All posts by jlbhogal

Baby Steps

This week, my thesis idea has started to take shape. Although nothing has been done on paper, my brain can already start to form the story without any specifics for now. After getting feedback yesterday, I feel that whatever research I have to do is clear for me. I did assume I was done with that aspect of my thesis since I am using all of my research for classical music and its impact on children in schools, but turns out, I was wrong.

My story “The I of the Storm”, is focusing on interracial and interreligious marriage along with the musical component. An orthodox Jew marrying (or in love with) a liberal Muslim. Now, in terms of my familiarity with Islam, I have many years of practical experience interacting and learning about Islam. Some of my best friends are Muslims and we have been together for 10+ years now. They have shared many things about their religion that makes it what it is, and I always took those discussions as discussions of research. Little did I know that eventually it would serve a real purpose in my academia. I have celebrated Eid with them and their families, and the curious Jessie that I am, they even let me pray in the mosque with them. Aren’t I a follower of the Catholic and Sikh faith? I sure am, but praying is the same everywhere. The language just might vary, or the style might vary. One element in my story that I am trying to achieve among all this love, drama and reuniting is that it doesn’t matter what faith you follow or where you are from, just be a human.

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Judaism, on the other hand, is a religion that I barely know about. Should I be honest? I guess I can. I never had a genuine interest to learn more. With whatever exposure I had to do it, it was a background that I didn’t agree with in multiple ways. As a result, while learning more about other faiths such as Hinduism and Islam from my best friends, Judaism was never a consideration for me. And yes, I am admitting that my bias got the best of me. I have never known anyone from that faith either, so even if I wanted to know real experiences, it wouldn’t have been possible. In undergrad when I met a classmate classmate, I tried talking to him. It was a class about world religions. But he always kept to himself and secluded himself from everyone else since he was the only Jew in class. It disappointed me, and I felt that because I wasn’t part of his faith, that he didn’t consider it fit to discuss anything with me or anyone else for that matter. And he explicitly said that his mother didn’t approve of him visiting any other temple or learning about any other faith when we had to do it for a final project. My live, in-person experiences put me off and I didn’t think anything of it to further explore Judaism. But now, I have to.

My story is meant to represent diversity and let YA readers see their reflection in my characters, Ehsan and Sarah. But it has to be done right. Accurate representation, and valid information has to be exemplified. There shouldn’t be any reader saying “Hey, that’s not true. That’s not what I do.” Unfortunately though, no matter how much research I do, especially about Judaism and their beliefs and practices, there will always be someone who won’t agree with what I write. Why? Because everyone is raised differently and their own values and thoughts shape them, not the overall faith. Every Muslim is different, every Christian is different, so on and so forth. So, for me to be able to get Sarah to appropriately represent 14 million Jews that live across the world? It’s impossible, but I can try my best to be as close to reality as possible.

So after all the new ventures I have to take, I realize that I should not be too ambitious at this point in time. Baby steps is the best recipe. Outline the progression of my story, go back to my short story and make sure to include points from there and maybe even start writing Chapter 1. I need to get the ball rolling for my idea to seem as cohesive as I imagine it to be. No biting off more than I can chew. It’s the beginning. Baby steps.

 I See My Path…

First blog for my thesis website. I cannot believe that I am already here. One year ago, I was fresh out of my undergraduate experience and had just started my graduate degree. Little boxes on Zoom were the extent we could all go to being with each other. Now, it’s different. With vaccinations and a mask mandate, I feel this in-person journey will go a long way. No matter how tiring or annoying the commute, I am not afraid to admit that I love being back on campus. I can now finally separate my home, my social circle, my work and my studies in multiple buildings, not just one. Physically being in front of the professor really changes a lot of things, in a good way of course.

Although my thesis course has just started, being Jessie, I started planning and thinking way ahead of time. After successfully publishing my sequel to my first book “A Friend Till the End: The Sequel” (which is available in eBook and paperback on Amazon!), I decided to dedicate all my creative and writing energy to this upcoming school year. Writing creatively has always been my passion and strength because it doesn’t have any boundaries. Anything is right, as long as I make sense of it. About three years ago, I wrote a short story as a final project for my Introduction to Short Fiction class in Middlesex County College. I was nervous because my professor never got easily impressed. However, after my different take on a cross-cultural love story, my professor thought I did an excellent job. It was a motivation and a piece of work I am still proud of to this day. It’s titled Kosher. Within 17 pages, a story of an orthodox Jewish girl and a liberal Muslim guy takes the lead. And it doesn’t end with closure. It starts with a question, and ends with the exact same one “Where do I go now?”

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So, instead of reinventing the wheel for my thesis, I decided to give the characters closure. It’s the least I can do as the author of them of course. But, I had also done research on how classical music impacts students in their classrooms for a whole semester. Can the two be tied together? At first, I didn’t think so but time gave me my answers. Here is the path I intend on taking:

  • The title of the story: The “I” of the Storm
  • The plot will revolve around the following concept:
    • Sarah and Ehsan come back into each other’s life unpurposefully as Ehsan starts becoming little Isaac’s new favorite music teacher. Learning music has dramatically changed Isaac’s behavior and has made him become a better child. After growing up in a one-bedroom apartment with his single mother, his father gives him love through his passion of music without knowing it’s his blood.
  • Although the first story was a short story, the continuation will be extended into a novel.
  • During my WIP presentation, I do plan on reading half the story to give my peers a background of where this story and plot stems from
  • Extensive research has been done on the topic of children and their relationship to classical music. This will be included in the story when exemplifying Ehsan’s musical abilities and his teachings
  • This story focuses on a very diverse couple. I am somebody who advocates strongly for a inclusivity, not only in other aspects of life, but in literature as well. Although the female is Jewish and the male is Muslim, they both end up meeting via a connection of a Catholic school. The same women’s hostel who took Sarah in when no one else accepted her had an elementary school affiliated with them. She eventually moves out and starts working in a doctor’s office, but because of her gratefulness, she makes Isaac study in their school. This is where Ehsan gets a job as a music teacher, and the real story starts from there.
  • Because my thesis will be a novel, I will be dividing it into chapters. I haven’t gotten that far into the plan, but once I decide how to start the story, that will be completed.
  • In terms of what I would like to do, I would like to definitely start writing my novel by the end of this semester, if not middle. The reason being, I have so much in my head that I want to get down on paper because I know exactly how I want the flow and continuity to be. Especially since it’s kind of a sequel to a previous text, getting the ideas now while it’s fresh is always the best. And if I can achieve that, I will have less to do next semester in terms of planning. It will mostly be finishing up the book and refining it to be a work I am happy and excited to share.

I am very eager to start this journey, and I hope you all like my ideas and where I am planning to go with this. The title has two meanings: not only is the son going to be the focal point of the plot whose name starts with “I”, but based on the previous story, the ego of each one ends up hurting their situation and makes life an emotional storm for them. Their “I”, their pride, makes them fall. But once they start healing and are mature enough to be more selfless instead of selfish, life decides they deserve each other now more than ever especially because of Isaac. So, let’s see where this goes and how it goes. Whatever it is though, my mind is exploding with ideas and can’t wait to get this on the road!