[Listen to a recording with the editor and several authors by hitting the play button or clicking on this link. A written report on the conversation, by Maria Tirmizi, is below]
"And the World Changed: Contemporary Stories by Pakistani Women" is an important new book of short stories. It is the only English-language anthology by Pakistani women published in the United States (The Feminist Press, October 2008). Edited by writer and critic Muneeza Shamsie (and mother of writer Kamila Shamsie, who has spoken multiple times at SAJA events over the years), the book features stories by 25 Pakistani women (including both Shamsies). You can learn more about the book in the press release below and in its Amazon page. The book's publicist is Amita Manghnani, amanghnani[at]gc.cuny.edu - write to her if you'd like to get a review copy or interview the writers (please tell her SAJA sent you; working press only, of course).
On Monday, Nov. 24, SAJA hosted a live webcast with the editor and several of the writers, including Bapsi Sidhwa (calling from Houston), Humera Afridi (calling from NYC), Bushra Rehman (calling frm San Francisco) and Muneeza Shamsie (calling from Karachi) - bios below.
MODERATOR: Kiran Khalid, SAJA Board member; producer, "Good Morning America"; and filmmaker, "We Are Not Free," a look at press freedom in Pakistan.
Listen live or to a recording: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/saja/2008/11/24/Pakistani
As always, you are welcome to quote from anything said during the FREE, WORLDWIDE webcasts (30+) at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/saja
Here is a written report of the webcast conversation, from SAJAforum blogger and Columbia Journalism student Maria Tirmizi (the bios and official press release are below).
Discussing "And the World Changed"
- a report by Maria Tirmizi, tirmizi.maria[at]gmail.com
Four of the 25 writers of the exciting new book, “And the World Changed: Contemporary Stories by Pakistani Women,” appeared on a webcast hosted by SAJA on Monday morning. They read excerpts from their stories and talked about the various themes that they dealt with, from the partition of the Indian subcontinent to life in New York City amidst teeming racial tensions.
Edited by Pakistani writer and critic Muneeza Shamsie, whose story “Jungle Jim” features in the book, it is the first English-language anthology written by Pakistani women and published in the U.S. The webcast included Bapsi Sidhwa, the Karachi native who authored five internationally acclaimed novels including "The Crow Eater", Humera Afridi, a New York-based writer of Pakistani origin, Bushra Rehman, poet, essayist and fiction writer who was born and raised in New York City and Muneeza Shamsie. The call was moderated by Kiran Khalid, SAJA board member and "Good Morning America" producer.
Calling in from Karachi, Shamsie spoke of the need in Pakistan for more literature written originally in English. She said attempts such as this new book present an interesting scenario of being “caught between two cultures,” where neither the west nor a country like Pakistan can easily include the writer in its mainstream narrative.
She mentioned the stories of other writers that appear in the book, like “Mirage” by Talat Abbasi, a moving tale of a mother’s difficult relationship with her mentally challenged child, and “Meeting the Sphinx” by Rukhsana Ahmad, a story set in London that questions the narrative of empire.
Shamsie read an excerpt from her own short story “Jungle Jim.” It revolves around two young girls raised in Britain and sent to India after the country’s partition. She said it was inspired by a true incident she had heard of in the 1960s when a tiger landed in a field near a relative’s house in India, creating a lot of hue and cry as to how it should be dealt with.
“The tiger became a metaphor for a lost world and a dying breed,” she said, explaining the extensive tiger-hunting carried out by the colonizers and the colonized.
Bapsi Sidhwa, speaking from Houston, Texas, read a few lines from her story “Defend Yourself against Me”. The story mentions a heart-wrenching account narrated to her by a friend who was in a Punjab village in India at the time of partition and witnessed women being sold for a mere five rupees.
Speaking from New York City, Humera Afridi, writer of “The Price of Hubris,” narrated that her story was the portrait of a woman who had recently arrived in New York City and felt vulnerable and isolated after the attacks of Sept. 11.
“Her conflicted personal life plays a part in the story, but what is really pivotal is her identity: South Asian, female and Muslim in that moment of American crises,” Afridi said. “She journeys to the streets of the wounded city and her destination takes her to a mosque in East Village. What transpires at the mosque leaves her feeling more isolated than ever.”
Finally, Bushra Rehman, calling in from San Francisco, spoke about her story, “The Old Italian.” It transpires in a neighborhood in Corona, Queens, in the 70s and 80s where friendships are forged in the midst of racial tensions among the Pakistani, Dominican, Colombian and other ethnic groups of the population. The story focuses on the adventures of a group of girls aged 9, who are amusingly referred to as “the little Pakistani rascals”
The conversation then shifted to the state of Pakistani fiction and whether it has evolved with time.
“I think there are definitely a lot of younger people writing on contemporary matters,” Bhipsi Sidhwa said. “Their writing is confident and they are venturesome. There has certainly been a change.”
