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Thread by @BookThingo: "IASPR18 session 8 is on "Muslim and Middle Eastern Romances" chaired by @kecia_ali First paper is “Muslims Reading Romance: Bruneian conside […]" #IASPR18 #IAPR18

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#IASPR18 session 8 is on "Muslim and Middle Eastern Romances" chaired by @kecia_ali
First paper is “Muslims Reading Romance: Bruneian considerations of “halal” and romance novels” by Kathrina Daud (University of Brunei) #IASPR18
Kathrina talked to non-Muslims about halal romances and their perceptions of these stories. #IASPR18
Background of study: Kathrina grew up knowing bookstores that stock things that sell. When she was growing up, this was popular romance: the Js! Romances that didn't come from the region but mostly the US, and always in English. #IASPR18
How does a romance writer emerge in Brunei? What kinds of romances are written? What are they writing and for whom? Growing number of Mulim romances, eg Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed #IASPR18
Trust Me by Laura Florand, and Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson also feature Muslim heroines. #IASPR18
This is a list of English language romances written by Bruneian authors. Slow uptake, most self-published. Similar pattern in Singapore and Malaysia. #IASPR18
For a long time, in mainstream bookstores, there was not a lot of fiction that reflected local experiences. Brunei is post-colonial and have affinity with UK. Writers desire to be seen on the world stage. #IASPR18
In local media, there's high awareness of how Brunei is seen by the rest of the world. In 2013, Brunei introduce Syariah Penal Code, there was international outcry; SE scholars reacted with less intensity. #IASPR18
Kathrina is giving an overview of the place of halal in Bruneian literature. There are types of writing that would be considered controversial, and might require writers to jump through hoops. #IASPR18
Jewel and For You, I Do by Aisha Malik are now marketed as sweet romance rather than halal romance. Jewel deals with how halal can work within romance. For You, I Do is more wish fulfilment. #IASPR18
Malik doesn't intent for novels to be specifically Bruneian but a global Muslim audience. Began writing stories on Wattpad. #IASPR18
One of the problems of identifying and codifying some literature as halal is that you potentially restrict what gets considered as halal. #IASPR18
Malik constantly updates and changes her ebooks - recent changes to covers. Added an epilogue to Jewel on Wattpad because readers asked for it. Removed non-halal scene from Amazon version. #IASPR18
Malik reads non-halal romance, but doesn't want to replicate them. She wants an alternative for other readers. #IASPR18
Q on marketing books to a global audience (eg sweet romance sounds a bit like Amish romance). Kathrina: Malik had a built-in readership on Wattpad that she relied on for Amazon sales. Shy about marketing herself in Brunei. #IASPR18
Malik's provenance as a writer stemmed from reading Twilight. #IASPR18
Q on code switching in the text. Kathrina: She does do this, but it's explained in English immediately. #IASPR18
Q on if Wattpad popularity translated to Amazon sales: Kathrina: It did not. #IASPR18
Next paper is “Reading and Writing Muslim Romance Online” by @cparnell_c (University of Melbourne) #IASPR18
Claire starts with a case study fo A Muslim's Romantic Journey by KittyCrackers published on @wattpad and which was a 2014 Wattys winner. #IASPR18
Wattpad can fill publishing's "diversity deficit". It's a free social writing and reading platform. More than 35 million global users per month. Stories are published in serialised chapters. Taps into ways in which users interact online,. #IASPR18
Largely follows Henry Jenkins' concept of participatory culture. Users once relegated to the margins of cultural production can participate in the creation and consumption of media products. #IASPR18
Publishing on these sites are influenced but the technical platforms used. #IASPR18
Social media platforms operate in 2 configurations: as individual microsystems, and as a broader connective media ecosystem. Elements to consider: ratings, commenting, social connections, T&Cs. These shape interactions online. #IASPR18
Claire is doing a textual analysis and also analysis of comments for her research. #IASPR18
Wattpad graphic headers sometimes used by KittyCrackers to link to YouTube videos on Islam. Story flips an Orientalist trope, because antagonists are the less Orientals, more Westernised characters. #IASPR18
Chapter 1 of this story had around 2500 comments from just over 1500 commenters. Reading is not passive. #IASPR18
Claire used just 10 chapters out of 77, and analysed 9576 comments. #IASPR18
Commenters act as beta readers and collaborators of production. #IASPR18
Comments are predominantly affirmative, defined by positive responses to the text, including support for author and declarations of love for characters, writing, story (including "YASS BEARDS"). #IASPR18
There's only limited writing and editing advice on Wattpad. Fewer than 3% of comments per chapter mentions writing. Constructive writing advice is extremely limited on Wattpad. #IASPR18
Q on sentimental analysis. Claire: Used judgment call. This was a deliberate choice bc Wattpad comments are hugely idiosyncratic & it took Claire a while to say what they were saying (eg nyc = nice) which makes senti strength cumbersome to use & just as subjective. #IASPR18
Next paper is on “The Kitchen and Beyond: Romantic Chronotope of Pakistani Popular Fiction” by Javaria Farooqui (University of Tasmania) #IASPR18
Covers feature glamour shots Publishers, writers and readers are women. Content order: inspirational/religious quotes, celebrity/author interviews, episode from serialised novel, short tstories, reader letters, celeb gossip, beauty tips. #IASPR18
Serials used to feature domestic stories. Recently, the focus has been on thrillers. #IASPR18
Javaria refers to these as kitchen-literature to refer to the genre fiction published in women's digests bc of significance of some reading digest during intermittent stirrings of the curry pot. #IASPR18
