Dixiane Hallaj

Checkpoint Kalandia

Checkpoint Kalandia
Publisher:
Published: October 17, 2014
Author's Twitter: @dhallaj
Life in a Palestinian refugee camp is filled with poverty, and hopeless frustration at the best of times—and 2001 is far from the best of times. Muhammad, already scarred by violence and tragedy, is plunged into depression when the frequent curfews make it impossible for him to find work. He can no longer face the thought of crossing the military checkpoint, but all available jobs are on the other side. His inability to provide for his family drives him to despair. He decides to spend the only coin remaining to him—his life. CHECKPOINT KALANDIA is the story of one man’s journey to the depths of human despondency.

Reviewed by Awesome Indies

Checkpoint Kalandia is a powerful and absorbing read, a book for our times, and one that everyone should read. It takes you into the heart and minds of a family living under Israeli occupation, and brings home the reality of the terrible constraints placed on their lives. This could be a totally miserable book, but the strength and support shown by family members gives it hope and honours the great spirit of a people who have suffered for so long because of a poorly considered decision by politicians with no understanding of or relationship to the region.
If you think the Palestinians are an angry people, this book challenges you to consider how you would feel if placed in the same situation. How would you handle it? Can we really blame them when their frustration boils over? These are ordinary people, like you and me, placed in an extremely difficult situation, and Ms Hallaj handles the subject matter with skill and sensitivity.
A must read for anyone interested in powerful and moving literature.

 

 

 

Short & Happy, (or not)

Short & Happy, (or not)
Published: October 21, 2014
Author's Twitter: @dhallaj @RichardBunning
SHORT & HAPPY (or not) brings together authors from English speaking countries around the globe and a sprinkling of ex-pats who enjoy life in non-English speaking countries as well. Their stories cover just as wide a spectrum of subjects. Humor (or humour), light romance, science fiction, fantasy, memoir, satire, reflection, exotic locales … it's all here in bite-sized pieces.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Just Lola

It’s Just Lola
Publisher:
Published: December 11, 2013
Author's Twitter: @dhallaj
Born in1894, youngest daughter of a wealthy Peruvian landowner, Lola was seduced at an early age, disowned and forced to leave her father’s plantation. Twice widowed with three children by age 21, Lola braved a British blockade and German U-boats off the coast of South America in her quest for security and happiness. Lola lived a life of drama and hardship from the Andes to San Francisco, but she never gave up and she never stopped loving. Fear of impending death often impels people to divulge secrets they have guarded for many years. Thus it was that Lola, sick and frightened, confided the story of her youth to her daughter, my mother, who at age 95, passed the story on to me as I sat by her hospital bed for two days. The story had many gaps, all of which I filled with fiction.

Reviewed by Richard Bunning

5 Stars

Dixiane Hallaj is a particular good writer of social/historically placed, politically pointed, drama, both in her creative fiction and as in this case in the writing of Biography augmented with fictional reality. In fact, most biographies contain some invented content, and/or augmented interpretation. There are going to be gaps to fill in any knowledge that reports anything deeper than the bare historic/factual bones.
Hallaj writes, very-broadly speaking, women’s literature, in that central female figures and through them family, are her bread and butter. That shouldn’t deter any but the most misogynistic of male readers. There is plenty of the gritty content and adventure to balance the childcare and dressmaking. This is a lot on female, and male, sensitivities, but certainly very little sentimental. Lola had as psychologically tough a life as most male heroes, and survived an extraordinarily mixed bunch of husbands and other male figures. I may have lost count, but she had certainly buried at least two husbands and saw off another by the time she was thirty. Well, to be accurate, the exes were never conventionally buried.
Hallaj has preserved for history a very informative piece of family/social history. She literally saved important social history from a death bed. This is the history of a very ordinary daughter of gentry, turned extraordinary by the turmoil that swirled through and around her life. Lola saw plenty of the poverties and hardships as well as at least spells of grandeur living. We learn a very great deal about the life experiences of people in Latin America and further afield, between the end of the 19th century and the start of the Great Depression. We leave Lola’s life when she was still hardly middle-aged, by which time she had as much life experience as a half dozen others might achieve in half a dozen centuries. Hallaj has blended biography and real life fiction to create a wonderful memory of her grandmother from her mother’s own words.
The writing is of a very high quality, the script is captivating, and we learn as much about Lola’s times as we would from the very best of historical documentary. What is more, Hallaj seems to be able to paint incredibly detailed pictures without ever seeming to use more than the fewest of words to do so.

