Founding Editor Melvin Sterne publishes debut novel, Zara

Melvin Sterne founded Carve in 2000 and served as editor until 2007. We are forever grateful for his willingness to entrust Carve in our hands! He has recently published his debut novel, Zara. He offered to share some words about his novel:

Zara tells the story of a young prostitute in Bombay, India, who, after having started a legitimate business to purchase her freedom, and being cheated in the process, resorts to blackmail to find help to claim her rightful earnings. When the cell phone with the incriminating photos is seized by a police commissioner, and he, in turn, is murdered and the phone stolen, Zara, a poor, illiterate Muslim woman, must team with a rich, literate, Hindu policewoman to solve the murder and retrieve the missing phone. This means, of course, setting aside some serious personal differences (both women have “issues”), and along the way, discovering much about themselves, their past, their weaknesses, and, ultimately, their strength.

I like the novel for three good reasons. I try, in the way that Graham Greene wrote, to touch on serious social issues, but in way that is both academic and entertaining. I’d like to think that it is a book that transcends genre in this way — that it is both intelligent in the subject it takes on, but a fun read, as well. Second, the book is based on many of my experiences and observations in Bombay — a fascinating world unto itself — where many of the ordinary rules of society that we, in the west, take for granted — just don’t apply. And, finally, Zara herself is based on a woman I met in Bombay, and her life story (save the fictionalized events that make up the novel) are absolutely true. She was sold into child labor at 6, and into prostitution at 20 or 21. 

Zara could be any one of millions of women in sexual slavery today. And yet, strange at is may seem, she never accepted the label of “victim.” She was strong in ways that were remarkable, yet touchingly vulnerable in other ways. She was very human, yet something more. What struck me most about her was her demonstration of faith and courage. Through no fault of her own, she could be killed in her home town for being a “sinner,” literally, a rape-victim. And, as a non-virgin, she would never marry or have a normal family life. But she chose to remain in a brothel because it was the only way she could earn enough money to set aside a dowry for her little sisters so that they would not have to undergo the same fate. I was struck by the image of “saint and sinner” side-by-side, and by Jesus’s words, “No one has greater love than this: That he should give his life in behalf of his friends.” Zara did that in real life, and from the day I met her, I felt her story deserved to be told. The only question was, How? It took me four years to write Zara through its many drafts, and even when “finished,” several more to polish it and find a publisher in these difficult times. Zara was published by Ink Brush Press ( and can be purchased through any local bookstore, or purchased online from Amazon

If the story’s grabbed your interest, purchase it today!