Tag: life writing


‘No Friend But the Mountains’ Was Written by an Imprisoned Journalist Via WhatsApp

Escaping from Iran, a Kurdish journalist Behrouz Boochan ended up in the refugee camp on Manus Island, where he had been illegally detained for five years. During these years without freedom, Boochan wrote down his thoughts, anxieties, and memories on his WhatsApp, which has now been compiled into a book.



Image via Crosslight


In 2013, there were a lot of Middle and South Asian refugees flooding into Australia, longing for political protection. The Australian government stated that those refugees who do not have appropriate documents of identification would be transferred to Manus Island, New Guinea, or Nauru. 


Behrouz Boochan is one of those transferees. After his company Werya was attacked by Iranian military, Boochan was put to flight to Indonesia, from where he and the other seventy-five refugees took boat to Australia. However, he was blocked by the gate of this country and forced to stay on Manus Island. This stay then turned into a five-year-long detention.




Manus Island | Image via Google Map



Though in 2016, the detention center on the island was considered illegal by New Guinea government and should be dismissed immediately, the government didn’t come out a package of solution about how to place those detainees. American government took some; yet Boochan was left on the island with the other five.



Having no idea when he may smell the air of freedom again, Boochan spent his detained five years making a documentary Chauka, Please Tell Us The Time and a memoir No Friend But The Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison.




Boochan’s documentary and book | Images via Wikipedia and Amazon


Originally written in Persian, the content of No Friend But the Mountains had been typed on Boochan’s WhatsApp and then sent to his friend Moones Mansoubi in Australia who translated the text messages, one by one, and complied them into a book. During the period of composition, Boochan’s phone had been confiscated twice.



Boochan said:


The main reason I wrote this book on my phone, and sent it out bit by bit, was really that I didn’t feel safe with the guards and authorities. Because they, at any time, could attack our room and take our property. In February 2014, during the riots, all the refugees lost our property. Seven months ago in November, when they relocated us, we lost our property again. So imagine if I had written this book on paper. I would definitely have lost it.



He recalled that the process of WhatsApp writing was hard:


I wrote this book on the phone and sent it out bit by bit. I wrote all the book on WhatsApp. WhatsApp was like my notebook. For example, some nights I could write two pages or one page, and send it out to my translator. And when I finish my chapter, I [tell] him that it is chapter 5, or it is chapter 6, or it is chapter 7. My translator put them together in PDF and sent it back to me, and I read it and say, “Yeah, it’s OK, it’s exactly what I want.” So it was a long process, a very hard process.



No Friend But the Mountains is a fusion of fictional creative writing and documentarian political resistance. Boochan said:


For a long time I tried to describe the situation on Manus Island, to describe the life in Manus prison camp, but I think the journalism language doesn’t have the capacity to describe this life, and the suffering and how the system is working here…I worked on this book for five years. I thought that the best way for me to express my thinking and to tell the story of Manus prison camp and the stories of Manus Island – and Nauru as well – is to write a novel…The best way for me, I can say I survived through my artworks, through my journalism work.



Still being detained on the island, Boochani expressed that some people had been moved to the US, Nauru while some are still trapped, including himself. The following is an excerpt, according to The Guardian, from No Friend But the Mountains, from which readers may see how nervous and anxious Boochani, a prisoner, may be:



A cage
High walls
Wire fencing
Electronic doors
CCTV cameras
A cage – high walls – wire fencing – electronic doors – CCTV cameras
Surveillance cameras gazing at 20 individuals
Men wearing oversized garments
Men with loose-fitting clothes hanging off them.


Early in the morning, at six, guards came in like debt collectors and heaved us out of bed. Within a few minutes they took us to a tightly confined cage. It is now almost two hours since they brought us here. These hours have been really tough. It is hard being imprisoned … being locked in a cage. We have now been in prison on Christmas Island for a whole month. It is hard being a prisoner. 


I sincerely hope that the walls, the cage, and the fence may be broken down soon… And again those political actions that have violated human rights should be critically examined.



Featured Image via The Guardian


‘Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot’ Sketches the Life and Struggles of Cartoonist John Callahan

“Maybe you were weakened so you could become strong.”


This sentence comes from Donnie Green, a member of Alcoholics Anonymous, in the movie Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot, and powerfully summarizes the essence of the movie and its original base of story-John Callahan‘s memoir of the same name was released in 2018. 




John Callahan (February 5, 1951 – July 24, 2010) | Image via radio.krcb.org



Born in 1951, John Callahan was adopted as an infant and grew up in a Catholic family in The Dalles, a village in eastern Portland, Oregon. Callahan was sexually assaulted by a female elementary school teacher when he was eight. The abuse led to Callahan developing an alcohol dependency at the age of twelve. At the age of twenty-one, Callahan was involved in a car accident (in which he was a passenger) and this life-changing experience left him paralyzed from the waist down. 



