Recently, Worthy Publications, founded by sibling duo Kasfia Haque Samara and Nuzaimul Hoq Xishan, launched The Mason Jar 2, the second edition of their anthology, The Mason Jar, which came out last year. They received a total of 200 submissions of short stories for The Mason Jar 2, out of which 50 compelling stories by 42 young writers were selected for the book.
The Mason Jar 2 features stories of different genres, including magic realism, historical fiction, contemporary fiction, romance, dystopia, paranormal, science fiction, fantasy, suspense, crime and thriller. The stories chronicle the experiences of a generation that expresses a sense of resilience, strength and robust optimism for a brighter future, in the face of uncertainty.
Star Youth, The Daily Star, caught up with several authors of The Mason Jar 2 to find out more about them. Tamim Mostafa, Sarazeen Saif Ahana, SM Tahmid, Sadrina Afrin Mowna, Rifah Tashfia, Quazi Tasfia, Nahreen Saleha Shahadat, Nahian Jamal Joyeeta, Syed Rafid Kabir, Usraat Fahmidah, Rafi Azad, Fabiha Fairooz Islam, Tiasha Idrak, Labib Mahmud, Mehnaz Tabassum, Ahbab Alavi Islam and Rasheek Tabassum Mondira participated in the discussion. From the importance of familial support in their lives to the dearth of platforms for young writers to flourish in Bangladesh, they touched upon a wide range of topics.
As creative and passionate individuals, having a climate for storytelling at home and sharing their experiences with their loved ones are crucial for the writers. Sarazeen Saif Ahana, a student of Independent University, Bangladesh, wrote the story, Sentinel, in The Mason Jar 2. She shared that her sister helped her to decide which story to submit for the anthology, and ultimately, the one that her sister talked her into submitting was the one that was published.
While the first edition of The Mason Jar consisted of stories in both Bangla and English, The Mason Jar 2 offers only English stories. According to the authors, writing original English fiction as young natives of Bangladesh comes with both advantages and challenges. “Being bilingual allows us to not only read works of different writers, but also become better storytellers. It exposes us to perspectives from different cultures,” explains Tamim Mostafa, a student of North South University and the author of Biryani Kingdom in The Mason Jar 2. “As a consequence, we are able to tell our own stories in another language and also broaden our horizons as authors.” However, more often than not, such writers are looked down upon in Bangladesh. “Most publishers in our country support only well-known and established authors. Very few of them are actually willing to take chances with promising, young writers, especially with those of us who write in English,” shared Tiasha Idrak, a student of University of Dhaka and the author of Of Monikers and Chocolate Milk.
Speaking about the developments that they would like to see in the publishing industry of Bangladesh, the writers shared that professionalism and quality management of books is necessary. “Publishers should establish a channel for providing feedback and constructive criticism to emerging writers,” added Rafi Azad, a student of University of Dhaka and the author of A Bird of TwoFeathers and Home. “If my story gets rejected, I would like pointers on how to be better as a writer.”
Fortunately, Worthy Publications is bringing about positive changes in the literary landscape of Bangladesh. With the unfading vision of encouraging young writers to express their creative ways with words, they have sparked the interest of a large audience. Sadrina Afrin Mowna, a student of BRAC University, who wrote the story, Endings, in The Mason Jar 2, explained that the people at Worthy Publications are welcoming and cooperative. She is thankful to them for giving her a platform to express herself. “Since Worthy Publications is a young organisation itself, their team understands the voice of the youth and are able to relate to their writers, which is great,” added Nahian Jamal Joyeeta, a student of University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh and the author of Getaway and The Night We Met. While the endeavours of these young writers and Worthy Publications are inspiring, it is clear that they still have a long way to go.