Publisher: Book Venture (January 7, 2015)
Category: Modern Day Historical Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Literary Fiction, Health
Tour Dates: October/November, 2015
Available in: Print & ebook, 154 Pages
The emotionally-wounded survivors of the 9/11 attacks include a fifty-year old, South African Muslim scientist, Leila, who lost her fiancée, Khalid, on that fateful day. She is the narrator of a story threading together the lives of four South African Muslims navigating a technologically advanced and increasingly-complicated world.
Initially tentative in pursuing her dream to aid patients with HIV/AIDS and other diseases (following deaths of loved ones to these illnesses) in the face of adversity encountered as a US immigrant, Leila finally asserts herself in middle age to carve her own identity and provide possible solutions to the management of diseases rampant in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The fierce urgency of now
When one is young and life stretches ahead of you, unblemished and filled with promise, there seems to be ample opportunity to make mistakes and dream because another tomorrow is virtually a guarantee. Along the way to middle age, one realizes that time is a precious commodity. Martin Luther King’s phrase best describes the “fierce urgency of now.” We rightfully celebrate stars in every sphere who have internalized that message and excelled in different fields. There may even be a sense of ennui, among “us,” (the ordinary people) that lack of opportunity and the unfairness of the game called life will forever hold us back from expressing our views.
However, every person is unique and every person’s life matters, even the poorest among us, especially the poorest among us. I saw this first-hand, after job loss and traveling on a bus to see the then-newly-unveiled bust of Martin Luther King Jr. in Washington. I was surrounded by poor people who lived in one of those forgotten neighborhoods that the mainstream press cites in crime statistics. Everyone in the bus seemed to consciously or sub-consciously hope that the positive impact of a man that inspired a movement would rub off on their individual lives.
That same passion unites people in every country ─ whether its citizens are at war, peace, or simply battling to put food on the table. It is a passion that should inspire people for their entire lives. The only way to recognize that need is if we develop means of communicating with one another in the 21st-century that is based on the premise of treating others as one would like to be treated oneself.
That is easier said than done and the difficulties in adhering to that simple “golden rule” is the foundation on which I based a South-African-focused novel (filled with historical and scientific information for readers interested in understanding those topics) of a middle-aged Muslim woman who, after ups and downs, forges her own path and contributes to practical solutions in her home country.
She wondered how her sophisticated frenemy, Khadija, would
handle news of her romance. Back in the day, Khadija roamed the
streets of Mitchells Plain in the Western Cape with her ne’er-do-well
brother, Jamiel. He supplied the tik,db as crystal methamphetamine was
known on the Cape Flats.dc Khadija supplied his gangster friends with
her nubile charms in order to keep Jamiel out of the hands of the police.
Jamiel spent years in Pollsmoor prison (in spite of her efforts), far
removed from its most famous inmate— Nelson Mandela—but close
to the ritual violence that continue to keep law-abiding citizens behind
security gates in present-day South Africa. His current stint in the prison
was for mertingdd mandrax lollipops—sugary confections laced with the
synthetic chemical, methaqualone.
Luckily, Khadija soon realized that she was better off obtaining a
restraining order against her brother, quitting her own two-rand-a-stick
dagga habit (marijuana cigarette), and heading for the bright lights of
Cape Town. The seaside resort city had become a mecca for animal-sexfetish
videos, but she preferred to confine her job hunting to escortingolder-
white-gentlemen activities until something more mainstream
crossed her path. Khadija, unlike Leila, was a survivor. Her do-whateverit-
takes mentality had lifted her from poverty endemic to the colored
townships to a sugar daddy–sponsored scholarship at the University
of Cape Town and a business degree. Life had certainly rewarded the
woman with the “take-no-prisoners” attitude. The sophisticated woman
approaching Leila’s table bore no resemblance to the Donna Summer–clone of the eighties who had used her sexual gifts and intellect to climb the ladder of success.
Khadija’s conservative blue business suit and matching pumps would
not have been out of place at the local Dutch Reformed Church. She slid
into the booth next to Leila and exchanged air-kisses with her. Leila
faked a smile. She had difficulty hiding her emotions but knew that
she could not alert her gossip-hungry friend about the previous night.
Instead, she diverted the conversation with questions about Khadija’s
Praise for The Heroine Next Door by Zeena Nackerdien:
“As a scientist turned patient advocate and writer, Nackerdien is intensely interested in building relationships with people from different cultures through storytelling and education. It is that drive that is palpable in this novel THE HEROINE NEXT DOOR – the author’s dichotomous life as experienced in apartheid-South-Africa and a Western world responding to the digital information age and emergent diseases: she knows terror, especially as a Muslim woman. She incorporates all of this In THE HEROINE NEXT DOOR, surprisingly her debut novel, by creating a fictional character, Leila, emerging from the darkness cast by personal and political upheavals, who gains a sense of her own identity and contributes knowledge gained in the USA to improving the management of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and other illnesses in South Africa.
One of the many shining aspects of Zeena’s luminous novel is her sharing the sensibilities of immigrants whose new life in a new country must sort out not only language and dress barriers but also religious or spiritual belief differences. In electing to focus on that turning point moment in history – the 9/11 tragedy – as the stimulus for altering life perspectives she manages to give us all a better sense of understanding and at least a different point of view – both healing factors in a nurturing a wound worthy of comparison to Amfortas’ wound in PARSIFAL. Highly recommended.” –Grady Harp, Amazon Top 100 Reviewer, Hall of Fame
“I am able to identify with both the notion of being personally and/or emotionally uprooted on and after 9/11 as well as the concept of being utterly overwhelmed by life in NYC. Zeena Nackerdien’s work rings a personal note with both natives and those making the journey to establishing themselves in the metropolis.”-Curt, Amazon Reviewer
” What a haunting story. We all remember that fateful day. We are introduced to Leila, a brilliant woman whose life is turned upside down on September 11, 2001 when her fiance is killed in the attack. Through a series of Facebook posts we are taken on a journey that explores Leila’s past, her relationships with family and friends, and her background in the field of science. Heartwarming and raw, you will find yourself in a great story of triumph. Zeena Nackerdien has written a wonderful story, highly recommend this read!”- Sierra Klein, Amazon Reviewer
Zeena Nackerdien is a dual US and South African citizen. She obtained a PhD degree in Biochemistry from the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa. Zeena has been a research chemist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Maryland and a senior research associate at The Rockefeller University in New York.
She is the author of several publications in scientific journals and two poetry collections, “Mist Over Peace” and “Scatterlings.” As a scientist turned patient advocate and writer, she is intensely interested in building relationships with people from different cultures through story-telling and education. Zeena currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.
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