Thursday, October 7, 2010

BAY AREA EVENTS: A Complete Listing

Saturday 9 October: West Coast Live: A morning with Uzma Aslam Khan and other guests on Sedge Thomson’s vibrant radio show. I will read from The Geometry of God, and generally discuss my ideas and work. Live from the San Francisco Ferry Building.

Saturday 9 October: LitQuake LitCrawl: Granta 112: Pakistan - The West Coast Launch Event
I will read from the Pakistan issue, followed by a Q&A. Modern Times Bookstore, 888 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94110, 7.15 p.m. – 8.15 p.m.

Monday 11 October: Bridging Pakistan and San Francisco: An evening with Uzma Aslam Khan
I will discuss Granta 112: Pakistan and my story 'Ice, Mating', which is set between San Francisco and Pakistan. This event is open to the general public. The Marin School, 100 Ebbtide Avenue, Bldg. 5, Sausalito, CA 94965, 7 p.m. - 8 p.m.

Tuesday 12 October: The Geometry of God: An evening with Uzma Aslam Khan. I will read from my most recent novel. Revolution Books, 2425 Channing Way, off of Telegraph Ave., Berkeley, CA, 7:00p.m-8:00p.m. 510 848 1196 or visit http://www.revolutionbooks.org/p/event-calendar.html


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Granta 112: Pakistan




Granta's issue 112 is on Pakistan. Is my country enjoying a literary renaissance? You decide! Whether you agree or not, the cover, by the truck artist Islam Gull, is beautiful, no? There is also some stunning artwork within the issue itself, often in conjunction with the writing, and the result is quite lovely. Copies can be ordered on Granta’s website, as well as through several online bookstores, and at the many events being organized to launch this issue around the world. For details please see: http://www.granta.com/Magazine/112

I’ll be at Lit Crawl in San Francisco next month, where I’ll discuss, among other things, my short story in the Granta issue, titled, “Ice, Mating.” (I love the title; why is nobody talking about the title?!) Lit Crawl, the final day of Lit Quake Literary Festival, is on October 9th. I’ll be speaking/reading from 7:15-8:15 at Modern Times bookstore on 888 Valencia Street in the Mission. Hope to see you there!

While in the Bay Area, I'll also be reading at Revolution Books in Berkeley, 2425 Channing Way, off of Telegraph Avenue. (For details please call (510) 8481196 or visit: http://www.revolutionbooks.org/p/events-calendar.html) This reading will be on October 12th from 7:00-8:00 p.m. At Revolution Books I'll be reading from my third novel, recently released, The Geometry of God.

An exciting side note about The Geometry of God. It won the Bronze Award in the Independent Publishers Books Awards 2010, was selected as one of Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2009, and was a finalist of Foreword Magazine’s Best Books of 2009.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Tahira Abdullah speaks on the floods in Pakistan

The interview above addresses the following questions I asked Tahira Abdullah, prominent Pakistani human rights activist, about the floods in Pakistan. My questions are about the Swat Valley (in northern Pakistan) and about Sindh province (southern Pakistan).

1. In a previous interview, you mentioned that the IDPs (Internally Displaced People -- displaced from Swat Vallley after first the Taliban takeover, and then the subsequent actions of the Pakistan Army) were the first to be hit by the floods. Could you elaborate?

2 In the same earlier interview, you mentioned the need for boats. Because of the steepness of the mountains areas, what is the primary means of transport now that the area is under water and boats are hard to find?

3. Is there any one detail you want to stress about how Sindh has been affected? Anything that stands out as different from the impact on other areas?

There is also this excellent audio interview with Tahira

http://webstudio.ciopakistan.com/2010/08/11/pkflood-relief-tahira-abdullah-paints-a-real-picture/

Monday, August 9, 2010

Floods in Pakistan

The death toll has officially crossed 1,600. The unofficial number is 3,000. Over 12 million people's lives have been affected. Around 80% of the country's food reserves are gone. The scale of this calamity is mind-boggling; the UN is predicting that the aftermath will be even worse than the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean, 2005 earthquake in northern Pakistan, and 2010 earthquake in Haiti combined.

What has hit Pakistan in this millennium? Or even in just this year alone? From the attacks on Ahmadis in Lahore to the plane crash in Islamabad to the floods in the north, to the riots in Karachi, the last three, in the space of just a few days last week? From the Taliban to the US drones. And now the floods are moving south, into Sindh. Terrifyingly, meteorologists are predicting that the rains will continue in the next 24-36 hours. So many crops have already been destroyed the price of tomatoes alone has tripled in two days. Are we looking at a nation-wide famine? In the past, Pakistanis could at least be proud of not needing food aid. Is even that dignity soon to be lost?

The particular case of Swat Valley is heart-breaking. Sawatis had to suffer the Taliban and then the Pakistan Army, and now most of the valley is completely cut off, so relief efforts are at a near standstill. Here's a painful Youtube video on Mangora, Swat Valley: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uyv1NoPl28E&feature=channel






And I just came across some more devastating photos:

What to do? If you are in a position to help, please donate to one of several relief agencies that are dependable and doing their best to access areas that the government alone does not seem able to help. (Don't get me started on President Zardari's grotesque visit to Europe this week, while his countrymen and countrywomen drown.)

Here are some suggestions for how to donate.

