By Arafat Reza
In recent years, Bangladesh has seen the emergence of a large number of young writers
whose works have been well-received by readers of all ages. Owakila Tabassum Mumu is
one such writer who has successfully carved a place in the hearts of readers from all
walks of life with the magic her fingers have woven into the pages of her books.
Her first book, Jhajhin Sheyola was published in the Ekushey Boi Mela (Bangladesh’s
national book fair) in 2021. The book was also a best-seller on Rokomari.com,
Bangladesh’s biggest online bookshop.
Her second book is Go te Gali Fo te Feminist, a research-based book on gender roles and
feminism that was released in February of 2022. This book is being widely used in
research by various NGOs and as a teaching material by many trainers in gender
capacity-building training. The book will be translated in English very soon.
Mohuar mod o koyekti prempatra, her third creation, is a novella that was released at
the Ekushey Book Fair 2023 and has received positive feedback from readers of all ages.
Aside from being an author, she works for the International Maize and Wheat
Improvement Center (CIMMYT), an INGO and research organisation in the
communication department. She is currently pursuing a postgraduate degree in
Development Studies at BIGD (BRAC Institute of Governance and Development), BRAC
University. She has authored several articles for national newspapers and magazines.
In this interview Owakila Tabassum Mumu reflects on her journey as an author,
discusses the challenges that aspiring authors face in Bangladesh, and shares her top
three pieces of advice for aspiring authors.
How did you get started as an author? What inspires you to write?
There are stacks of books everywhere in our house because almost everyone in the
family is a bookworm. So, naturally, I became drawn to books and stories from my
But this isn’t the only thing that inspired me to write. There’s a story behind it that has
stayed with me even years after I first learned about it, and it will continue to motivate
me to write until the end of my life.
I was in sixth grade, getting ready for lunch, completely unaware that I was about to
witness something that would change my life forever. Our housekeeper’s aunt came
through the door of my room, which I was about to leave to go to the dining table, and
began crying uncontrollably in front of me and my mother, who was standing next to
me, as perplexed as I was.
Although I cannot go into great detail about what happened to her here for personal
reasons, I can say that on that day, I learned about the plight of women in this society,
particularly those who are unaware of their rights, through her words. Following this
incident, I vowed to become the voice of women who needed to be heard through my
writings, and I am still working tirelessly to keep this promise I made to myself.
What difficulties might an aspiring writer face in Bangladesh?
It takes a lot of patience, hard work, and sometimes luck to become an author. I’ve dealt
with numerous internal and external issues.
The intrinsic challenges are very personal and vary from person to person. Extrinsic
challenges, on the other hand, are common and difficult to overlook in Bangladesh.
The difficulties begin with the search for a suitable publishing house. Although there are
thousands of publishing houses, only a few value and respect new writers.
The royalty percentage is also unsatisfactory, and it is unfortunate that many authors do
not receive the royalty they deserve, especially from their first book.
Furthermore, even in today’s internet-based world, publishers use outdated methods to
promote the books, which makes it difficult for aspiring writers to survive and grow. The
distribution channels are not modern either.
What are your plans for the future? What are some of your key suggestions for
The future is unpredictable! All I can say is that I want to continue writing and giving my
readers new perspectives on life, while also reinventing myself with each book.
Along with my writing career, I hope to make a significant contribution to the
development sector and social research in Bangladesh.
These are my suggestions for aspiring writers:
Read, read and read: The more we read, the more words, thoughts, ideas, and
conversations we consume. When all of these factors come together, we can generate
innovative ideas and gain the ability to present these ideas to others in an organized
manner. It goes without saying that new ideas, as well as how you communicate them
to others, play an important role in making an author successful.
Determine why you wish to write: This is a difficult question because there is no
definitive answer, but we should consider it. If an author can find the answer by asking
his or her heart and mind, he or she will be able to predict which path he or she will
take, giving him or her a reason to write whenever they struggle to do so.
Every time, go all out: Given how competitive the industry is, it will be difficult for an
author to survive and succeed without high-quality content. I think, every author is
connected in the sense that we all want to connect with people by sharing our thoughts.
To make that connection, we must give our best effort every time we pick up a pen to