“10 Indie Pakistani Writers You Should Read in 2021”
by Sonia Ahmed
Discover these 10 fantastic indie writers from Pakistan making their mark across the globe
The colonial project introduced the subcontinent to the novel, an entirely new literary form for the region. With its spectacular power of imagination, the novels brought a sense of creativity and ingenuity. Today, novel writing is the most famous literary form appreciated all over the world–Pakistan included!.
Though the colonized nation took the novel with ambivalence, they embraced it with much validation in a matter of time. After the partition in 1947, Pakistan inherited this literary tradition with fervor.
As expected, the novel flourished in Urdu in Pakistan. However, it didn’t take Pakistan long to get her first English novel, The Heart Divided, by Mumtaz Shahnawaz in 1948, only a year after the partition.
Since then, the nation has excelled in Urdu and English novel writing, marking its identity worldwide. The majority of the people are aware of prominent English writers like Bapsi Sidhwa and Mohsin Hamid from Pakistan. However, upcoming talents are doing some incredible things too. They are either self-published or associated with smaller publishing houses but thriving on the strength of their skill and passion.
Here are 10 Indie Pakistani Writers You Should Read in 2021
#1. Sarah Fawad
Sarah Fawad completed her education and earned her Master’s in English Literature after getting married. Her parents and her husband supported her dream of becoming a writer and assisted her in many ways, from preparing the final draft to getting it published, but it’s her own writing skill and humor that propels her to top of my list.
Fawad wrote her first novel, How (Not) To Be A Good Housewife, in 2018, a modern satire taking down the societal mentality. During the lockdown due to COVID, she penned down another fantastic, humorous memoir Desi Distancing that showcases her wit and won her praise from around the world. Her book is available on Amazon, winning accolades from amused readers.
Sarah Fawad is a mother of three children and managing her writing passion smartly while making a home.
#2. Sidra F. Sheikh
Mongrel Books published another bright Pakistani writer, Sidra F. Sheikh, to bring her terrific work into the literary world. After completing her B.Sc. from The London School of Economics and becoming a mother, Sheikh decided to explore her creative side and satiate her hunger for writing.
She is a professional lawyer with a license to practice in England and Pakistan. Even with such a serious background, Sheikh decided to pursue her writing skills by inscribing a humorous sci-fi novel. The Light Blue Jumper revolves around a war where the protagonist with mystical powers is involved in saving the planet.
It’s a novel filled with comedy, oppression, imperialism, and bad manners. Sheikh is the first Pakistani writer who introduced the science fiction genre to the country. If you’re up for some comic relief, this book is your partner!
#3. Aaina Batool
Aaina Batool is a BBA graduate following her passion for writing and creating exciting content. To give her writing skills a chance to woo the world, Batool published her first book, A War Within, in 2018 through Daastan Publications. The book follows the drama genre, where she explores the human capacity to please their love.
Encouraged by the immense praise she received for her first book, Batool wrote a second book, Savior, in 2019. It’s a fictional story, its protagonist trapped in an alien world.
Today, Aaina Batool is a successful writer who is part of different literary forums. Her story is also featured in Salty Tales, an anthology of stories about oceans by various writers, published by Stormy Island publishing.
#4. Shema Bukhari
Weaving a world of words with a charismatic feel is what makes Shema Bukhari different and unique. She is an Assistant Professor of Media Sciences by profession but craves for expressing herself every moment of life.
Being an avid traveler, Bukhari loves to write about her experiences and observations from her perspective. With her interest in non-fiction, she wrote her first book Earthlings – The Weaklings. The book explores the weaknesses of humans and how they cope with these shortcomings. Bukhari partnered with Daastan Publication House, a small press promoting indie writers, for this book.
#5. Farees Ahmed
Daastan Publications, through their Amazon-like self-publishing platform Mera Qissa, gave Farees Ahmed the opportunity to showcase her talent to the world. She is a witty and playful Pakistani writer who lives in Toronto, Canada.