This link has a video and a way to donate through the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC):

Another excellent way is through the Edhi Foundation, which has centers in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, Japan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. http://www.edhifoundation.com/contact.asp

If you would rather go through other agencies (Red Cross, Oxfam, UNICEF etc.), here's a complete list http://edition.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/meast/08/04/help.pakistan/index.html#fbid=nR8slPBTCBA&wom=true


Monday, May 17, 2010

Bat Flowers, Bat Fish, and Fruit Bats




My first encounter with bats was in Lahore, in my dadi's house in Model Town. It was one of those pretty beat old houses with high ceilings, and a front gate that nearly fell on my sister and me when we were swinging on it one day, pulling down with it the huge cement pillar holding it in place. If there hadn't been a ditch for me to fall in, so the gate fell over the ditch instead of over me, I would've died. I think my sister got scratched. Don't ask how we survived ... it was that kind of house. Yep, probably full of jinns. It is where I heard my first jinn story. BUT that is not what this post is about. One night a bat flew inside the bedroom where we all slept together in a line of beds. I was transfixed, and probably a little scared. It was my first bat.

Years later in Upstate New York, I encountered more bats, and liked them less. They would fly into pizza joints and into my apartment building, and hang in the window outside my front door.

Years later in Sydney, I saw my first fruit bats. These were different sort of bats. They were cute. They also had a great other name: flying foxes. I returned to Lahore, Pakistan, to tell my hubby all about them and a friend overheard and said there were flying foxes in our very own Lahore. Sure enough, there they were in Jinnah Park, dangling upside down with furry red breasts exposed, though they can be hard to see -- from a distance, they look a bit like shapeless pods. Of course they made it into the book I was writing at the time. (There's a scene in The Geometry of God where Amal meets her lover Omar at Jinnah Park and they talk about the bats ...)

Years later in Malaysia, I saw a bat fish. These are terrifically hard to spot, but they favor mangroves, so poke around the roots and the weeds. They are so lovely, sort of like seahorses in how they drift dreamily. The one I saw swam right by me, all upright and introverted, and at first I thought it was a leaf. Because they are so slow, Dave and I were able to look at it till we were almost sated. Then it disappeared.

And now, a week ago, in Lyon Arboretum in Honolulu, I saw a black bat flower. These are some of the strangest and most gorgeous flowers I've ever seen (and apparently, quite rare). They have long silky tendrils or "whiskers" that are purplish in the sun and the petals are so glossy and rich. They aren't exactly pretty. They have no smell. But they are stunningly intense.

Check out the photos above. White bat flower; Black bat flower in Lyon Arboretum, Honolulu (a different one from the same cluster posted in the previous post); and flying foxes in Jinnah Park, Lahore. I know, the bats are shadowy. But if you zoom in and think friendly bat thoughts, they might reveal themselves.

Hawaii Flowers -- OAHU (Lyon Arboretum, April-May 2010)





Friday, May 14, 2010

Hawaii Book and Music Festival

The 5th Annual Hawaii Book and Music Festival will be held this weekend, May 15-16 10:00a.m.-5:00p.m. at Honolulu Hale. Free admission and parking! Lots of food, and, well, books and music ...

PLUS, I will be in the Authors' Pavilion on Sunday May 16 from 12:00p.m-1:00p.m reading a little and talking a little. And signing copies of both Trespassing and The Geometry of God in the Revolution Books' stall at 11:00a.m. and in the Barnes and Noble tent at 1:00p.m. Hope to see you there!

For more info on the festival, see hawaiibookandmusicfestival.org

Monday, March 8, 2010

And the Oscar goes to: Sympathy for the Aggressor; Don't Count the million+ dead Iraqis (but who's counting right?)

That is the first message behind the awarding of an Oscar to Hurt Locker for Best Picture. The second message: Women directors can win an award too if they just hitch their wagon to the same tired cliche: America the Victim.

Mamoon Alabbasi, an Iraqi journalist, has this interesting piece in which he compares this award-winning trash to Avatar. I quote him:

"In the 'The Hurt Locker,' where we follow an adventurous U.S. bomb squad in Iraq, the Iraqis in the movie appear to serve just as a background that shows how heroic the film's stars are.

Almost faceless and voiceless, they are - like in the world of politics - robbed of their humanity.

It would be more accurate to say that 'The Hurt Locker' is an action movie that uses Iraq as a background than to brand it as an 'Iraq war movie,', and less so as the 'Iraq war drama.'

The film does not really address the Iraq war, the reasons for the presence of the U.S. squad or even the bombs they are supposed to defuse, and most importantly it ignores the views and feelings of Iraqis.

Contrary to the claim made by some film critics arguing that the film is non-ideological, the very fact that the war context is left out makes the movie very political.

It sells war as a heroic adventure, hiding the true toll on all sides involved and brushes aside the suggestion of accountability. This seems very ideological."

He then goes on to say:

"But for a lot of Iraqis, 'Avatar' is the film of the underdog. For many of them who feel de-humanised by some parts of the media, the positive depiction of blue non-humans is welcome.

If some humans can relate to the 'humanity' of non-humans in fiction, then surely they would find it easier to identify with the true humanity of de-humanised humans in real life?

Or would that be too much to expect?"

You can read the full article here:
http://www.consortiumnews.com/2010/022610a.html

Though I have problems with Avatar too -- it is, after all, as always, the white guy who saves the "natives" -- at least the "natives" are seen and heard in all their blue glory. That is hugely generous for Hollywood. Hurt Locker, on the other hand, has done same same even worse, choosing to invisibilize Iraqis and turn them into extras. Yeah, like real life.