The Bahari Paradox | Seeking Literary Agent Representation

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 17:46 p.m. EDT, 23 January 2014

Book of Magic, Photo by Catherine L MommsenAgents interested in projects similar to Malika Oufkir’s Stolen Lives will see the potential in marketing my first novel, The Bahari Paradox. This book project grapples with perseverance, survival, and the triumph of a woman journeying to realize her full potential.

Synopsis: She teeters on the top railing of her balcony certain she could jump to her death but unsure as to whether or not she should. Yes, she could end it all; splatter herself and her unborn infant across the asphalt boardwalk below. She envisioned how tourists would scream and retirees relaxing and sunbathing on balconies beneath her would be frozen with shock and fear as her brown pregnant body plummeted to the ground like a dark comet descending from the heavens.

No one in her life would know and perhaps not even care what she'd done. Her husband is missing. Her ordained Baptist mother is estranged. Her younger sister is emotionally distant. Her radical Islamist father lives a continent away. The coroner would scrape a broken, spiritless body from the concrete only to discover there is nowhere to send her remains.

Trying to summon her courage as her toes flirt with the end of the precipice, she remembers a stretch of sand along the Indian Ocean called Bahari Beach -- the last enchanting place she'd experienced, the last place she truly felt alive. Memories wash over her like crystal blue waves, salty, sharp, and sweet.

She recalled a puzzling series of childhood events that occurred in rapid succession: her father joining a radical sect within the Nation of Islam, hastily exiting the United States as the daughter of an Anti-American, Pan Africanist expatriate on the run, traveling cross-continent in a Peugeot 504 wagon from West Africa to East Africa; miraculously surviving a particularly virulent strain of cerebral malaria, and finally escaping back to America with her mother and sister after years in exile—free at last from the torment of the domestic violence inflicted upon them by an abusive, tyrannical father.

She returns to America culturally fragmented and psychologically fragile. Failing in her efforts at acculturation and re-integration with her peers, her mother sent her away to a wildness camp hopefully to heal. While there she is sexually assaulted by an older counselor and begins a downward slide into an alternate lifestyle. Here too she begins to hitchhike up and down the east coast and eventually meets and starts a thankfully brief relationship with a Native American biker the summer before starting her freshman year at college.

With high hopes for living a more stable existence, she enters a small New England college to which she has been awarded an academic scholarship. Unbeknownst to her she is pregnant. Isolated and feeling victimized after opting for a late-term abortion, she could not focus on her course work and the additional emotional distress resulted in failing grades and a year-long sabbatical.

She returns to DC thinking a fresh environment might help her to leave behind some of the demons with which she was wrestling. Here she meets her first husband, a white American with a secret heroin addiction which was revealed when she unexpected found him ‘shooting up’ in the bathroom. A bloody fight ensued, reminiscent of those between her father and mother. This devastating turn of events was compounded by learning that she is pregnant for a second time. In quick succession, she terminates the pregnancy, divorces him and moves to Florida seeking to leave behind her mounting disappointments with her life choices.

In Miami, she meets an Israeli tourist ten-years her junior. They decide to marry and live together five-years. The South Beach environs where they lived accommodated their open marriage and non-traditional lifestyle. Tiring of life in the fast lane, on a whim they move to New York. Here she exercises her option to leave him to travel and to live briefly in Europe before returning to Miami to start fresh, newly divorced and alone yet again.

Nothing if not optimistic and believing that ‘the third time’s the charm’ she meets, falls deeply in love, and marries her third husband, a charismatic German, who runs an import and export business. Their lavish wedding at the Biltmore Hotel was extravagant and elegant even by Miami standards. Then at 38 she became pregnant for the third time and they decide to keep the child.

Their idyllic life together too soon began to unravel as the lies of her past and those of her new husband begin to surface. In truth, he is a member of the German mafia involved in trafficking contraband inside high-end luxury cars. Unexpectedly, as the birth of their son nears, she awoke to find he has disappeared after she took him to the airport, ostensibly to visit his dying mother in Germany. She is devastated. It was only later that she learned that he disappeared after defrauding his business partners and embezzling large sums of money from friends and acquaintances.

