Bina Shah

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Bina Shah (born in 1972) is a Pakistani writer, columnist and blogger living in Karachi.


The eldest of three children, Shah was born in Karachi to a Sindhi family. She obtained a B.A. in Psychology from Wellesley College and a MEd in Educational Technology from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, USA.[1]

Shah is a fellow of the University of Iowa, as an alum of the International Writing Program (2011).[2] She is also a Fellow of the Hong Kong Baptist University as an alum of its International Writers Workshop.[3]


Shah is the author of four novels and two collections of short stories. She has been published in English, Italian, French, Spanish, Danish, Chinese, German, Turkish and Vietnamese. Her novel Slum Child was published in 2008, while a historical fiction novel about Sindh, A Season For Martyrs was published in 2014 by Delphinium Books.[4] Her fiction and non-fiction has appeared in Granta, The Independent,[5] Wasafiri, Critical Muslim, InterlitQ, the Istanbul Review, Asian Cha, and the collection And the World Changed.

Shah was a contributing opinion writer from 2013-2015 for the International New York Times[6] and an op-ed columnist for Dawn,[7] a newspaper in Pakistan published in Karachi. Currently she also writes a column for the Books and Authors section of the Dawn. She has written for Al Jazeera,[8] The Huffington Post,[9] The Guardian,[10] and The Independent.[11]

Shah writes extensively about Pakistani culture and society, women's rights, girls' education, and issues pertaining to technology, education, and freedom of expression. Her columns and her blog The Feministani has established Shah as one of Pakistan's foremost feminists and cultural commentators.[12] She has been a frequent guest on the BBC,[13] PRI's The World[14] and NPR.[15]

Shah is a two-time winner of Pakistan's Agahi Awards for excellence in journalism.[16][17] Her short story "The Living Museum", won the Dr. Neila C. Sesachari prize from Weber University's literary journal, Weber - The Contemporary West. Shah donated the award money to the Karam Foundation in aid of Syrian refugees.[18]

Shah was chosen by OK! Pakistan as Best Writer of 2014.[19] In 2017 she was selected as a Ponds Miracle Woman.[20]


Shah's first book, a volume of short stories called Animal Medicine, was published in 2000. Her first novel, Where They Dream in Blue, was published by Alhamra in 2001. A second novel, The 786 Cybercafé, was published by Alhamra in 2004. In 2005, her short story "The Optimist" was published in the anthology And the World Changed (Women Unlimited/OUP); an essay called "A Love Affair with Lahore" was published in an anthology edited by Bapsi Sidhwa called City of Sin and Splendour - Writings on Lahore (Penguin India - Pakistani title Beloved City -— OUP). In 2007 Alhamra published her second collection of short stories, Blessings.

Shah's third novel Slum Child was published in India by Tranquebar, an imprint of Westland-Tata, in 2010. An Italian-language version was published in 2009 under the title La Bambina Che Non Poteva Sognare by Newton Compton Editori in Italy, where it reached number 3 on the paperback bestseller list,[21] and sold more than 20,000 copies. It was published in Spanish by Grijalbo, an imprint of Random House Mondadori, in June 2011.

Shah's fourth novel, A Season For Martyrs, was published by Delphinium Books (November 2014) to critical acclaim. It was also published in Italy by Newton Compton as Il Bambino Che Credeva Nella Liberta in 2010. For this novel, Shah was awarded the Premio Internazionale in the Un Mondi di Bambini category of the Almalfi Coast Literary Festival in 2010 for translated fiction.[22]

Shah's fifth novel Before She Sleeps, a feminist dystopian novel, was published by Delphinium Books in 2018.[23] An extract from the novel was featured in the Dawn's special 70th anniversary Pakistan edition "Seventy+Seventy".[24] The novel was praised by Margaret Atwood on Twitter as "a fascinating new angle on 'emotional work'."[25] American newspaper Los Angeles Times it "charged and thrilling."[26] Before She Sleeps was recognized as part of a new canon of feminist dystopia pioneered by Booker Prize winning author Atwood and relevant to the global fight for women's rights and empowerment worldwide, as well as an important part of the #MeToo movement.[27] Shah's novel was also considered noteworthy because it stood out from most Western-centric feminist dystopias, describing a futuristic society in the Middle East where women are forced into polygamous marriages by an authoritarian government in a society ravaged by war and disease.[28]

