Nemat Sadat: Author Interview

The Carpet Weaver by Nemat Sadat intrigued us the day we learned about the book. Set in Afghanistan in the 1970’s the book narrates the tale of the son of a leading carpet seller who falls in love with his friend. We at thenotoriousreader knew that we had to know more about this book and the author.

Nemat Sadat is a prominent activist and journalist currently based in the USA. He was the first native from Afghanistan to have publicly come out as gay, and he has been bravely campaigning for LGBTQIA rights in Muslim communities worldwide. Sadat has previously worked at ABC News Nightline, CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS, and The UN Chronicle, and has earned six university degrees, including graduate degrees from Harvard, Columbia, and Oxford. The Carpet Weaver is his first novel.

What inspires you to pick up your pen and write?

I was initially drawn to writing fiction first and foremost as a radical escapist fantasy from the self-repression that I had faced and the lingering hurt from my experience with unrequited love.

Back in 2008 when I penned my first words for The Carpet Weaver, I languished both in the closet and the shadows and felt that I needed an outlet for my suffering. Writing seemed like a sure way to satisfy an emotional void in my heart and liberate myself from the mental shackles forged by both homophobia and homesickness. It was a cathartic experience for me.

Nowadays what inspires me to write is the messages I receive from fans on a daily basis who tell me how inspired they are in reading The Carpet Weaver and keep telling me they are eagerly waiting to read my next book. This certainly is a great incentive to keep on writing—and fast.

Can you please give us some more information about your book?

The Carpet Weaver is a gay Bildungsroman romantic drama. More specifically, it’s a Künstlerroman since my fictional hero, Kanishka Nurzada is by definition an artist. I would say that coming-of-age novels have had the influence on me and my decision to write novels. Books such as Catcher in The Rye by J.D. Salinger, Funny Boy by Shyam Selvudurai, Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, Slumdog Millionaire by Vikas Swarup, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz, and The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini are all titles that are comparable to The Carpet Weaver and more or less influenced the development of my skills as writer.

In addition, to being a coming-of-age story, The Carpet Weaver is also a book about the clash of cultures, a love story, and an essential book of gay literature. In terms of culture clash, I would say Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, and The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai are all books that helped me explore Kanishka’s complex identity conflict.

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Can you please tell us more about the main character of the book?

Kanishka Nurzada is more than just a hero in the story or a pioneer of his troubled nation. I see him as a voice and The Carpet Weaver as a vessel for the aspirations of the hundreds of millions of criminalized LGBTQIA people who live in one of the 68 or so countries in Asia and around the world where they are still criminalized and struggling for their liberation. So it is my hope that The Carpet Weaver will become the defining book of our generation to spearhead the petition to legalize homosexuality everywhere where LGBTQIA people still have no right to exist.

Why did you choose to write about this particular topic?

The world is split on LBGTQ rights and I firmly believe that The Carpet Weaver will be the catalyst to tip the scales in favor of a gay-friendly planet. In other words, what Brokeback Mountain did by breaking fresh ground as the first gay romance to crossover into the mainstream and change attitudes toward homosexuality and transform American culture and the West with overall acceptance of marriage equality, I expect The Carpet Weaver is well-positioned to be at the heart of the conversation about LGBTQIA rights.

Will you be trying your hand at any other genre?

Most of my books will be cross-genre but categorized mainly as literary or upmarket fiction. There is a novel I’m planning to write that is speculative dystopian fiction but it will be more line with the literary dystopias that Margaret Atwood writes than the kind of titles you read in the science fiction genre.

When should we expect your next book? What will it be about?

Hopefully, I’ll make an announcement next year. I just finished writing the first draft of my second novel. which is an upmarket fiction title called Keeping Up With The Hepburns. It’s a gay rom-com (romantic comedy) that is set primarily in Washington, D.C. during the Trump era and features a Transatlantic love affair with a Dutchie Adonis and has an Indian plot twist for kickers. My fictional hero in this novel, Dilawar Barakzai, is a vigorous vegan warrior who finds it more than worthwhile to conquer “The Land of Love” with his plant-based agenda. And the stakes are high for my hero as he experiences a spiritual awakening after meeting his twin flame. My fictional hero embarks on an adventurous inter-continental romantic escapade and aspires to become the Don Quixote of the Vegan world. And after this, I have more novels in the pipeline.
Not all my books are about Afghanistan. But all of my books will have LGBTQIA characters, identities, and themes. Once I’ve published a collection of novels, I also plan to write a memoir titled Sacred Cow of the Netherworld: A Memoir of a Gay Afghan Refugee.

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If not a writer, what would have been the career of your choice?

If I was not Nemat Sadat the activist and writer. Most definitely I would want to be an internationally-acclaimed human rights lawyer who presides addresses the UN Security Council, teaches at Columbia Law School, is married to a Hollywood celebrity, goes to British royal weddings, retreats in Lake Cuomo, and jet sets between her law firm in London to far-flung countries around the world to meet my clients who are imprisoned and tortured without due
process. Basically, I would want to be Amal Clooney.

Can you tell us about your favorite author?

I would say, James Baldwin. He’s certainly a giant in the realm of literature—both in fiction and non-fiction. It’s almost impossible to go through a creative writing program in the US without reading Baldwin’s works. I love how in Sonny’s Blues Baldwin has two storylines—one the current running story and the other the backstory both moving forward parallel next to each other. Likewise, Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room stands out as a classic work of gay literature that informed me of how to treat the themes of manhood, masculinity, and social isolation in The Carpet Weaver.

What do you like to do when you are not busy writing?

Of course, reading. I prefer to read novels, mainly literary or upmarket fiction. I also read biographies and memoirs too. I’m also a marathoner so I love going on long runs—it helps me clear my mind and stir my creative writing muse.

Are there any words of wisdom that you would like to share with our reader?

The Carpet Weaver offers the best words of wisdom. It shows you what life can do to someone who is forced to live a fake life—shrouded by hypocrisy and secrets—in a politically charged, repressive society. So for those readers who have undecided in taking the call to action whether it’s reconciling their gender identity and sexual orientation with their faith (or lack thereof) or aspire to become an author or another profession in the arts or something else entirely, The Carpet Weaver is a wake-up call. Its message is very clear: don’t waste your life living for others because you will never find true happiness.

You can read more about his book by clicking here.

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