Federal, state, and local detectives had been investigating their actions for some time and questioned her to determine whether or not she was an accomplice. Business partners and associates were looking for him and she couldn’t assuage their suspicions. Abandoned, clueless, and alone, she inhabits a prison of an ocean front condo of marble, glass and fine Spanish furniture. Surrounded by the trappings of wealth she finds no comfort as she calls her husband’s phone until the service is disconnected. In a desperate bid to end the pain, to bring closure to a life of false starts and bruised spirit, she climbs onto the ledge to end it.

The BAHARI PARADOX is a 120,000 word creative non-fiction memoir which bears witness to the physical and psychological struggle of a woman trying to make sense of her oppressive childhood, sort through an impaired father-daughter relationship, synthesize her African and American religious and social heritage, and determine if she can come off the suicide ledge and raise her unborn child.

Perspective agents and interested parties may contact me at +1 (202) 499-2287 or via email at ayanna@nahmiasreport.com. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Competing and Related Titles:

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British Iraqi Family Executed Assassination Style

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 11:25 AM EDT, 6 September 2012

Town of Chevaline, Photo by QuinetCHEVALINE, France - A horrific fate befell the family of an Iraqi-born Briton named Saad al-Hilli who was from Surrey in southern England.

Saad, his wife, a grandmother, and two daughters were on holiday traveling through France when they were ambushed in an assassination style execution in the town of Chevaline. Reports state that Saad who was found dead at the wheel and the other victims were all shot twice in the head.

The BMW was riddled with bullets and 25 spent casings from an automatic weapon were strewn around the scene. Nearby, a possible witness was also shot dead and has been identified as French cyclist Sylvain Mollier, 45. The gruesome discovery was made on a road near the picturesque Annecy lake and the Swiss border.

What has propelled this story to international attention is the fact that two of the children escaped this brutal attack despite the apparent efforts to murder the entire family. Initially, authorities thought that only one child escaped, a girl of around eight who had been violently beaten on the head resulting in skull fractures. She is currently in critical condition and is undergoing a second operation in as many days.

While the authorities secured the scene to begin the investigation, the British registered vehicle was not opened nor the bodies disturbed for nearly eight hours. It was close to midnight when the forensic team entered the car whereupon they discovered amidst the bodies a girl of about four alive and unhurt. She had been hiding on the floor under the legs of the two dead women thought to be her mother and grandmother.

She was immediately rushed to hospital in the nearby city of Grenoble, where the young girl with the severe head injuries was being treated. As both girls speak English authorities believe that they are sisters. Apparently, the younger of the siblings was too scared to move, which is why she was unnoticed by police. Given the violent nature of this attack for which a motive has not been discovered, the two girls are currently under police protection.

Reuters interviewed prosecutor Eric Maillaud who told reporters in a late-night briefing that "She's clearly shocked but she's doing okay. She's not injured.”

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The Secret to a Peaceful House

Grandfather, Photo Ethnography, Raymond, CA, Photo by Ad Keltner

The carpenter I hired to help me restore an old farmhouse had just finished a rough first day on the job. A flat tire made him lose an hour of work, his electric saw quit, and now his ancient pickup truck refused to start. While I drove him home, he sat in stony silence.

On arriving, he invited me in to meet his family. As we walked toward the front door, he paused briefly at a small tree, touching the tips of the branches with both hands.

When opening the door he underwent an amazing transformation. His tanned face was wreathed in smiles and he hugged his two small children and gave his wife a kiss.

Afterward he walked me to the car. We passed the tree and my curiosity got the better of me. I asked him about what I had seen him do earlier.

"Oh, that's my trouble tree," he replied." I know I can't help having troubles on the job, but one thing's for sure, troubles don't belong in the house with my wife and the children. So I just hang them on the tree every night when I come home. Then in the morning I pick them up again."

He paused. "Funny thing is," he smiled, "when I come out in the morning to pick 'em up, there ain't nearly as many as I remember hanging up the night before."

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National Geographic Live! : Too Young to Wed

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 00:33 AM EDT, 10 July 2012

Many of the post that we feature deal with human rights abuses and in particular women’s rights abuses, as in the case of yesterday’s report of the Afghan woman who was executed. There is no justification for what happened to Najiba; however, to every story there is a back story, and though most people are unable to get beyond the emotional outrage of the act, including me, we often miss the underlying sociological constraints that actuate these reprehensible events.

