Book readings in Lahore have become a rare occurrence. Which is why, when we found out that Soniah Kamal was hosting one for her debut novel ‘An Isolated Incident’, we were thrilled. The interactive session was held in a book store where the sweet smell of coffee lingered in the air and the atmosphere was comforting and warm despite the cold outside.
An Isolated Incident has a journey for 20 years before reaching its destination and is the manifestation of a promise by Kamal to her grandfather in her youth that she would write about Kashmir.
So who is Soniah Kamal? She is a Pakistani-American author birthed in Karachi. You might remember her by a post we did some time ago. She grew up in a triad of countries; Pakistan, England and Saudi Arabia before moving to the U.S. Kamal’s work pieces have appeared in award winning and critically acclaimed anthologies such as ‘And The World Changed’ and ‘Madonna and Me: Women Writers on the Queen of Pop’. Other work pieces have appeared and are forthcoming in Cosmopolitan, The Rumpus, xoJane, Huffington Post, Akashic Thursdaze, Bengal Lights, The Missing Slate, Commonwealth Writers, SAWNET, Sugar Mule and more.
An Isolated Incident is the story of Zari Zoon, a young woman refugee from Indian Kashmir, who has come to the United States after a devastating tragedy to live with a distant uncle and his son, nineteen year old Billy. Zari and Billy are drawn to each other, Zari by her need to connect after her trauma, and Billy who finds his life in a D.C suburb unfulfilled, and discovers in Zari and her past a reason to live, and to go to war. Brought up on the tales of his grandfather’s heroism, Billy is eager to live up to his grandfather’s freedom fighting days, but little does he realize that the truth he believes will set him free can just as easily imprison him. As Billy travels from a jihadi training camp in Afghanistan and from there to Pakistani Kashmir, his dinner table ideals and loyalties are tested—do they lie with a religion and God he’s always been unsure of or with his beloved country whose ideals and values he’s beginning to question? Back in the U.S., Zari is also beginning to question herself and her God as she strives to find the meaning home and hope in a precarious world where healing herself depends on perhaps more than just taking revenge.
Speaking about the book, Soniah Kamal said “I wanted to explore the role of silence, and speaking up, in memory and history both personal and collective. As for inspiration – the maternal side of my family is from Srinagar and one summer, relatives visiting Lahore related how difficult life in Kashmir was (at the time) and that a late night knock could very well mean death or even worse. I could not get the ‘even worse’ out of my mind and the story and Zari’s character were born in tandem. Billy was born when a schoolmate’s brother ran off to become a ‘freedom fighter.’ This was a boy from an affluent family, he’d studied at elite schools, was a stellar student, was supposed to make his mark on the world- only, not in the way he did, and I saw how his act changed his family. Then it was just a matter of bringing these two worlds together.”
Kamal decided to launch ‘An Isolated Incident’ first in India through ‘Fingerprints!’ However, it is now available for retail in Lahore at Readings, Variety Books, Ferozsons and Vanguard Books. In Karachi; Speedy Books, Liberty Books, Say Publications and Fazli Sons. In Islamabad at Saeed Book Bank, Mr. Books and Variety Books at PKR 595/- only. Online you can find the book at Libertybooks.com, 786cart.com, Uread.com, Flipkart.com and Amazon.in.