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Kamila Shamsie

Burnt Shadows

Picador

2010 Fiction

Kamila Shamsie, the Pakistani novelist, was born into a literary family. Her mother is a critic and short-story writer, her grandmother was a memoirist, and her great-aunt, a novelist and short-story writer.

Born and raised in Karachi, Shamsie studied creative writing at Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y. and earned an MFA from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. At UMass, Shamsie showed an agent a short story she’d written as an undergraduate. That story became her critically acclaimed first novel, In the City by the Sea, which was published in 1998 and shortlisted for the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, honoring the best work of literature by a young Commonwealth author. In 1999 she received the Prime Minister’s Award for Literature from the Pakistan Academy of Letters.

Shamsie’s second novel, Salt and Saffron, was published in 2000. That year, the influential British internet portal Orange named her one of “21 Writers of the 21st Century.” Kartography followed in 2002 and her fourth novel, Broken Verses, in 2005. Both won the Patras Bukhari Award from the Pakistan Academy of Letters. Burnt Shadows, her fifth novel, was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for fiction and won the Danish Literature Prize ALOA-2010. It is being translated into 21 languages.

Shamsie lives in London. She is a trustee of the Free Word Centre, a board member of English PEN, a literary and human-rights organization, and a frequent contributor to The Guardian.

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Blog Posts about Kamila Shamsie

At The Cleveland Humanities Festival, Author Kamila Shamsie Asks "Why Weep for Stones?"

Novelist Kamila Shamsie has a knack for titles.  She called her talk in Cleveland “Why Weep for Stones?” and built it into a riveting meditation on history, art, war and morals.  Readers of her fiction – Shamsie won a 2010 Anisfield-Wolf prize for “Burnt Shadows” – will recognize the thematic confluence at once.Standing in the ornate neo-Gothic Harkness Chapel of Case Western Reserve University, Shamsie drew her listeners into thinking about the political destruction of art, such as the desecration and damage in Palmyra, Syria... Read More →

Anisfield-Wolf Winners Fall On Both Sides Of PEN American Center's Charlie Hebdo Award Controversy

More than 200 prominent authors—among them Anisfield-Wolf winners Junot Diaz and Kamila Shamsie—have publicly objected to the PEN American Center's decision to present French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo its Free Expression Courage award.  Gunmen aggrieved by the magazine’s depiction of Islam targeted the controversial Paris weekly in January and killed a dozen people. The signatories of an April letter to PEN argue that power and privilege must be considered when defining courageousness in satire: "The inequities between... Read More →

Anisfield-Wolf Winners Both Attend And Object To The Brooklyn Book Festival

  Photo credit: Belem Destefani Brooklyn, N.Y. -- The Brooklyn Book Festival—a celebratory, cerebral, free event that runs one Sunday in September—attracted tens of thousands of readers, and this year, a spike of controversy. Anisfield-Wolf jurors Rita Dove and Joyce Carol Oates read from their work, soaking up warm applause, while two recent fiction winners—Junot Diaz and Kamila Shamsie—signed a petition calling on the festival to sever its support from Israel’s Office of Cultural Affairs. “It is deeply regrettable that the... Read More →

What's On Your Summer Reading List?

Kamila Shamsie We don't know what the weather is like where you live, but this weekend it's going to hot and humid. Just the thought of 90-degree temperatures sends us scrambling inside for the air conditioning and a good book.  Pakistan's Express Tribune listed their top 10 books to re-read this summer and even if you've never read some of these books, we'd say they make for an excellent use of time. Among those listed were two Anisfield-Wolf winners: Kamila Shamsie (2010) and Mohsin Hamid (2008).  Of Shamsie's Kartography: Kamila Shamsie is one of... Read More →

VIDEO: Kamila Shamsie Introduces The "Writer's Bloc" Project

How do we change the face of education worldwide? Is it simply a matter of producing better teachers? Donating money for repairs and renovations of some of the most dilapidated schools? Is it by working more closely with parents? Staff at the Open Society Foundations decided that an conversation on worldwide education had to start with a conversation on culture. They tapped several writers to contribute to the project—Chimamanda Adiche (writing on Nigeria), Aleksander Hemon (on Bosnia), Tahmima Anam (on Bangladesh), Petina Guppah (on... Read More →

Kamila Shamsie Reflects On Her Hometown Of Karachi, Pakistan

Kamila Shamsie Kamila Shamsie spent most of her formative years living in Karachi, Pakistan, a sprawling city on the coast where "you can live your entire life without ever glimpsing the sea." Shamsie gives a wonderfully poetic description of her hometown in the latest issue of Newsweek: If there’s one word used more often than others to characterize the city by those who love it, it’s “resilience”—the ability to endure suffering without breaking—but Karachi is full of broken people who have long since ceased to be astonished at discovering... Read More →

Get To Know...Kamila Shamsie

Each week, we'll be helping you to get to know our winners better (what a great bunch they are) and highlighting the best of their work, interviews and essays. We've dedicated this week to all things concerning Kamila Shamsie, 2010 winner for fiction. Check out this video in which she discusses having a cosmopolitan with one of Shakespeare's characters, the one book she just doesn't "get," and her biggest annoyance about book critics.  Read More →

What Will We Do If Public Libraries No Longer Exist?

Kamila Shamsie 2011 Anisfield-Wolf winner Kamila Shamsie reflects on the availability of literature through the world's public libraries—and what that means for future generations:  "A couple of years ago, after a reading in Karachi, I told off a young man who was asking me to sign a pirated copy of one of my books. Piracy is destroying publishing in Pakistan, I told him. He said he understood but added that because pirated books are cheaper he could buy more of them. It’s not as if Karachi is filled with public libraries, he said."  Shamsie goes on... Read More →

Interview With Kamila Shamsie On The Power Of Reading

In this brief interview, Kamila Shamsie, a 2010 Anisfield-Wolf award winner, talks about the joy of reading, the upside of ebooks, and whether she considers herself a political writer. A must-listen for anyone who is a fan of her work or a fan of literature in general. Read More →
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