If from both my grandmothers I gathered Partition mosaics of conflict, division, and loss, my childhood was also full of adventure and mystery. In addition, my father’s passion for Urdu poetry meant that I grew up experiencing an intuitive joy in the Urdu aesthetic, rich in imagery, metaphor, and wordplay.
It was in England, at the age of seven, that I wrote my first story, and it won me a copy of Oscar Wilde’s Fairy Tales. Wilde’s stories were my first conscious glimpse of art as witty, brutal, and most of all, able to evoke wonder.
My family left England and moved back to Pakistan in 1979, not to the historic city of Lahore but to the sprawling metropolis of Karachi. It was unfortunate timing. There had just been a military coup. There were no fairy tales. There was no wonder. The Soviets had just invaded Afghanistan and the CIA poured billions of dollars into the hands of Pakistan’s military dictator, General Zia, to fight the Soviets next door. Pakistan teemed with drugs and arms. People began calling this dark period a Second Partition.
The Second Partition was my transition to adulthood. What I understand now is that the hunger to know my place in these chaotic layers helped make me a writer. It’s the hunger to make up for what was never said.
In 1987, I was awarded a scholarship by William Smith College in New York and in 1991, by the University of Arizona in Tucson. It was in Tucson that I began my first novel, The Story of Noble Rot. I completed it four years later, after moving near a different desert, in Morocco. I lived in Morocco for three years, teaching English, and starting my second novel, Trespassing.
Trespassing was completed after I moved back to Pakistan—this time to the city of my birth, Lahore. In Lahore I began and completed my third novel, The Geometry of God.
Aside from three novels, I’ve written non-fiction on many subjects: personal histories of Partition survivors; gender politics in Indian and Pakistani cinema; stereotypes the Western media promotes about the Islamic world through clichéd images of violent men and veiled women. This issue of orientalizing Muslim women in particular is one I’ve explored in two recent essays: “Brown Man’s Burden” for Drawbridge magazine UK (the title was changed to “The West Must Save the East!”) and the forthcoming, “Flagging Multiculturalism,” to be published by Atlas Books USA in Fall 2009 in a collection of essays, How They See Us.
Laura Susijn, Uzma's agentinterviews with Uzma
World Pulse, February 2009
The Hindu, India 2009
The Daily Star, Bangladesh 2008
Dawn, Pakistan 2008
Black and Gray, Bangladesh 2006
The Independent, UK 2003
Dawn, Pakistan 2003
The Hindu, India 2003articles by Uzma