The Doctor of Words

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Canada-based novelist Farzana Doctor speaks about her life as the author of queer novels.

Farzana Doctor used to write even as a little girl. Some time in high school though, she stopped. However, her experience as a South Asian in Canada, when racism was still common, and later, coming out as a lesbian, sparked a wish to be a writer again. It was only when she attended a writing workshop that she came out with the first chapter of Stealing Nasreen and she didn't stop until the book was published in 2007.

Stealing Nasreen earned immense acclaim and also raised eyebrows because of its storyline. The book's title character, Nasreen, is a lesbian and the story tracks her equation with two other characters, Shaffiq and Salma, both of who find themselves attracted to her.

Doctor, who, much like Nasreen, is also an Indo-Canadian lesbian psychotherapist, looks back to the time when she came out of the closet. "I looked for books that would give me information and comfort; books that would help me find my identity but there were very few. Since I wrote Stealing Nasreen, I have received messages from several young people saying that they enjoyed the book or that it has helped them understand," she says.

Since then, Doctor has also published her second book, Six Metres of Pavement, which won the Lambda Literary Award (Lammy) and has also been shortlisted for the Toronto Book Award. The Lammy is an international award for queer fiction, and has raised the profile of both Doctor and her book. Six Metres of Pavement follows the lead character, Ismail Boxwala after he makes a tragic mistake and struggles to continue living. But his story changes when he meets Fatima and Celia.

"With Stealing Nasreen, finding a publisher took two-and-a-half years and it was a frustrating experience. It was easier with Six Metres… and it's already getting positive feedback," she says.

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