"The kitchen is not only the space where essential union between the lovers take place, but also the extra-diegetic space where romance is usually read." #IASPR18
Climax is the declaration of acceptance of love, mostly in the form of poetry. The poetic utterance is charged with romantic overtones & acts as a proxy for scenes of explicit sexual intimacy so as to place the narrative within cultural norms. #IASPR18
Javaria has found it hard to translate the poems because some of them are so orgasmic. #IASPR18
Q on whether poems are original. Javaria: Poems are not extracts. They are written by the authors. Many stories have titles that come from verses of the poems. #IASPR18
Q on whether the kitchen works similarly to Regency drawing room. Javaria: No. In Pakistan, drawing room conversation would be like Regency drawing room - restricted. Kitchen is more of a private space fo the female. #IASPR18
Q on circulation of digests. Javaria: Nominal price, monthly publication. 2 types of readers: those who can return them to the bookshop, and those who buy to keep. Most of the digests aren't in good condition when returned. #IASPR18
Q on if heroines get new kitchens. Javaria: Of course! Female writers seem to have a fetish on hands. When a *good* woman enters a kitchen, she has the ability to renovate the kitchen - everything looks perfect. #IASPR18
Q on men in the kitchen space. Javaria: This is why hero entering the space is so significant. #IASPR18
Q on explicitness of the poetic utterances. Javaria: In some cases it's like imagined sexual encounter, in a very culturally restricted way, #IASPR18
Next paper is on “Girls of Riyadh and Desperate in Dubai: Reading and writing romance in the Middle East” by @dramyburge (University of Birmingham) #IAPR18
These books are chick lit, a genre in decline in the West, but which remains very popular in Asia and the Middle East. Both novels were banned for a while, but both mostly available now. #IAPR18
Chick lit provenance centres around 4 books, including Bridget Jones' Diary by Helen Fielding (centres on British lit). Girls of Riyadh and Desperate in Dubai acknowledge the Western heritage of the genre, but are also critical of it. #IAPR18
Both novels blend Western romantic culture with Arab culture. A lot of prominent Arab personalities and popular cultural references are cited, most of which would be unknown to a Western audience. #IAPR18
Author Amber Al-Hakawati acknowledges the influence of chick lit but specifically avoids writing sheikh romance. Wanted to write it to be more fair, with a more thoughtful reflection on the representation of Arab men and women. #IAPR18
Chick lit strains the borders of genre. Girls of Riyadh has a more literary aspiration. Tries to position itself against literary fiction while at the same time claiming not to be worthy of such classification. #IAPR18
Amy is looking at paratextual elements. Covers signal chick lit genre. Comparison of international editions. #IAPR18
Amy points out iconography on international covers that denote Middle Eastern culture. #IAPR18
Amy has just begun this project. Some final thoughts:
- What makes a romance global or local? (Genre? Mode? Audience?)
- Girls of Riyadh and Desperate in Dubai are dual citizens - "inserted in their own literary traditions" in additional to western foremothers. #IAPR18
To what extent do audiences shape or change the genre? #IAPR18
Who gets to define the chick lit genre? When is a work considered part of the genre, and when is it considered as copying the genre? Who is allowed to determine this? The use of the term "exotic chick lit" implies that they are outside of the genre. #IAPR18
Q on how readers engage with these texts. Amy: Haven't had a chance to look at that yet. Would be interested to look at comments on the original blog of Desperate in Dubai, or Goodreads responses. #IAPR18
Q on whether at least one character is a writer. Amy: Girls of Riyadh narrated by a 5th character, not one of the characters. One characters becomes a TV producer, others in medical profession. Love story not the primary aspect. #IAPR18
Q on how books situate themselves not just in fiction, but also in poetry. Amy: Desperate in Dubai has pop songs, quotations, but not as rooted in literary tradiation as Girls in Riyadh. Some moments in they present texts in verse. #IAPR18
We're moving to a general Q&A for the 4 speakers in this session. #IAPR18
Q on Pakistani digests. M&B used to be published in magazines. Is there editorial input into choosing the stories? Javaria: They are notoriously unreachable, and exert strict control over the content. #IAPR18
Q on if hearing other papers made them think differently about their work? Javaria: Digests start with religious anecdotes, but after that, there's nothing. It's taken for granted, not overtly emphasised. No mention of the story being halal or Islam. #IAPR18
Interesting that KittyCrackers distances herself from a specific cultural background. Hsu-Ming comments that maybe it's because it's in Wattpad. Younger writers want to write something universal. #IAPR18
Q on the audience for Wattpad stories and if there's a sense of locality. Claire: Predominantly young women/teenagers. Not all English-speaking. #IAPR18
TFW you realise you've been using the wrong hashtag all afternoon. 😩 Please scroll upthread for tweets on this afternoon's session. #IASPR18
Q on how family relates to the heroine's journey. Javaria hasn't focused much on this, but family relationship is extremely important in kitchen-literature. This is a lot to do with spaces. Heroine learns from female relatives. #IASPR18
Q on whether authors are benefiting financially or in other ways. Javaria: They make heaps of money. Usually you get published in the popular magazine, you get famous, the producer contacts the author for adaptations, then contracted to write drama series and write books #IASPR18
That's the end of of day 2 of #IASPR18. We're off to the conference dinner! @minavesguerra and I will be presenting tomorrow morning, just before lunch.
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