Bina Shah’s international New York Times op-ed, “A ‘Homeland’ We Pakistanis Don’t Recognize,” created such a stir that it was reprinted in the U.S. edition of the Times under the headline, “Not My ‘Homeland.’” http://www.nytimes.com/2014/
10/16/opinion/bina-shah-a- homeland-we-pakistanis-dont- recognize.html?_r=0
In the piece, Bina writes: “Whenever a Western movie contains a connection to Pakistan, we watch it in a sadomasochistic way, eager and nervous to see how the West observes us. We look to see if we come across to you as monsters, and then to see what our new, monstrous face looks like. Again and again, we see a refracted, distorted image of our homeland staring back at us. We know we have monsters among us, but this isn’t what we look like to ourselves.”
By Bina Shah
The Sindh province of southeastern Pakistan is home to the fertile plain of the Indus River, the great mystical Sufi saints and a rich history that binds Muslims and Hindus alike. Young Ali Sikandar is from a long line of landowners in Sindh, a fact he has hidden since his father abandoned the family. Relied upon to support his mother and siblings as a TV journalist, he finds it impossible to refuse even the most dangerous assignments. One day in October 2007, Ali is ordered to cover the controversial return of Benazir Bhutto following her eight years in exile in Bina Shah’s exquisite look at her homeland, A SEASON FOR MARTYRS (Delphinium Books/distributed by HarperCollins; November 4, 2014; $14.95).
Bhutto’s very presence invites protests and assassination attempts, but to Ali she symbolizes his struggles with his father, his fervent longing for a better life, and his identity as a Sindhi. Ali finds himself irrevocably drawn to the pro-democracy People’s Resistance Movement, a secret that sweeps him into the many contradictions of a country still struggling to embrace modernity.
In her American debut, one of Pakistan’s most gifted writers sheds light on a region and culture little understood in the West. As Shah weaves together the centuries-old history of Ali’s feudal family and its connection to the Bhuttos, she brilliantly reveals a story at the crossroads of the personal and the political, a chronicle of one man’s desire to overcome extremity to find love, forgiveness, and even identity itself.
BINA SHAH is a regular contributor to the International New York Times and frequent guest on the BBC. She has contributed essays to Granta, The Independent and The Guardian. She holds degrees from Wellesley College and the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and is an alumna of the University of Iowa’s International Writers Workshop. Her novel, Slum Child, was a bestseller in Italy and she has been published in English, Spanish, German and Italian. She lives in Karachi.
A SEASON FOR MARTYRS
By Bina Shah
Delphinium Books/distributed by HarperCollins; Nov. 4, 2014
$14.95; 288 pagesISBN: 978-1-88-328561-6