Uzma Aslam Khan Biography
I was born in Lahore, Pakistan, the city to which my parents migrated from India during and after the Partition riots of 1947. Soon after my birth, my family moved to the Philippines, and then to Japan and England. Many geographies have shaped me. I grew up hearing at least three languages in my home, English, Urdu and Punjabi. In these different tongues, I inherited different stories.
If from both my grandmothers I gathered Partition mosaics of conflict, division, and loss, my childhood was also full of adventure and mystery. In addition, my fathers passion for Urdu poetry meant that I grew up experiencing an intuitive joy in the Urdu aesthetic, rich in imagery, metaphor, and wordplay.
It was in England, at the age of seven, that I wrote my first story, and it won me a copy of Oscar Wildes Fairy Tales. Wildes stories were my first conscious glimpse of art as witty, brutal, and most of all, able to evoke wonder.
My family left England and moved back to Pakistan in 1979, not to the historic city of Lahore but to the sprawling metropolis of Karachi. It was unfortunate timing. There had just been a military coup. There were no fairy tales. There was no wonder. The Soviets had just invaded Afghanistan and the CIA poured billions of dollars into the hands of Pakistans military dictator, General Zia, to fight the Soviets next door. Pakistan teemed with drugs and arms. People began calling this dark period a Second Partition.
The Second Partition was my transition to adulthood. What I understand now is that the hunger to know my place in these chaotic layers helped make me a writer. Its the hunger to make up for what was never said.
In 1987, I was awarded a scholarship by William Smith College in New York and in 1991, by the University of Arizona in Tucson. It was in Tucson that I began my first novel, The Story of Noble Rot. I completed it four years later, after moving near a different desert, in Morocco. I lived in Morocco for three years, teaching English, and starting my second novel, Trespassing.
Trespassing was completed after I moved back to Pakistanthis time to the city of my birth, Lahore. In Lahore I began and completed my third novel, The Geometry of God.
Aside from three novels, Ive written non-fiction on many subjects: personal histories of Partition survivors; gender politics in Indian and Pakistani cinema; stereotypes the Western media promotes about the Islamic world through clichéd images of violent men and veiled women. This issue of orientalizing Muslim women in particular is one Ive explored in two recent essays: Brown Mans Burden for Drawbridge magazine UK (the title was changed to The West Must Save the East!) and the forthcoming, Flagging Multiculturalism, to be published by Atlas Books USA in Fall 2009 in a collection of essays, How They See Us.
This biography was last updated on 12/13/2009.
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