The webcast ended with some useful tips for aspiring writers by Sidhwa.
“If you want to write, just sit down one evening and get into it, without thinking that anyone is going to see it, without being self-critical” she said. “That will release your subconscious and that will encourage you to write.”
Listen to the webast:
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SPEAKERS ON THIS WEBCAST
Humera Afridi (1971- ) is a New York-based writer of Pakistani origin. She earned her degrees at Mount Holyoke College and Carnegie Mellon University, and was the recipient of a New York Times Fellowship at New York University where she earned an MFA in creative writing. Her work has appeared in the New York Times and several anthologies, including Leaving Home (Oxford University Press, 2001), 110 Stories: New York Writes after September 11 (NYU Press, 2003), and Shattering theStereotypes (Olive Branch, 2005). Story featured: "The Price of Hubris."
Born in Brooklyn, New York, and raised in Queens, Bushra Rehman (1974- ) is a poet, essayist, and fiction writer. Rehman is a coeditor of Colonize This! Young Women of Color on Today's Feminism (Seal Press,2002), and her poetry has been collected in the chapbook Marianna's Beauty Salon (Vagabond Press, 2001). Her work has appeared in ColorLines, Mizna, Curve, SAMAR, Voices of Resistance: Muslim Women on War, Faith and Sexuality (Seal Press, 2006), and Stories of Illness and Healing: Women Write Their Bodies (Kent State University Press, 2007). She has been featured on BBC Radio 4 and in the New York Times and NY Newsday. She was educated at the College of New Rochelle, New York; Dominican University of California; and she earned her MFA from Brooklyn College. Currently, Rehman is at work on an on-the-road adventure novel for South Asian women. Story featured: "The Old Italian."
Muneeza Shamsie (1944- ) is a Pakistani critic, short story writer, and the editor of three pioneering anthologies: A Dragonfly in the Sun: An Anthology of Pakistani Writing in English (Oxford University Press, 1997), Leaving Home: Towards a New Millennium: A Collection of English Prose by Pakistani Writers (Oxford University Press, 2001), and And The World Changed: Contemporary Stories by Pakistani Women (Women Unlimited, 2005; The Feminist Press, 2008). She is the managing editor for a work in progress, The Oxford Companion to the Literatures of Pakistan, and is also currently writing a critical book, Hybrid Tapestries: The Development of a Pakistani Literature in English (working title). Shamsie is on the editorial board for the bibliographic issue of The Journal of Commonwealth Literature (UK) and contributes to Dawn and Newsline (Pakistan), The Daily Star (Bangladesh) and The Literary Encyclopedia (online). She has spoken at many literary forums, and was a fellow of the 1999 Cambridge Seminar. Shamsie lives in Karachi. Editor of the anthology, story featured: "Jungle Jim."
A native of Karachi and a resident of Houston, Bapsi Sidhwa (1938- ) is the author of five internationally acclaimed novels, including The Crow Eaters (self published, 1978; Jonathan Cape, 1980), The Bride (Jonathan Cape, 1983), Ice Candy Man (Heinemann, 1988; later published as Cracking India, Milkweed, 1991), An American Brat (Milkweed, 1993), and Water (Penguin Books India, 2006). Sidhwa has also edited an anthology, City of Sin and Splendor: Writings on Lahore (Penguin Books India, 2006). Among the many honors she has received are the Bunting Fellowship at Radcliffe/Harvard and the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Writer's Award in the United States, the Liberaturpreis in Germany, the Sitara-i-Imtiaz in Pakistan, and recently, the Italian Premio Mondello award for Water. Sidhwa, who was on the Advisory Committee to Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto on Women's Development, has taught at Columbia University, University of Houston, Mount Holyoke Collage, Southampton University, and Brandeis University. Cracking India (a New York Times Notable Book of the Year) was made into the film Earth by Canadian director Deepa Mehta. Her latest novel, Water, is based on Mehta's film of the same name. She is also the playwright of two critically acclaimed plays, An American Brat and Sock'em with Honey. Story Featured: "Defend Yourself Against Me."
From the official description:
The only English-language anthology by Pakistani women published in the United States, And the World Changed goes beyond the sensational headlines to reveal the stories of Pakistani women. Immigrants and refugees, travelers and explorers, seasoned authors and fresh voices, the twenty-five writers in this volume are as dynamic and diverse as their stories.
Sixty years have passed since the Partition of India, and it's clear that Pakistani writers have established their own literary tradition to record the stories of their communities. Famed novelist Bapsi Sidhwa portrays a Pakistani community in Houston, Texas, still struggling to heal from the horrors of Partition. In Uzma Aslam Khan's tale, a man working in a Karachi auto body shop falls in love with the magical woman painted on a bus cabin. Bushra Rehman introduces us to a Pakistani girl living in Corona, Queens, who becomes painfully aware of the tensions between established Italian immigrants and their new Pakistani neighbors. And during the anti-Muslim sentiment following 9/11, a young woman in newcomer Humera Afridi's story searches Manhattan's rubble-filled streets for a mosque.