That is why we have chosen to present this National Geographic video which highlights the work of photographer Stephanie Sinclair and writer Cynthia Gorney who together investigated the world of prearranged child marriage, where girls as young as five who live in remote regions of India, Ethiopia and Yemen among other places, are forced to wed and bear children.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7c_zppPutQw&feature=related]                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 “Born in 1973, Sinclair is an American photojournalist known for gaining unique access to the most sensitive gender and human rights issues around the world. Sinclair was recently awarded the Alexia Foundation Professional Grant, UNICEF's Photo of the Year and the Lumix Festival for Young Photojournalism Freelens Award for her extensive work on the issue of child marriage. She contributes regularly to National Geographic, The New York Times Magazine, TIME, Newsweek, Stern, German Geo and Marie Claire among others, and is based in Brooklyn, NY.” (Source: Stephanie Sinclair)

Though we would like to rush in like lions, we have seen time and again this approach is as effective as waving a proverbial magic wand and casting a spell to make the whole situation disappear. We all know this is not possible, but the video above provides compelling insight into why efforts to change abhorrent cultural practices via external pressure has ubiquitously failed.

Feast, Fete, Dead Guests | Famadihana Funeral Ritual

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 22:24 PM EDT, 16 March 2012

Famadihana, Rewrapping Body, Madagascar, Photo by Save Your Smile

AMBOHIMIRARY, Madagascar — When people think of dancing with the dead, they usually picture the New Orleans Carnival pre-Hurricane Katrina. Carnival in that city was an admixture of ghosts, ghouls, scantily clad women and men dancing through aged alleys full of shops selling haints, potions and the occasional voodoo apothecary.

However, in Madagascar, an island in the Indian Ocean off the Coast of East Africa, the inhabitants of the small farming village of Ambohimirary actually dance with their dead. The village is 20 miles west of the nation’s capital, Antananarivo, and it is inhabited by the Malagasy who practice a ritual called famadihana (pronounced fa-ma-dee-an).

This custom entails the exhumation of the shrouded bodies of dead relatives so that they may participate in a celebration which has been organized in their honor. The festival occurs every five, seven, nine or eleven years depending on the family and the amount of resources at their disposal.

The tradition is based on the belief that spirits do not leave their bodies until they completely decompose. Although the Island nation is predominantly Catholic, and the government initially attempted to outlaw the practice, millions of Malagasy still honor their ancestors in this way.

Everyone in the town and the surrounding villages are invited to participate in the three day festival which can cost around $1.2M Malagasy Ariary or $550. It is the responsibility of the families of the deceased to pay for the festivities and provide meals up to three times a day to all the guests who can number in the hundreds.

The fete begins with the bodies being removed from the family crypt. The soiled shrouds are sprinkled with expensive perfume or sparkling wine and then wrapped in woven mats. A marching band then leads a procession of the living, which carries the often cumbersome corpses of the dead to the place designated for the joyous celebration.

The Malagasy who practice famadihana believe that this is an important rite of passage because it honors their ancestors to whom they feel they owe a debt of gratitude. They do not ascribe to the Judeo-Christian belief that man comes from mud. For them, human beings come from the body, and the boundary between life and death is fluid, thus famadihana facilitates spirit travel back and forth across the void.

What makes this custom strange to most Jews, Muslims and even Christians, is the fact that the Malagasy remove and handle the bodies. In Judaism and Islam dead bodies are unclean, and after burial more so and thus should not be touch. In all three faiths the act of removing a dead body from its final resting place is considered desecration.

But every society has its own customs, for instance in India, the Hindus and Buddhist have their unique ceremonial practices in preparing loved ones for their transition.

“In Hinduism, immediately after the death, family members close the mouth and eyes of the deceased, and put the arms straight. Minimal contact with the body is observed because the body is believed to be impure. Then, the body is placed on the floor with the feet pointing towards the south which is the direction of the dead. An oil lamp is lit and placed near the body during a three day wake.

Hindus believe that once the soul sheds the body it prepares to depart immediately on its karmic journey. Because of this, it's very important to cremate the body as soon as practicable so there is no allure for the soul to linger this side of the world.