Awesome Allshorts: Last Days, Lost Ways

Awesome Allshorts: Last Days, Lost Ways
This superbly written short story anthology showcases talented Awesome Indie authors from around the globe. Though from a variety of genres, the stories are all entertaining, contemporary and thought-provoking.   Indulge your taste for good fiction with this short story anthology by authors with bold new voices. Though from diverse genres, the stories share a contemporary and contemplative feel that will linger long after the reader has read the last one. Awesome Allshorts showcases talented authors from around the globe, many whose novels have received multiple honors, including Awesome Indies approved status. Stories selected by Tahlia Newland, Dixiane Hallaj and Richard Bunning.

Reviewed by Bill Kirton

5 Stars

First, a disclaimer. This volume contains a flash fiction story of mine but the review relates to the other 26 contributions. It’s entirely objective. If it weren’t, I’d be undermining my credibility as a reviewer.

The enigmatic subtitle of the collection, Last Days, Lost Ways, hints at disjunction, reflection, scenes in which a variety of voices recount departures, frustrations, lost or decaying loves. In fact, as you read from story to story, the variation in styles and subjects, the movement from striking characters to bleak or funny situations, the range of emotions provoked – all combine to make this a rich experience.

The authors all know how to grab the reader and draw him/her very quickly into the specifics of their settings and the mysteries of the characters and their obsessions. The mood swings from anxious to loving, sinister to funny, despairing to whimsical, futuristic to domestic, romantic to dystopian. Some stories are firmly set in an apparently mundane everyday world, but one unpicked by a character’s reactions to its pressures and interpretations of its moments. Others move straight into the paranormal or historical. But all touch on aspects of life, fears, relationships which will have echoes in readers’ own experience.

The anthology exemplifies the flexibility and continuing relevance of a form which is nowadays enjoying an overdue revival.

Reviewed by Amy Spahn

5 Stars

Full disclosure: One of my short stories appears in this anthology. This review is about the others.

I did not expect these stories to move me as deeply as they did. Short works often struggle to pack a significant punch in their diminished wordcount, but the pieces contained in this collection rise to the occasion. Some had me on the edge of my seat in suspense. Some brought tears to my eyes with their emotional depth. And some utilized unique writing styles so artfully that they should be studied in literature classes.

Like with any anthology, not everything in this book will appeal to every reader. But the breadth and depth of the writing styles, storylines, and people explored make it deserving of a spot on any avid reader’s shelf.

Reviewed by

Ignite

3 Stars

 

This is a collection of stories subtitled Last Days and Lost Ways. I received an Advanced Review Copy. It is not the final version. I don’t know if the stories will appear in this order but I found I didn’t really get on with most of those in the first half. The second half of the book picked up for me, but if I hadn’t been reading to review, I might easily have lost interest and abandoned it.

The writing was good. It was the definition of ‘story’ which didn’t click with me in some cases. To me, and I suspect, to many readers, a short story is a complete tale. Some of these read as, or maybe even were, excerpts from some longer work and I didn’t like that. I wanted closure.

The stories I liked best were Pearls, Home late, The Creator, Recipe for a Dinner Party, Standin’ at the Crossroads, Waitin; for the Devil to Show and A Matter of Trust. I enjoyed these stories and the feeling of having savoured a complete experience with them.

Reviewed by

Justin Spahn

5 Stars

As the husband of one of the authors in this anthology, I was given the opportunity to read an advance copy in exchange for an honest review. So, here it is!

I’ve read a few short story anthologies, and this one is definitely the most interesting. The collection is richly diverse in terms of subject matter, national origin and setting, narrative tone, length, and literary style. As I read, I found myself jumping from fantasy to vignette to full plots inspired by true events, and the transition somehow is fluid and seamless rather than jarring or distracting. Awesome Indies has managed to build an enjoyable whole out of various and disparate components!

Among my favorites in the lineup were ‘Clearing the Shed’, ‘Quarantine’, ‘I, Zombie’, ‘Chasing Dreams in the Time Left Over’, ‘Traffic’, ‘Standin’ at the Crossroads, Waitin’ for the Devil to Show’, ‘Home Late’, ‘A Matter of Trust’, ‘Pearls’, and what is likely the stylistic jewel of this collection, ‘Recipe for a Dinner Party’.

