Earlier this week, we published the first of six finalists in our Spring Small Fiction Awards: Aliza Ali Khan’s moving “Naz 8 Cinemas”! Make sure you check out her magnificent micro before getting to know the writer herself, in our Interview with the Winner below.
Congratulations on placing in our first dedicated micro submission category! A good micro shares DNA with poetry, in my opinion, and I think there’s definitely poetry in “Naz 8 Cinemas”. Do you fashion yourself a poet at all?
Thank you, and thank you to K-Ming Chang for her generous words. I have never called myself a poet, but so many of the books that I love recently have been by authors who are both poets and novelists: If an Egyptian Cannot Speak English, by Noor Naga, Meet Me Tonight in Atlantic City, by Jane Wong, When We Were Sisters, by Fatimah Asghar and, of course, K-Ming Chang’s Bestiary.
I love the sense of nostalgia in this piece. This is a story that’s very much rooted in a particular time and place, and culture as well. Tell us about the origins of this story.
Naz 8 Cinema was a movie theater dedicated to Bollywood films in Fremont, California. One of my earliest childhood memories was falling asleep in a dark auditorium to Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. In this piece, I had been obsessing over my relationship to language. Bollywood films are mainly in Hindi, a language that twins my family’s language of Urdu. I am a heritage-speaker. I understand Urdu, but my Urdu is limited to what my mother spoke to me, absent largely of sentimentality, of poetry.
What are you at work on now?
I am working on a novel, slowly, in hours gathered when my baby sleeps.
Interviewed by Cole Meyer