For this reason, both Buddhists and Hindus cremate the bodies immediately, preferably on the riverbank of the Ganges, the holiest place on earth for both faiths. The Buddhists prefer immediate dispersal of the ashes over the river, while the Hindus collect the ashes in an urn for disposal in a special year-end ceremony.” (Source: Webhealing & Wikipedia)

But, in Madagascar, this small, island nation off the coast of East Africa, after three days of raucous dancing and eating, the conversations with the corpses conclude, and the families prepare to return the bodies to the crypts. Carefully caressing and redressing the bodies; they bid adieu to their relatives, with the assurance that they will be reunited soon.

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In His Mirror | Nick Vujicic

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 03:46 AM EDT, 15 February 2012

Nick Vujicic, Oman, Photo by Vigor Enterprises

Nick Vujicic, Oman, Photo by Vigor Enterprises

WASHINGTON, DC - Today, it is a cold but relatively mild day.  After months of financial difficulties I have finally started working but it seems as if it has been a little late. But, things never happen early or late but always right on time.  However, when one is in the midst of a crisis such as I and many other Americans are currently facing, we pull in and embrace fear.  It is a hard place to be, to trust in God when one is on the verge of loosing one's home.

When I originally wrote this post I was in a different frame of mind in terms of how I interacted with the universe.  I believed at that time that things happened to me versus my envisioning and creating the experiences that subsequently happen to me.  The idea of active creation does not negate God, in whom I am an ardent believer; however, we must do our part in order for Him to do His.

That is why Nick Vujicic story is so important and why it was selected to be featured on our site.  It is a basic human tendency to teach ourselves and our children to speak about those things that we don't want, to vent and talk about what ails us, and to view ourselves as a victim while others prosper. We have moved beyond the 'Me Gen' to simply "Ego Driven."  We make no pretense at caring about others feelings or needs unless they can further our goals and objectives or assuage a present pain or discomfort.

Vujicic story stops most people in mid-thought because of his physical condition, but then it is his words, his life in action that is what truly captivates and reflects back to us our utter lack of respect for the sanctity of human life and gratefulness for all that we have not been called to struggle with.

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I have so much to be grateful for - in an economy where more than 8% of American are unemployed, I have finally secured a job. I have a wonderfully supportive mother and sister.  My son is healthy, extremely intelligent and beautiful.  I have good friends and after years of struggle I like who I am.

So why was I complaining?  Because that is what we do.  We complain.  It is like a computer virus, one can go on vacation to disconnect from the daily grind and totally recover through the antibiotics of peace, tranquility and centering; but upon return, once we plug back in we are easily susceptible to reinfection.

Our office mates complain, our friends and family complain, the people on the elevator complain, the people commuting on the train complain, the news delivers a stream of complaints and bad news ad nausea; and because human beings are social creatures, it is easier to conform and so unconsciously we comply.

Only through a shock to the system can we return to consciousness. Vujicic is a man who is living life fully on his terms, but not just for his benefit but for the inspiration and improvement of the lives of so many other people. Instead of wishing for conditions other than what he has, he embraces what he has been given and leverages his gifts and abilities to their fullest potential.

His story is phenomenally inspirational and the impact of his life is transformational in a way that other stories of survival though impressive tend fade with time.  I am a big fan of the Discovery Channel series "I Shouldn't Be Alive" and the Biography series "I Survived" because both feature individuals who survive horrible situations and tragedies through sheer will and determination.  It is a feeling that I am intimately acquainted with because I am a survivor.

However, to overcome a challenge over a brief span of time, though laudable and miraculous, it does not equate to sustained accomplishment. Vujicic would appear to have so much less than many of us and yet he has and continues to achieve everything he sets his mind to do, while helping others achieve similar freedom.

Vujicic is a living proof that “everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated, thus, everyone's task is unique as his specific opportunity.” ~ Viktor Frankl

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My mother often speaks to me about my attitude because she is a firm believer in faith.  Thoughts create reality and what we constantly think about we become or it occurs.  She often chides me about "meeting trouble halfway" and counsels me against this because "it usually dies somewhere in between;" meaning that the solution to far out problems almost always manifest before trouble arrives at ones' door.

