Image: Farazeh Syed, Attire (cropped), acrylic on canvas, 4 x 5 ft, 2016. By arrangement with the artist.
This month we present six important but underrecognized Urdu feminist writers. These writers—all outside the established canon—explore holiday observances and quotidian exchanges, charged relationships and domestic conflicts, confirming the great variety of faces, tones, concerns, and aesthetics within the genre. Hijab Imtiaz reflects on a new beginning. Miraji investigates Sappho’s life and poetry, while Khalida Hussain’s household members confront a domestic intruder. And in poetry, Sara Shagufta considers the elements, Parveen Shakir deflects a suitor, and Yasmeen Hameed challenges conventions worldly and otherwise. Guest editor Haider Shahbaz and others collaborate on an illuminating introduction. In our special feature, Sawad Hussain and Nariman Youssef introduce readers to four unsung Arabic-language women writers and their autobiographical work. Elsewhere, we bring you voices on the COVID-19 pandemic from around the world.
Urdu Feminist Writing: New Approaches
A dispiriting narrowness has defined canons of Urdu feminist writing from previous decades.
"It’s an act of virtue to kill her!"
I Spat Out This Poem
I swallowed fire / And forgot you were an ocean.
A New Year for Everyone
So this is what the new year of those who worship this life looks like!
No, My Veil Is Stained
Flowers will slip from a torn veil.
Her sagacity immortalized even her scattered, sporadic axioms.
When a man cries / he floods himself in salt tears / and colorfast he drowns
Reviewed by Matt Hanson
At once funny and bleak, this novel by the Iraq-born Dutch novelist draws on his personal experiences to expose the cruel and often absurd procedural challenges that immigrants must endure.
Reviewed by Rochelle Goldberg Ruthchild
A volume of interviews with survivors of the detention camps first created by Lenin in 1918 documents harrowing abuses against dissidents and minorities that extend to present-day Russia.