Filled with nostalgic memories of Pakistan, critical commentary about the world's current political climate, and inspirational hope for the future, the stories in And the World Changed weave an intricate, enlightening view of Pakistan, its relation to the West, and the women who travel between the two regions.
Press contact: Amita Manghnani, amanghnani[at]gc.cuny.edu
PAKISTANI WOMEN TAKE YOU BEHIND THE HEADLINES
AND THE WORLD CHANGED: CONTEMPORARY STORIES BY PAKISTANI WOMEN
Edited and with an Introduction by Muneeza Shamsie
CONTRIBUTORS AVAILABLE FOR APPEARANCES AND READINGS!
"A landmark collection...of immense historical, political, and literary
significance...these words will change us..."
-Sunaina Maira, author, Desis in the House: Indian American Youth
Culture in New York; associate professor, Asian American studies, UC
"I could not put this book down! A groundbreaking collection...to
savor...and share with everyone."
-Chandra Talpade Mohanty, author, Feminism Without Borders; co-editor,
Third World Women and the Politics of Feminism
The state of emergency declared by President Pervez Musharraf, his
eventual resignation, the return and brutal assassination of Prime
Minister Benazir Bhutto, and the most recent elections have all rocked
the nation of Pakistan.
But while media reports focus on the "Talibanization" of Pakistan, the
25 celebrated Pakistani women writers featured in this anthology provide
a more complex view of the country - one characterized not only by
growing extremism and political upheaval, but also by beauty and
humanity. Internationally acclaimed writer Bapsi Sidhwa captures the
experiences of a family living in Houston, Texas still dealing with the
horrific legacy of the 1947 Partition of India. Bushra Rehman, poet and
co-editor of Colonize This!, introduces us to a young girl growing up in
Queens, New York, who becomes painfully aware of the tensions between
the immigrant communities who call the borough home. Filled with
nostalgic memories of Pakistan, critical commentary about the world's
political climate, and inspirational hope for the future, the stories in
And the World Changed weave an intricate, enlightening view of Pakistan,
its relation to the West, and the women who travel between the two
AND THE WORLD CHANGED
Contemporary Stories by Pakistani Women
Edited and with an Introduction by Muneeza Shamsie
$15.95 Paperback, 978-1-55861-580-9
$55.00 Library Cloth, 978-1-55861-591-5
Publication: October 2008
Biography of Muneeza Shamsie
Muneeza Shamsie (nee Habibullah) is a Pakistani critic, short story
writer, and the editor of three pioneering anthologies published abroad:
A Dragonfly In the Sun, An Anthology of Pakistani Writing in English;
Leaving Home, Towards A New Millenium, A Collection of English Prose by
Pakistani Writers; and And The World Changed, Contemporary Stories by
Pakistani Women. Currently, she is editing the forthcoming Oxford
Companion to the Literatures of Pakistan and writing a critical book on
Pakistani English literature.
Shamsie belongs to a family of writing women. Her feminist grandmother,
Inam Habibullah, wrote a travelogue of her 1924 European trip and her
mother, Jahanara Habibullah, wrote her first book and memoir in her
eighties. Shamsie's elder daughter, Saman Shamsie, has written children's stories, while her younger daughter is the well-known novelist Kamila Shamsie (Broken Verses, Kartography, In the
City by the Sea, and Salt and Saffron).
For the past twenty-five years, Shamsie has worked as a full-time
freelance journalist for Pakistan's English language press. She has
contributed to the newspaper Dawn and the periodical Newsline, well as
the online Literary Encyclopedia (www.Litencyc.com). She has written for
The Journal of Commonwealth Literature, The Pakistan Encyclopedia, and
The Oxford Companion to the History of Pakistan. She has spoken at
several literary forums and conferences in Britain, India, and Pakistan.
Shamsie also helped to found the Karachi hospital The Kidney Centre.
And the World Changed features: Talat Abbasi, Humera Afridi, Aamina
Ahmad, Rukhsana Ahmad, Feryal Ali Gauhar, Sara Suleri Goodyear, Shahrukh
Husain, Sabyn Javeri Jillani, Sonia Kamal, Fawzia Afzal Khan, Sorayya
Khan, Uzma Aslam Khan, Maniza Naqvi, Tahira Naqvi, Nayyara Rahman, Hima
Raza, Bushra Rehman, Fahmida Riaz, Roshni Rustomji, Sehba Sarwar, Bina
Shah, Qaisra Shahraz, Kamila Shamsie, Muneeza Shamsie, and Bapsi Sidhwa.