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Writing about an illness is not new to literature as many have done so in the past such as Sylvia Plath, Oliver Sack, Ken Kesey and so on but few authors have addressed Cancer in literature, especially in the Arab region.
Cancer is something people don’t talk about and avoid at all cost for reasons that range from superstition – the belief that you will be inviting the disease if you mention it – or memories of painful times or they feel awkward talking about a subject that is deemed of a negative nature. But ‘Kuna M’aan’ (We Were Together) Noha Aser debut novel was written to change and challenge the way people think about cancer and gives support and hope to families who often don’t get emotional and psychological support or therapy during and after their experience with cancer.
Aser’s book ‘Kuna M’aan’ tells story of Karim (Aser son and first born) who was diagnosed with cancer at the tender age of 11 years and left our world when he was merely 15 years old. The book is divided into three parts; the first being the tale of Karim short life journey from when he was a helpless baby right to his last days and subsequent funeral, the second part focuses on Karim’s own writing, thoughts and notes he had written during his illness, the third and final part is the collection of letters and notes written by Karim’s friends. It is quite rare for people to address the topic of cancer in a positive light especially when they have lost a loved one to it, we have seen on social media people who overcome cancer post videos of positive messages and posts but to do so when you have suffered its cruel aspect is very unique that is why Aser is different both in her experience and this puzzling but admirable positivity.
The idea of the book was triggered after Aser was sharing posts with her friends and Karim’s friends on Faceook. Many of the followers began to be affected and influenced by his tale and they started asking about Karim and began to ask about the stories of Karim from when he was a child. Then they suggested that Aser collects these tales in a sort of Diary form and put it in a book which might help others and be a useful tool that acts as a positive experience. The search for a publishing house proved to be quite a difficult task as Aser searched endlessly for a publishing house that will agree to publish the book, the fact that she does not have an established name as a writer and this is her debut book made things all the more difficult and complicated. Nonetheless she did not give up hope and by coincidence she met up with a friend who put her in contact with another friend who knew a publishing house that would accept the book and so this is how the book got to see the ‘daylight’.
‘Kuna M’aan’ was featured at the Cairo International Book Fair for two running years where it participated alongside all the other publications of the publishing house which Aser is contracted with.
Aser wants anyone who is related to someone with cancer to always be thankful to God and to try and live their lives in a natural way and compensate the time spent during period of medical treatment with fun activities. “Always be positive and bring joy to fill the void left by the illness,one must always have hope and trust in God. It is not the happy ending that one should seek but the small achievements that they succeed at during the treatment period”.
Aser asserted the notion that she wants her book to be a positive thing for people who are going through a similar experience and it is her attempt to try and ease “their plight and invite them to defy their circumstances and smile in the face of any difficulties they face”.