Cape author Jamil Khan wins second prize


He questions the “disorderly intersections between Islam, color, queerness and the precariousness of the middle class”

If you have a story to tell, do it because you never know how it can inspire or validate a shared experience.

This sentiment was shared by writer Jamil Farouk Khan whose first book, Khamr: the ingredients of a Waterslams, won another award.

The memoirs this week received the University of Johannesburg’s first prize for South African writing in English. Earlier this year, he received the Humanities and Social Sciences Award from Wits University, for best non-fiction biography.

Khan said he was touched by the price.

“For institutions of intellectuals to consider my work worthy of an award is a lesson in humility and encouragement,” he said.

“It makes me realize that writing books is more than selling them.”

Khan, who grew up in the Kraaifontein neighborhood of Bernadino Heights, shared his memoir, “to question the messy intersections between Islam, color, homosexuality and middle-class precariousness.”

In the book, Khan commemorates his life story by sharing his experiences growing up as a Muslim in a home where alcoholism was a guest who went beyond his welcome.

Khan said he always had a lingering feeling that he needed to share his story.

“I always felt like there was something wrong with who I was and that the life I was living had to be a secret. I was ashamed of it and I knew it. couldn’t be the end of my story.

In Khamr: the ingredients of a WaterslamsKhan shares experiences of his upbringing in great detail, allowing himself to be vulnerable through his writing.

Jamil Khan’s biography “questions the disorderly intersections between Islam, color, homosexuality and the precariousness of the middle class”. Image: Supplied

Khamr is an Arabic word which translates to intoxicants or alcohol. The term “waterslams” has been given to people who adhere to Islam but engage in activities that their holy book, the Qur’an, deems prohibited.

Khan said the use of the word “waterslams” in the title of his book was an act of defiance.

“I wanted the word to be part of my own heritage. It has had a profound impact on my life and I deserve to claim some of what it means to me, ”he said.

Khan said the “waterslams” were an insult used against him.

“It was used to make me feel ashamed of things out of my control. I claimed the power that this word had over me.

Khan said the decision to be outdoors and queer preceded discussion of what happened behind the closed doors of his home.

“I wanted to tell my story but my story is tied to the stories of others. These people wrote their own stories.

He added: “I remember a quote that said, ‘If people wanted you to tell great stories about them, they should have treated you better.’

The multiple award-winning author has said that this book means a lot to him, and its meaning is changing all the time.

“It has become a contribution to an archive of experiences of people whose stories are often forgotten or willfully ignored.”

In Khamr, Khan recounts how alcohol abuse and the dysfunction it caused shaped his life.

“Alcoholism was attached to my father, a person I needed to fulfill a special role in my life. His alcohol abuse prevented him from doing it, ”Khan said.

He added: “It left me with a terminal disappointment. It made me discover the world from a very jaded point of view. It made me cynical and suspicious of people.

Khan said he chose to stop observing any form of religion.

“It was a big struggle for me to hold on to what seemed to never work in my favor. I went through the process of trying hard to make it work, then being close, and finally not at all.

He added: “I don’t subscribe to it, but it can never be a part of my life because it is deeply embedded in the society in which I live.”

Khan’s advice to aspiring writers is to write their stories.

“You can never say what impact your writing will have, but if you do it with the right intentions, it will find its way. “


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