Monday, March 7, 2011

Bina Shah

Bina was born in Karachi, Pakistan in 1972, and was raised in Charlottesville, Virginia, and Karachi. She graduated in 1993 with a degree in Psychology from Wellesley College, in Wellesley, Massachusetts; and went on to complete a Masters in Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Returning to Pakistan in 1995, she served as the editor for Computerworld Pakistan and Spider Magazine, both well-known IT publications in the fledgling Internet industry. At the same time, she began to write extensively for other Pakistani newspapers, including the Dawn, Libas, the Friday Times, and the Pakistani Web site Chowk. Her humorous writing, political satire, and clear-eyed view of social issues have earned her critical praise and a devoted following amongst Pakistanis all over the world.

Bina began writing fiction during this time, and her first book, Animal Medicine, a collection of experimental short stories for young and old adults alike, was published by Oxford University Press in 1999. She wrote two novels, Where They Dream in Blue, about a young Pakistani-American’s search for identity – seen as a largely autobiographical work – and The 786 Cybercafe, which follows the adventures of four friends as they try to set up a cybercafe on Karachi’s teeming Tariq Road. Both were published by Alhamra and became incredibly popular with Pakistani readers, especially teenagers and college students. Bina’s second book of short stories, Blessings, was an exploration of the difficult places – both physically and emotionally – that people have to encounter in their lives, and was set in a variety of backdrops, including rural Sindh, the mountains of the Northern Areas, and America.

Bina’s fifth novel, Slum Child, is the story of a young Christian girl who chases her dreams all the way out of the slum and into the richest neighborhood of Karachi. It was published in Italy under the title La Bambina Che Non Poteva Sognare (The Little Girl Who Could Not Dream), and will be published in Spanish in early 2010.

Bina’s short stories have been included in several anthologies and writing Web sites. Her short story, “The Wedding of Sundri”, was featured on the Indian web site Women’s Writing and published in the anthology Neither Night Nor Day (HarperCollins India). “The Optimist” was featured in the anthology And The World Changed (Women Unlimited, OUP, and The Feminist Press), an award-winning collection of short stories by Pakistani women writers. “The Angel of Jalozai” was published in the bimonthly journal of the Pakistan Academy of Letters, while “The Good Wife” was published in the German literature journal Literatur Nachrichten. Bina’s essay “A Love Affair with Lahore” was featured in Bapsi Sidhwa’s anthology Beloved Lahore (also published as City of Sin and Splendour in India).

Bina lives in Karachi, where she also teaches writing part time at SZABIST. She is involved with the arts and culture scene, writes and speaks on women’s issues, and has done readings at the Second Floor, Karachi’s most well-known alternative coffeehouse and bookstore. She enjoys travel, practices yoga, plays the flute and piano, and loves dogs.