On Thursday Dec. 5th, the St. Mary’s College of Maryland English Department celebrated the release of Professor Nadeem Zaman’s short story collection at the River Center. Professor Zaman, a current visiting lecturer, published his first book “In the Time of the Others” in 2018. At his literary celebration Dr. Jennifer Cognard-Black, the Chair of the English Department, gave warm remarks about Zaman’s new book, “Up in the Main House and Other” Stories, which was released on November 5th. This gathering gave an opportunity to not only celebrated Professor Zaman’s achievement but also to engage in conversation about his book.
Following the Book Release Party, Professor Zaman closed the Fall 2019 season of The Voices Reading Series. Professor Karen Leona Anderson, the Director of The Voices Reading, sincerely detailed how meaningful it was to share a writer from the St. Mary’s Community. In his introduction of Professor Zaman, Professor Gerald Gabriel shared some of Professor Zaman’s accomplishments, including publications in the United States, Hong Kong, and Bangladesh, and great contributions to the St. Mary’s Community.
Professor Zaman, born and raised in Dhaka, Bangladesh, moved to the United States at fifteen years old and did not return to his home country until his early forties. Professor Zaman’s background and the details in his book instantly grasped the attention of the audience.
Professor Zaman read “Father and Judge,” from his most recent release, “Up in the Main House and Other Stories.” This short story details life that happens in the upstairs and downstairs of the world. He used themes of power and privilege to portray the story of a father begging for a favor on the basis of safety for his family. The language of the short story creates a vivid scene in the Bangladesh society. Language such as “even the best of our emotions get clouded by emotions” and “we have eaten your salt” placed readers directly within the dialogue of the short story and intrigued their curiosity. Professor Zaman spoke on how this story purposefully “does not get to the happily ever after.”
Professor Zaman’s readings clearly encompassed the attention of the audience from the beginning to the end to the extent that the first questions asked consisted of how his story ended and what becomes of the characters.
In response to a question about his inspiration for this story, Professor Zaman tells how other stories inspire writers to be in awe. He says that, when reflecting on the craft of other stories, he thinks “Let me see if I can use these mechanics.” The “Father and the Judge” began with an image of a judge and a man petitioning for his family. Professor Zaman talked of how he had these two people, who had an urgency to have a conversation. In writing the story, he decided to raise the stakes and make it about family, creating more tension by trapping the characters in these high stakes.
As Professor Zaman answered questions about Bangladesh, he provided insight into the culture. He detailed how “young people [of Bangladesh today] want to write and talk freely, but they have to watch their back.” His experiences in Bangladesh added even more color to the exciting discussion as students inquired further understanding.
After the reading, Johnn Cave ‘21 remarked, “I was honored to hear Professor Zaman speak live.” Other students mentioned the fantastic job Professor Zaman did and appreciated his willingness to answer questions to help their understanding of the Bangladesh culture. His masterfully written short story beautifully articulates how Professor Zaman uses the power of words to develop an engrossing story of a struggle to seek justice. From the lively discussion following the reading, it is clear students appreciated his writing and felt compelled to dig deeper into Professor Zaman’s writing.