The Book That Changed Your Life: Ahmad Danny Ramadan

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      The Word Vancouver festival is gearing up for its 2017 edition with a huge and inclusive lineup of authors, appearing at venues around town from September 19 to 24.

      We asked a group of these acclaimed writers to tell us about their most memorable reading experiences. Which books shaped their imaginations early on? Which ones taught them the power of the written word?

      Here’s what Syrian-Canadian author and LGBTQ refugees activist Ahmad Danny Ramadan told us. He’s recently won praise for his English-language debut, The Clothesline Swing. He’ll be reading from the work at 11 a.m. on September 24, on the Suspension Bridge stage outside the central branch of the Vancouver Public Library.

      Growing up in Damascus, Syria, I had a very limited access to any books written outside of the country. Many books were censored or banned by the Syrian regime, especially books that brought understanding and connections to other cultures. I had to wait until I lived in Egypt in the early 2000s to get to read the book that would teach me how to be a better author. 

      In Cairo in my early 20s, I stumbled upon a novel called One Hundred Years of Solitude by an author I didn't even recognize at the time called Gabriel García Márquez. My friends there, a group of geeks and nerds who also enjoyed reading, found the matter laughable, as Márquez was quite the phenomenon by then. I ignored their laughs, and bought the book. 

      Slipping into the magical world of Márquez truly consumed me. I was taken by the storytelling, the magical realism and his ability to connect lives and ancestors with stories that echo through time and place. By the time I finished the book, I felt like there was a light that was lit within me, enhancing my own writing, and teaching me how to produce a glimpse of that magic myself. 

      Now, whenever I feel a writer's block coming upon me, I find myself pulling any of Márquez novels and reading for a bit; I either overcome my writer's block, or at least I feel the warmth of my favourite author again.

      Mike Carter