THE CASH register sounded with another loud ring, signalling the success of yet another purchase at Venus Envy. My curiosity of what had been bought wasn’t piqued at the obtrusive sound, however. It was literature’s naughty night out at the adult store, which meant the buyer wasn’t interested in the latest gadget of the sex toy world—instead, they wanted a book.
Last Thursday, the authors of The Book of Love, Crimson Tide, and Sex & Samosas gathered to speak about their novels. Dealing with themes of love, sex, and—yes, maybe there was some vampire talk—each author gave a public reading of their novel and took some questions from the audience afterwards. The Fulcrum caught up with author, organizer of the event, and Ottawa native, Jasmine Aziz, to speak to her about her first novel.
The Fulcrum: Your book is called Sex & Samosas, can you tell me about it?
Aziz: It’s about a 32-year-old South Asian woman who has never had an orgasm, like 60 per cent of the population. She goes to one of these at-home [sex toy] party presentations and gets drunk. She tries a whole bunch of stuff [from the party] and every chapter after that is one of her misadventures with some of the stuff she bought. The whole point of the book is that she has to arc and throw as a woman and balance culture more than anything.
You used to sell vibrators at parties yourself. Is this where you got the inspiration for the novel?
I used to sell dildos, and I was in this bad relationship and then I left. I had done this Bollywood bachelorette party and these really fabulous women [were there]. I was in this rant mood, and I was like, “What is it about our culture? People are always like: Get married, get married, get married, but nobody really cares if you’re happy” … and [out of] those women, maybe two or three had [had] an orgasm because it’s a cultural taboo to talk about it. I joke in the book that we wrote the Kama Sutra, but we didn’t read it.
Are you hoping for this book to open a discussion?
The first [thing] that surprised me after my launch is that I had so many couples writing to me … I’ve had lots of beautiful emails from couples, [as well as] one that got into a huge fight because of the book. Which is good because it started a dialogue … [One reader also] kept getting laid after every single time she’d read a chapter.
Do you consider yourself a romance novelist?
I would not consider myself a romance novelist, actually. I think the genre of romance has a feel to it that Sex & Samosas does not. My novel crosses over this genre, and that of erotica and chick lit, because it contains elements of all of them but isn’t defined by them. I did try my hand at romance writing a long time ago in my twenties and even received a note from Harlequin asking me to submit more pages, but the writing didn’t feel as natural to me so I let it go.
Was it hard for you to get your first novel published?
It was hard for me to get published because I had an agent in Toronto who wanted to make it into a movie: Sex and Samosas: My Big Fat Greek Wedding with Vibrators. [The book is] not chick lit, it’s not women’s fiction, and it’s not erotica, but it has erotic content and it’s self-help, [so] it didn’t fit anywhere. I had a lot of people say, ‘Oh it’s really lovely. I like it, but it’s never going to sell.’ And I’m very proud to say that I’m almost through my first print run and it’s only been three and a half months.
Where did you find the inspiration to write a self-help, chick lit-type book?
It’s my debut novel. I’m really passionate about this subject … The thing that was the most prevalent after selling vibrators [is] how little women know about their bodies, so I wanted to [incorporate] something where we can still be educated. [The book] is a little self-help too, which is why I had trouble getting a publisher: It crossed too many genres.