Full-page Review on Independence Day

Thrilled to receive this full-page review of The Miraculous True History of Nomi Ali in the Swedish paper Svenska Dagbladet. Aptly, it appeared on India and Pakistan's Independence Day this past weekend. Plus, it's a "pearl of the month" in Adlibris bookshop. 

"Aslam Khan's story of the prison colony is magnificent"

Translated excerpts of the review: 

"Pakistani Uzma Aslam Khan's breakthrough came with the novel Trespassing in 2003 (Tradarna I Vaven in Swedish). Her new novel The Miraculous True History of Nomi Ali (Den Fantastiska Sanna Historien Om Nomi Ali in Swedish) is a magnificent, rebellious, and moving story. 

"It takes place in the Andamans at the eastern end of the Bay of Bengal, an archipelago few have heard of, whose dark and bloody history is even less well known. Time oscillates between 1942 and 1947, with some flashbacks to the 1930s. The islands function during this time as a prisoner colony, first under British sovereignty, then Japanese, then British again, before Independence is proclaimed in 1947. 

"The author carried around this story for 26 years, ever since reading about a British politician describing an island to which Indian prisoners were deported as a 'paradise' ... The novel is thus based on historical events, but the characters are fictional. 

"We get to meet a diverse gallery of characters. At the center is 15-year-old Nomi Ali and her brother Zee. Their father was deported to the island, and, after serving his sentence, is a 'free' man, a so-called 'trusted.' He gets to build a meager house, grow some crops, and above all cultivate land for the British. He gets to have a hen, loved by the family as a pet. Something that will have fatal consequences ...

"Some (characters) stand out in particular. Ayes, a close friend of Nomi and Zee, is a boy with a big heart who risks his life for them. Shakuntala came to the islands as the wife of a British officer, and now lives an uncertain life. And then Prisoner F ('D' in the original, for 'dangerous'; 'farlig' in Swedish, hence 'F'), mythical on the island for being the only one who managed to escape from the terrible prison up the hill ... 

"Khan's story is striking on several levels: as a historical novel, as testimony ... as a story of hope, friendship and love that can survive even in the most terrible circumstances."

Pearls of August, Adlibris Bookseller


New edition--and it's fantastiska! Meet The Miraculous True History of Nomi Ali in Swedish, Den fantastiska sanna historien om Nomi Ali. 

I love how the flower pattern continues inside, between book sections, each a delicate variation

The wonderful Ordfront Forlag also published my second novel Trespassing. I'm so grateful for their continued faith and support--how I love seeing my fifth now headlining their website's banner. 

Swedish readers (or their friends/family), click here to purchase. TACK!

Langston Hughes and James Baldwin Place: Harlem, A Walk To Remember

I miss June. My sweet and I were in NYC for 10 days. We like to be there every summer, though normally aren't able to stay that long. But last month was our first time traveling in 16 months--as I'm immunocompromised, my lockdown's been total--and both of us are fully vaccinated, so we left, and lingered. 

A highlight was a walk in Harlem. I'd been wanting to visit "properly"--as in, to know what I'm looking at.  Manhattan is after all where I landed, when I arrived in the US. Though I'd been to Harlem a few times before, and read some of its history, I hadn't attached the history in a deeper way to the area. Though I usually avoid tours, after some online browsing, I contacted Harlem Heritage Tours.

We were lucky to have the owner, Neal Shoemaker, to ourselves. I love that he began by pausing at the poster on the office's window, in which Malcolm X addresses a huge crowd at the intersection where we stood, between Malcolm X Boulevard & Lexington Avenue. Across the street lay the Masjid Malcolm Shabazz, where Malcolm X once preached. 

Masjid Malcolm Shabazz

Soon after we began walking, who do we meet? The incredible Korey Wise. That is something I never thought I'd say. What an honor and privilege. Those who've seen When They See Us will know that Korey was one of the so-called "Central Park Five" convicted and imprisoned as teens for a crime they did not commit. It is a devastating story, so if you don't know, please watch the Netflix series. Korey happened to be riding along on his motorbike on, yes, Malcolm X Boulevard--how the past and present collide--when he and Neal called out to each other. Korey opened his arms to us. That is what he does. He puts out love. I don't know how, but he does. My heart is full. I can't believe we met. Thank you, Korey Wise. May you finally and forever have all the love and light. 

Dave and myself with Korey Wise 💕 (photo by Neal Shoemaker)

Well, what a beginning. After Korey left, we continued walking, and the pacing was perfect: we paused, we conversed. A good guide is knowledgable, passionate--and engages. A script may be needed, but so is improv. As Neal shared stories of Civil Rights legends, key events, buildings, and jazz bars, he also asked what we do. I told him we are writers, and that I love Langston Hughes, a major figure of the Harlem Renaissance. Neal improvised. It wasn't on the script, yet he took us to Hughes' house on 127th Street. What a joy to stand where Hughes once lived, to pause and absorb the spirit of this beautiful writer whose plants once covered that building. 

