Random House Audio)


7. The Soul of America

by Jon Meacham (Penguin Random House Audio)


8. Just Mercy

by Bryan Stevenson (Penguin Random House Audio)


9. Robin

by Dave Itzkoff (Macmillan Audio)


10. Barracoon

by Zora Neale Hurston (HarperCollins)


The July 2018 audiobook bestseller list is based on sales through independent bookstore locations during the month of June 2018.

Celebrate Audiobook Month

It’s Audiobook Month! What’s to celebrate?

For starters, the growth of this amazing category as people find creative ways to read, learn, and discover in a society that is short on time. While we love ourselves a physical book, audio enables you to read on the go and works as the perfect compliment to your literary closet.

Booksellers at Libro.fm Partner Store, Parnassus Books

It’s also a time to celebrate local bookstores and our booksellers who consume audiobooks day and night, working hard to make quality recommendations for their customers and the audiobook community at large. These experts (and experts they are) have access to complimentary audiobooks through Libro.fm and our publisher partners. You can find hundreds of these expert recommendations on the Libro.fm website.

If you’re new to Libro.fm, it’s the perfect time to join our monthly membership and listen to your first audiobook/month for free. And if you’re a long-time customer, perhaps it’s time to introduce your friends to the audiobook option which supports hundreds of local bookstores, thousands of booksellers, and countless communities. As Sarah Jessica Parker put it, “I think bookstores are often what holds our communities together.”

Summer Listening Challenge

It’s summer time! The Libro.fm Summer Listening Challenge is back in 2018, and this year you could win a year’s supply of free audiobooks.

There are so many fun things to do during the summer, and audiobooks can be a great companion for art projects, exercise, gardening, and car trips—we like to call it #handsfreereading. And with Libro.fm, each audiobook purchase means supporting your local bookstore and investing in your community!

Listen to 5 audiobooks or the equivalent of 20 hours of audiobooks between June 15th and September 4th and track your progress using this Listening Challenge Worksheet. Either email a picture of your completed worksheet to bookstores@libro.fm or fill out this online form, and you will be entered to win free audiobooks for a year!

Need some awesome listens to queue up for summer? We have plenty of fantastic playlists including our Summer Listening Challenge playlist, curated by independent bookstores around the country. Looking for great titles recommended by the experts (booksellers)? We have bookseller recommendations. If you already know the titles you’re looking for, just head over to Libro.fm and search for the ones you want!

Happy Listening!

June 2018 Audiobook Bestsellers

Libro.fm is proud to present the June 2018 audiobook bestseller list that captures what’s selling in independent bookstores nationwide.


Fiction

1. Lincoln in the Bardo

by George Saunders (Penguin Random House Audio)


2. Circe

by Madeline Miller (Hachette Audio)


3. Less

by Andrew Sean Greer (Hachette Audio)


4. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine

by Gail Honeyman (Penguin Random House Audio)


5. Tangerine

by Christine Mangan (HarperCollins)


6. Before We Were Yours

by Lisa Wingate (Penguin Random House Audio)


7. The Female Persuasion

by Meg Wolitzer (Penguin Random House Audio)


8. Children of Blood and Bone

by Tomi Adeyemi (Macmillan Audio)


9. The Great Alone

by Kristin Hannah (Macmillan Audio)


10. The Woman in the Window

by A. J. Finn (HarperCollins)


Nonfiction

1. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark

by Michelle McNamara (HarperCollins)


2. Educated

by Tara Westover (Penguin Random House Audio)


3. How to Change Your Mind

by Michael Pollan (Penguin Random House Audio)


4. The Soul of America

by Jon Meacham (Penguin Random House Audio)


5. Barracoon

by Zora Neale Hurston (HarperCollins)


6. Killers of the Flower Moon

by David Grann (Penguin Random House Audio)


7. A Higher Loyalty

by James Comey (Macmillan Audio)


8. The Feather Thief

by Kirk Wallace Johnson (Penguin Random House Audio)


9. Fascism: A Warning

by Madeleine Albright (HarperCollins)


10. Not That Bad

by Roxane Gay (HarperCollins)


The June 2018 audiobook bestseller list is based on sales through independent bookstore locations during the month of May 2018.

The Perfect Gift for Mom

This Sunday 5/13 is Mother’s Day! Are you looking for the perfect gift for mom? Gift her an audiobook from Libro.fm, and your purchase supports your local independent bookstore. Head over to our gift center and find the perfect audiobook gift.

Start Gifting


Need some other ideas? Check out these audiobooks that examine and celebrate motherhood!