I appreciate the mirror that Nick Vujicic's life, presented to me. My reflection in his life has challenged me to continue to be the best, to think the best, and to interact with people and the universe by giving my best. I hope this post inspires you, to attempt "to get up each morning with the resolve to be happy... and to set your own conditions to the events of each day. To do this is to condition circumstances instead of being conditioned by them.” ~ Ralph Waldo Trine.

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Virgin Cleansing Myth

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 13:16 PM EDT, 9 February 2012

Photo by Nicole Hinrichs - All Rights ReservedNEW DELHI, India – Yesterday we wrote about the scandal of three Indian politicians watching pornography during a parliament session. Today, Indian is once again in the news but in a slightly more positive light.

South African peace activist, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the 1984 Noble Peace Prize winner, is now chairman of ‘The Elders.” This group is comprised of prominent people of diverse backgrounds and heritage who are dedicated to addressing humanitarian issues from around the world.

Tutu, 80, is spearheading a global movement called “Girls Not Brides” which is aimed at ending child marriages. We have focused a lot of attention on this issue because this practice has such a deleterious impact on its victims. Child brides are subjected to rape, fistulas, physical and psychological abuse, and murder often condoned by the community as the right of the husband because of a lack of a dowry or as an honor killing.

Tutu told Reuters late Wednesday that "India is doing fantastically.” But intimated that the country’s growth and role as a significant world player could increase exponentially if it “enlisted the participation of 50 percent of the population,’ which means Women. The problem of marginalization, discrimination, abuse and murder of women is not unique to India.

Child marriages are most prevalent in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, but also occurs in the United States. Though many countries have laws on the books prohibiting this practice, most of the families that engage in this type of behavior live in remote regions of the country where the police have, in their opinion, more pressing concerns than what they consider to be a ‘family matter.’

According to the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), “100 million girls will be married before the age of 18 in the coming decade. Most will be in sub-Saharan Africa countries, some of which are (Mali, DRC, Mozambique, Eritrea, Ethiopia) and the Asian Subcontinent countries, some of which are (Nepal, India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh). In Niger, for example, 74.5% of women in their early 20s were married as children. In Bangladesh, 66.2% were. Child marriage also occurs in parts of the world including the United States and the Middle East. (Source: ICRW)

According to UNICEF, an estimated 14 million girls between the ages of 15 and 19 give birth each year. Because their bodies have not fully developed they are twice as likely to die during pregnancy or childbirth as women in their 20s. Girls who marry between the ages of 10 and 14 are five times as likely to die during pregnancy or childbirth, and their infants are 60 percent more likely to die. (Source: UNICEF)

In India, 47 percent of women between the ages of 20 and 24 are married before the legal age of 18 according to the government's latest National Family Health Survey. Tutu, who is traveling in India with other Elders, including former Irish President Mary Robinson and Gro Harlem Brundtland, who was Norway's first prime minister, believes that this type of inequality is a definite impediment to increased socioeconomic development.

Tutu has been a vociferous campaigner on the issues of fighting HIV/AIDS, an epidemic that has plagued his own country, South Africa. In numerous interviews he asserts his belief that girls married off to older men, have little control over their sex lives and thus are more likely to be infected by HIV/AIDS as a consequence.

This is especially true in South Africa, where older men who lack access to proper healthcare resort to raping female babies and infant girls. This abhorrent practice is known as the Virgin Cleansing Myth “that if a man infected with HIV, AIDS, or other sexually transmitted diseases has sex with a virgin girl, he will be cured of his disease.(Source: Wikipedia)

There are many issues that must be addressed worldwide in an effort to achieve gender equality.  We don’t believe that ‘gender equality’ equates with ‘gender sameness.’ Women and men are uniquely created to complement each other and we believe this is healthy. It is only when one or the other, but in the case of this post, when a man chooses to exert control over a woman and to rob her of her natural right to self-determination, that we must stand up in one voice and denounce the perpetrators.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said it best, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

Tutu, The Elders, and NGOs are doing their part to increase global awareness of the practice of child marriages. We can support these campaigns at a grassroots level through donations, writing and blogging about this issue, or just reaching out to a woman in need in your community. To achieve gender equality at all levels of society we must do all that we can in support of the development of 50 percent of humanity. Women.

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