Langston Hughes lived here at 20 East 127th Street for the last two decades of his life.
(The middle photo shows remnants of the vines that climbed up the building--he loved plants.)

Neal then led us to 128th Street, where another literary giant once lived: James Baldwin. Long before I came to the US, my father, who didn't care for American literature, made two exceptions: John Steinbeck and James Baldwin. He told me to read both. I did. As we now walked to Baldwin's school and home--Baldwin was born in Harlem and lived in many NYC locations till he left for France--I was overwhelmed and humbled. What distances we the living, and those who nest within us, traverse and elide. 

James Baldwin lived in many Harlem homes till the late 1940s, including this one

P.S. 24, Baldwin's elementary school, now the Harlem Renaissance School
(you can just about spot "Public 24" etched above the lion's head)
While walking, we talked: about different works by Hughes and Baldwin, the African diaspora, newer Islamic centers in Harlem, housing justice, racial justice movements today, and, of course, music. 

This was a walk I'll never forget--thanks to Neal Shoemaker and Harlem Heritage Tours.  

I HAVE A WEBSITE--finally, finally

At long last, I have an author website. Please check it out: UzmaAslamKhan 

I started 16 months ago but abandoned it as 1. I hate how stupid technology makes me feel 2. Looking back on a 20-year career of five novels and several other works demanded things of me that I wasn't expecting. 

For starters, it required me to acknowledge myself. I looked through new and old reviews and interviews, book launches and photographs. All that I've done. Not easy. I always think I haven't done much. There's a sloughing off of self, inevitable for any artist, but since I write slowly, that self-obliteration in the service of rebirth can be very prolonged, and go very, very deep. 

Yet, I'm still the same person, too--the one for whom writing is an act of faith, often blind and fully immersive. The one who, long before my first book's release in March 2001, had to come out of that trance-like state to contend with the racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, and misogyny of the book industry. It took 4 years to find that first one a home, and one rejection was explained thus: I didn't have a Jemima Khan-like character, aka white woman bridge character, and my novels would never find an audience till I did that. Well, you all know I never did. Never occurred to me to listen, or care. I'm the one who's always centered brown bodies not meant to exist, lovingly. So there!

In putting together this site, mostly I've been amazed by all the folks who took the time to read my books and amplify them. Some have come and gone. Others have stayed. I am full with gratitude for your labor of love. Thank you. 

It allows me to give me love. I click on each tab--for each novel, for short fiction and non-fiction, interview and events--as though scrolling through the pages of someone else's life. It's not a bad one. 

I hope you visit. And let me know what you think. No doubt there are glitches and ways to improve. Also, I'm told it looks better on a computer (not phone). 

Thank you. 


2021 KLF-Getz Pharma Prize for Best Fiction

My dashing cousin Momin Zafar receiving the prize on my behalf! 

For those wishing to hear the announcement, a link to the recording:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uvdiwEwMvZQ (The magic happens around 1: 21). Congratulations to the winners in all categories. 

Around 1: 43, I come on video to give my thanks, but the sound fluctuates, so I'll say it again: The Miraculous True History of Nomi Ali took forever to write (26 + years). I'm still in happy disbelief that Nomi, my prisoner, Zee, Aye, and the other characters are out in the world, moving across borders (unlike their life in 1930s & 40s lockdown in the book, unlike their maker in 2021), and securing new shelters. Warmest gratitude to the festival, sponsor, and judges.

A shout out too to readers for helping to keep our stories alive--stories of brown bodies, by brown bodies--and to the kind man who didn't want to be named in the video but who stayed up late in Karachi to record it when I had a tiny window between Zoom meetings in Massachusetts. 

I can't wait to meet the world without a screen. 💛

NOMI Has New Homes

On the last day of Feb 2021, I'm wistful for Feb 2020, when I was in Karachi launching The Miraculous True History of Nomi Ali. But I also have wonderful news. 

Nomi will be released in the US and UK, thanks to the brilliant Deep Vellum Publishing. I'm so excited and honored to work with them, and to have multiple homes for this child which, as some of you know, took me 26 + years to create. Stay tuned for updates!

Meanwhile, enjoy some pics from last year: 

Launch at T2F 

Launch at Adab Festival 

Sketch by reader and illustrator Yash Daiv of Nomi and the starfish jail. He captured her spirit--a sky baby in lockdown on earth who belongs with the birds.