That Kind of Mother

by Rumaan Alam

Like many first-time mothers, Rebecca Stone finds herself both deeply in love with her newborn son and deeply overwhelmed. She reaches out to the only person at the hospital who offers her any real help—Priscilla Johnson—and begs her to come home with them as her son’s nanny. Rebecca is white, and Priscilla is black, and through their relationship, Rebecca finds herself confronting, for the first time, the blind spots of her own privilege. When Priscilla dies unexpectedly in childbirth, Rebecca steps forward to adopt the baby. As she soon learns, navigating motherhood for her is a matter of learning how to raise two children whom she loves with equal ferocity, but whom the world is determined to treat differently. This is a remarkable audiobook about the lives we choose, and the lives that are chosen for us.

Motherhood

by Sheila Heti

In her late thirties, when her friends are asking when they will become mothers, the narrator of Heti’s intimate and urgent audiobook considers whether she will do so at all. In Motherhood, Sheila Heti asks what is gained and what is lost when a woman becomes a mother, treating the most consequential decision of early adulthood with candor, originality, and humor.

The Perfect Mother

by Aimee Molloy

They call themselves the May Mothers—a collection of new moms who gave birth in the same month. When the group’s members agree to meet for drinks at a hip local bar, something goes terrifyingly wrong: one of the babies is taken from his crib. Unfolding over the course of thirteen fraught days and culminating in an exquisite and unexpected twist, The Perfect Mother is the perfect book for our times—a nuanced and addictively readable story that exposes the truth of modern mothers’ lives as it explores the power of an ideal that is based on a lie.

And Now We Have Everything: On Motherhood Before I Was Ready

by Meaghan O’Connell

This audiobook is a raw, funny, and fiercely honest account of becoming a mother before feeling like a grown up. When Meaghan O’Connell got accidentally pregnant in her twenties and decided to keep the baby, she realized that the book she needed — a brutally honest, agenda-free reckoning with the emotional and existential impact of motherhood — didn’t exist. So she decided to write it herself.

The Best Cook in the World: Tales from My Momma’s Table

By Rick Bragg

The irresistible stories in this audiobook are of long memory — many of them pre-date the Civil War, handed down skillet by skillet, from one generation of Braggs to the next. In The Best Cook in the World, Rick Bragg finally preserves his heritage by telling the stories that framed his mother’s cooking and education, from childhood into old age. Because good food always has a good story, and a recipe, writes Bragg, is a story like anything else.

Educated: May Pick for “Now Read This”

Educated by Tara Westover is the May 2018 selection for the PBS NewsHour—New York Times “Now Read This” Book Club

Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, Tara Westover did not go to the doctor or attend school—until she taught herself enough mathematics, grammar, and science to take the ACT and was admitted to Brigham Young University. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge University.

Westover told the New York Times: “I wrote the book I wished I could have given to myself when I was losing my family. When I was going through that experience, I became aware of how important stories are in telling us how to live—how we should feel, when we should feel proud, when we should feel ashamed. I was losing my family, and it seemed to me that there were no stories for that—no stories about what to do when loyalty to your family was somehow in conflict with loyalty to yourself. And forgiveness. I wanted a story about forgiveness that did not conflate forgiveness with reconciliation, or did not treat reconciliation as the highest form of forgiveness. In my life, I knew the two might always be separate. I didn’t know if I would ever reconcile with my family, and I needed to believe that I could forgive, regardless.”

Listen to this sample, and buy the Educated  audiobook on Libro.fm to support your local, independent bookstore with your purchase!

You can submit questions about Educated to the Now Read This Book Club Facebook Group. Are you reading the book with your friends? Use these discussion questions to get your conversations started.

Bookstore Day: Thank you!

Thank you to everyone—booksellers and customers—who participated in Independent Bookstore Day 2018! Your commitment to reading and community is what makes this day a success.

As a result of YOU spreading the word, we welcomed many new people to the Libro.fm family, some of whom have never tried audiobooks before. You’re empowering others to support local, independent bookstores with their audiobook purchases—which means you also just did all these things. You’re the reason that independent bookstores are thriving.

Did you miss the free audiobooks on Saturday? Don’t worry, we have the next-best thing. Check out our Great Audiobooks On Sale playlist for a fantastic collection of titles currently priced $10 or less!

Libro.fm received so much love on social media from bookstores, authors, and influencers—so much that we can’t include every mention in this blog post—but here are a couple highlights:

Page 158 Books

Laini Taylor

Rima – @pardonmywritings

Jessica from the Country Bookshelf

James Patterson

Starline Books

The Bookish Babes

Vroman’s Bookstore