Ahmed is a part-time existentialist and a full-time philosophical writer who pens down her thoughts and keen observation. To add the fun element in her novels, she mostly addresses herself in the third person.
Her first novel, The Damsel in Distress, is in the drama genre, where she explores the lives of two very different persons, a prostitute and a common man with unique mentalities. She later experimented with the fantasy genre with her novel, Talismalore’s General Store, where two friends travel a mystery world together.
#6. Sarim Baig
Being an advocate of the independent press, Sarim Baig partnered with Mongrel Books to publish his first book. Being a new writer, Baig juggles his job as a Computer Science teacher and writing all the time.
His novel Saints and Charlatans is a fictionalized story set in Lahore. It’s a book of interlinked stories exploring the intolerance of society. Consequently, some people become the ‘saints’ while others are just ‘charlatans’ faking their way through society.
Even though all the stories in his novel are independent, they still hang by a common thread. These stories connect the dots revealing the hidden past of the writer himself.
#7. Kinza Asghar Khan (Akasious)
Known by the pen name Akasious, Kinza Asghar Khan is an emerging talent with much promise. Belonging to the small city of Khanewal, Khan always had a passion for expressing her emotions through writing.
Khan is a pharmacy student with good scholastic standing. But the flame of writing and the thirst for expressing herself kept her awake at night, so she penned her first novel, Lone Wolf till Last Breath, and published it on Amazon.
Her recent novel The Ice is Black is taking her places, and her first poetry book, The Ashes of Feelings, is a collection that I think every poetry lover should read. For these two books, Khan partnered with Auraq Publications, a small but prestigious publishing house in Pakistan.
#8. Emad S. Rahim
Dividing time between working as a co-founder at Robomart in California and as a poet, the Pakistani American Emad is successful in both. He is a passionate writer who expresses complex viewpoints through a poetic medium.
In his poems, Rahim explores the themes like faith, love, temptation, retribution, fantasy, lust, escape, and chaos. He is currently working on the next volume of his narrative-poetry book while working full-time in America.
#9. Shazaf Fatima Haider
Shazaf Fatima Haider is a full-time mother and a part-time novelist. Her readers deeply appreciate her insightful commentary on the middle-class, which is often a focus of her writings.
She penned her first novel, How It Happened, in 2013. It’s a satire on arranged marriages in Pakistan and their effects on society and the people involved. Later she partnered with Liberty Books in 2018 and wrote another hit novel, A Firefly in the Dark. The book was widely acclaimed and even won the Children’s Peekaboo Prize in India.
Since Haider explored the psychosis of middle-class families related to the Jinns, her novel was made into a television series. Currently, she is working on her third novel about marriages and divorces.
#10. Komal Salman
Following Anne Frank’s quote that papers are more trustworthy than people, Salman started writing to express her hidden feelings. Using the power of a pen and paper, she vented out the bottled-up feelings that were bothering her since her childhood.
She published her first tragedy novel in 2020 through Daastan publication. Her book Bleed, Breathe, Sing is based on real-life events. The book touches on complex yet sensitive topics such as abduction, complicated families, rape, relationships, and mental health. She dedicated her book to her best friend, who had been an inspiration for her novel.
Salman made sure her book covered all the bleeding aspects of life that aren’t just what she experienced herself, but many women of our society suffer and endure.
And that’s it, my friends – for now! These are some fantastic Pakistani writers who are new to the literary world and hold immense potential. These books are interesting to read and give you a first-hand glimpse into young Pakistani writers’ varied viewpoints. If you’re curious, make sure to check them out!
About the Author
Sonia Ahmed is a short story writer and editor of Penslips Magazine. She is an avid reader and loves a good story that inspires readers and challenges their core beliefs. A dreamer at heart, she writes tales of the ordinary people of the society and believes every story is worth telling. She also writes non-fiction on subjects ranging from eco-friendly lifestyle to religion, science, and healthy living.
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