This anthology asked me interesting questions, presented me with some of my greatest fears in life, introduced me to new ideas not common in conventionally published shorts, and fed an interest in diverse snippets of literature that I didn’t even know I had.

To sum it up best, I’ll paraphrase one of the author’s descriptions regarding the virtues of the short stories collected in this anthology: The short form gives authors the opportunity to write in ways that couldn’t be sustained for an entire novel.

I recommend reading these shorts–open yourself up to unique experiences from authors all around the world who love writing so much that they publish themselves.

Reviewed by

Sandra Padgett

5 Stars

This collection of wonderful stories covers a variety of themes. From satire to thriller to contemporary life and much more. Each story gets your attention and keeps it from start to finish. They are thought provoking, with characters, dialogue and themes that are believable, but sometimes out in the twilight zone, which is what I like. I will be looking for more works by the various authors and follow them in the future. I received this free from Simon Townley for an honest review. Outstanding! Recommend to any and all.

Reviewed by

Annie Evett

5 Stars

Both emerging and established writers from Europe, the USA, Australia and New Zealand present a peek into the spectacular moments everyday life holds, but with a twist.

The collection opens with a bang with a story by Tahlia Newland. Intriguing to the last paragraph, I was surprised to find it was an excerpt from her newest project. It sits perfectly as a short story and a wonderful teaser into what looks to be an exciting premise.

Each story has an incredible depth and texture to them, that, although is specific to its own style, melds beautifully as a collection. The human condition is explored where the reader is challenged to reassess their perspectives on stereotypes and events. Post apocalyptic tales sit comfortably with personalised stories like fragmented memories; separate, but with a golden thread holding them together. Heart-wrenching, whimsical, tear-jerking and lighthearted there is a story to suit all moods and readers tastes.

It is difficult to chose a favourite story, with a wrestling loving gran meeting her idol, to emotional trials of marriages breaking apart or forming, futuristic zombies and maids from a gentler time.

Authors are recognised in their own right with multiple honours and prizes and although the anthology is an eclectic mixture of genre, reading one after the other only highlights the complexity and intrigue each story brings.

A great book to stash into someones Christmas stocking for some fireside holiday reading, Awesome Allshorts is set to be a winner in your readers life.

 

 

Born a Refugee

Born a Refugee
Publisher:
Published: November 11, 2013
Author's Twitter: @dhallaj
A widow and her four boys struggle amidst poverty, overcrowding, and the violence of military occupation as different political views threaten to tear the small family apart. Ali believes that only active resistance can bring the media attention necessary to draw global support for the Palestinian’s bid for freedom. His older brother, Mahmoud, says education is the only path out of the squalid over-crowded refugee camp. They have no control over the political violence that erupts all around them, but Mother keeps the peace within the small house. As the brothers walk their very different paths, will Ali be forced to live the life Mahmoud had to give up when their father was killed?

Reviewed by Richard Bunning

 

This is a deep, rich, poignant and profoundly humanistic book. It is also one of the best “political” books I have ever read.
The central thesis, a family that could be any one’s neighbours anywhere of Earth, except that they are struggling against the crush of a “foreign” military occupation, living between Jerusalem and Ramallah, is brilliantly constructed.
Whilst telling one extended family’s story Hallaj very cleverly keeps the reader linked to the massive historical waves convulsing the nowadays lands of Abraham. The chosen device, the start of chapter historic, headline, quote, works very well.
Hallaj is a very good reader of the mind set of others. Her characters are totally believable, and her understanding of the issues facing now stateless people walking their own ancestors’ lands seems to me to be sharp and profound. Politicians who really care for the pursuit of peace should read this book, whatever side of the wicked divide birth or conviction puts them on.
My only gripe is that Hallaj is far too soft on the terrors on both sides of the story. For me the time for soft kicks, for common sense to find solutions, ended with the death of Ben Gurion, a long life far too short. But then again, if ever peace is to come and it can only come through peaceful means then this book may well be a cathartic part of the build. No antagonists can justifiably claim that this read is too hurtful of their sensibilities. For those such as me, distant from the issues, this is a fiction that I feel accurately reflects a continuing truth. Whilst it is only too easy for me to say the words that this book boils in me, I fully acknowledge that if I had been born to either side I would likely be a thorn rather than a peacemaker. Only extraordinarily brave people will ever change things, but I’m sure the humanitarian values portrayed in books like this are a modest but valuable step. We all have mothers.