In 2019 Shah contributed an essay, "The Life and Death of Pakistan's Sabeen Mahmud", about the assassination of Pakistan's beloved human rights activist Sabeen Mahmud, to the anthology Brave New Words: The Power of Writing Now published by Myriad and edited by Susheila Nasta. The anthology of fifteen specially commissioned essays examining the value of critical thinking and the power of the written word was published to commemorate 35 years of Wasafiri, a UK magazine of international literature. Other contributors to the anthology included Booker Prize winner Bernardine Evaristo, Githa Hariharan, Eva Hoffman, Romesh Gunesekera, James Kelman, Tabish Khair, Kei Miller, Blake Morrison, Mukoma wa Ngugi, Hsiao-Hung Pai, and Marina Warner.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "On: Bland Food, Binders, and Being Outspoken". Harvard Graduate School of Education. Retrieved 15 October 2017.
  2. ^ "Bina Shah", IWP.
  3. ^ "Announcement @ HKBU Library". Retrieved 15 October 2017.
  4. ^ "A Season for Martyrs". Retrieved 15 October 2017.
  5. ^ "Bina Shah" at The Independent.
  6. ^ "Bina Shah" at The New York Times.
  7. ^ "Bina Shah" Archived 21 July 2013 at the Wayback Machine at Dawn.
  8. ^ "Bina Shah". Retrieved 15 October 2017.
  9. ^ "Bina Shah - HuffPost". Retrieved 15 October 2017.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  10. ^ "Bina Shah". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 October 2017.
  11. ^ "Bina Shah". The Independent. Retrieved 15 October 2017.
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 15 October 2017. Retrieved 14 October 2017.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  13. ^ Bina Shah (27 September 2013). "Bina Shah on BBC World News". Archived from the original on 12 December 2021. Retrieved 15 October 2017.
  14. ^ "Bina Shah". Retrieved 15 October 2017.
  15. ^ "A Rare Win for a Woman Stabbed by a Stalker in Pakistan". Retrieved 15 October 2017.
  16. ^ "Values and Ethics Celebrated at AGAHI AWARDS". 25 April 2015. Retrieved 15 October 2017.
  17. ^ "Awards for excellence in journalism". 12 November 2014. Retrieved 15 October 2017.
  18. ^ "Bina Shah's "The Living Museum"". Retrieved 15 October 2017.
  19. ^ "Log in or Sign Up to View". Retrieved 15 October 2017.
  20. ^ "Bina Shah". Retrieved 15 October 2017.
  21. ^ "In conversation with Bina Shah" Archived 20 December 2014 at the Wayback Machine, Wasafiri,
  22. ^ Official website. Retrieved 2 August 2010.
  23. ^ "Publishers Marketplace: Joseph Olshan". Retrieved 15 October 2017.
  24. ^ Shah, Bina (13 August 2017). "SEVENTY + SEVENTY: EXCERPT: THE GIRLS OF GREEN CITY". Retrieved 15 October 2017.
  25. ^ @Margaret E. Atwood (10 September 2018). E. Atwood/status/1038972871790534657 "Female-centered #Dystopia from #Pakistan: Before She Sleeps, Bina Shah new angle on "emotional work"!" (Tweet). Retrieved 11 August 2020 – via Twitter. {{cite web}}: Check |url= value (help)
  26. ^ "3 science fiction books for summer". Los Angeles Times. 10 August 2018. Retrieved 11 August 2020.
  27. ^ Alter, Alexandra (8 October 2018). "How Feminist Dystopian Fiction Is Channeling Women's Anger and Anxiety". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 11 August 2020.
  28. ^ Gilbert, Sophie. "The Remarkable Rise of the Feminist Dystopia". The Atlantic. ISSN 1072-7825. Retrieved 11 August 2020.

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