Callahan’s cartoon | Image via twitter.com



John Callahan started his cartoonist career using his whole upper body part, unstable hands, and never-paralyzed heart. The style of his off-color cartoon is simple, humorous, controversial, offensive, and political-provoking. The issues he’d been drawing includes disabilities and diseases. His well-known black humor excesses not only from his sketching lines but also from his personality born in his second life. As he once said that



Someday, a pathologist will be squinting through a microscope at hunks of my cadaver, and he’ll exclaim, ‘By God, Jenkins! These are not human cells at all! These are the cells of a cartoonist.




Callahan’s cartoon | Image via twitter.com



Though he’d quit drinking since age twenty-seven, Callahan eventually succumbed in 2010, at age fifty-nine, to respiratory ailments related to his quadriplegia. Yet, his journey of self-salvation now can been seen on big screen. Based on Callahan’s own biographical recording, the Golden Palm-awarded film director Gus Van Sant (best known for his Good Will Hunting) made the movie Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot, with the same name as the memoir, to pay tribute to this brave cartoonist. Featuring Joaquin Phoenix, Jonah Hill, Rooney Mara, and Jack Black, the movie tells Callahan’s life story from childhood trauma, alcoholic addiction, paralyzed wheelchair-life, to joining Alcoholics Anonymous and gained his second life. Standing up from the ashes of pain, Callahan, no matter if in the movie or real life, opens his mind to his past, weakness, and digs out his passion for art and the humor that conquers all.




John Callahan played by Joaquin Phoenix in the movie | Image via Nerd Reactor



Callahan and his life-mentor Donnie Green (starred by Jonah Hill) | Image via heraldnet.com





Image via newyorker.com


Go check out the movie here, and find your heart-moving moment!





Featured Image via Spinal Injuries Associationm.vogue.ru, and farawayentertainment.com


‘Queer Eye’s Tan France Writing Autobiography About His Happy Marriage to a Mormon Cowboy

If you are loyal Bookstrs, you may already known that the “Fab Five,” the five hosts from the amazing  American reality show Queer Eye are going to have their collaborative book sharing their thoughts about the show and their lives. However, according to the Salt Lake tribune, Tan France, the fashion guru in the Five, is writing his own book, an autobiography about his journey from growing up as a gay Muslim in South Yorkshire, to a hugely successful and happily married man, finding his passion for love and his beloved Mormon husband.



Image via Salt Lake tribune



Scheduled to be released on 16th May 2019, Tan France: Love, Family, Queer Eye, and What I Wore will explore France’s private journey from being born to Pakistani immigrants and raised Muslim in the South Yorkshire to moving to America, becoming a successful fashion designer, and meeting his beloved Rob France, getting married, and moving to Salt Lake City. As a famous TV show host and a internationally successful fashion designer, France came out to his parents at age of thirty-four, ten years after he’d married a Mormon, and has journey through a the tangled web of identities: religion, ethnicity, gender, and class. This memoir will examine Tan France’s past, present, and future, and, as he indicates:



[It will] definitely include some stuff that I don’t normally talk about…I’m just writing exactly how I felt the last thirty-five years and what I’ve gone through to get to this point…I mean, it’s as personal as I’m willing to go. I still like my privacy. But I do think that this story is important for people who haven’t seen representation like this before…The book is meant to spread joy, personal acceptance, and most of all understanding. Each of us is living our own private journey, and the more we know about each other, the healthier and happier the world will be.





Tan France is now shooting the new season of Queer Eye in Missouri after the show recently won three Emmys, for casting, editing and as outstanding structured reality program. Though his career as a TV star is busy, France’s writing process is currently going well. In a phone interview with Salt Lake tribune, when he was asked about his feeling in writing his first book, he humorously responded that:



Right now, it’s not difficult because nobody’s read it. Ask me again when the book actually comes out, and — depending on how people respond to it — I may find it quite difficult.



I’m wholeheartedly looking forward to France’s book. As Virgin Books, the confirmed publisher for Tan France, said, this autobiography will contain humorous and poignant personal essays which not only share France’s life, fashion advice, and funny lists, but also explore male sexuality and toxic masculinity from a unique angle. I believe this life-writing will be thought-provoking, sincere, and humorous, as France’s performance-his professional vision about fashion and infectious sense of humor-shown on Queer Eye.



Suggested readings:



Featured Image Via Salt Lake Tribune