Kamila Shamsie

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Kamila Shamsie

Shamsie reading at "The Global Soul: Imagining the Cosmopolitan", 2017
Shamsie reading at "The Global Soul: Imagining the Cosmopolitan", 2017
Native name
کاملہ شمسی
Born (1973-08-13) 13 August 1973 (age 50)
Karachi, Pakistan
EducationKarachi Grammar School
Alma materHamilton College
University of Massachusetts Amherst
Notable worksBurnt Shadows (2009)
Home Fire (2017)
Notable awardsAnisfield-Wolf Book Award for fiction; Women's Prize for Fiction
RelativesMuneeza Shamsie (mother)
Attia Hosain (great-aunt)

Kamila Shamsie FRSL (Urdu: کاملہ شمسی; born 13 August 1973)[2] is a Pakistani and British writer and novelist who is best known for her award-winning novel Home Fire (2017).[1] Named on Granta magazine's list of 20 best young British writers, Shamsie has been described by The New Indian Express as "a novelist to reckon with and to look forward to."[3] She also writes for publications including The Guardian, New Statesman, Index on Censorship and Prospect, and broadcasts on radio.[4]

Early life and education[edit]

Shamsie was born into a well-to-do family of intellectuals in Karachi, Pakistan. Her mother is journalist and editor Muneeza Shamsie, her great-aunt was writer Attia Hosain and she is the granddaughter of memoirist Jahanara Habibullah.[5][6]

Shamsie was brought up in Karachi, where she attended Karachi Grammar School.[2] She went to the US as a college exchange student,[7] and earned a BA in creative writing from Hamilton College,[2] and an MFA from the MFA Program for Poets & Writers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst,[2] where she was influenced by the Kashmiri poet Agha Shahid Ali.[8]


Shamsie wrote her first novel, In The City by the Sea, while still in college, and it was published in 1998 when she was 25.[9] It was shortlisted for the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize in the UK,[10] and Shamsie received the Prime Minister's Award for Literature in Pakistan in 1999.[8] Her second novel, Salt and Saffron, followed in 2000, after which she was selected as one of Orange's 21 Writers of the 21st century.[8] Her third novel, Kartography (2002), received widespread critical acclaim and was also shortlisted for the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize in the UK.[10] According to the review in Publishers Weekly: "Shamsie's cerebral, playful style sets her apart from most of her fellow subcontinental writers. Something of a cross between Arundhati Roy and Salman Rushdie, she deserves a larger readership in the U.S."[11] Both Kartography and Shamsie's next novel, Broken Verses (2005), have won the Patras Bokhari Award from the Academy of Letters in Pakistan.[8]

Shamsie's fifth novel, Burnt Shadows (2009), was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction[10] and won an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for fiction.[12] A God in Every Stone (2014) was shortlisted for the 2015 Walter Scott Prize[13] and for the Baileys Women's Prize For Fiction.[14] According to Maya Jaggi's review in The Guardian: "Through its succession of seemingly disparate, acutely observed worlds, Burnt Shadows reveals the impact of shared histories, hinting at larger tragedies through individual loss."[15] Shamsie's seventh novel, Home Fire, described by the BBC as a "powerful story of the complexities of love, family and state in wartime",[16] was longlisted for the 2017 Booker Prize,[17] shortlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award,[18][19] and in 2018 won the Women's Prize for Fiction.[20][21]

She is also the author of the non-fiction work Offence: The Muslim Case (Seagull Books, 2009).[22] In 2009, Shamsie donated the short story "The Desert Torso" to Oxfam's Ox-Tales project – four collections of UK stories written by 38 authors. Her story was published in the Air collection.[23] She attended the 2011 Jaipur Literature Festival, where she spoke about her style of writing. She participated in the Bush Theatre's 2011 project Sixty-Six Books, with a piece based on a book of the King James Bible.[24]

Shamsie was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2011.[10][25] In 2013, she was included in the Granta list of 20 best young British writers.[26]

She has contributed to such international events as the Cleveland Humanities Festival[7] and the NGC Bocas Lit Fest in Trinidad, in 2016,[27][28] and she is a patron of the Manchester Literature Festival.[29] In 2017, she joined the Manchester Centre for New Writing, where she is Professor of Creative Writing.[30]

She delivered the 2018 Orwell Lecture at University College London, with the title "Unbecoming British: citizenship, migration and the transformation of rights into privileges".[31]

In 2021, Shamsie was a judge for the Goldsmiths Prize, alongside Nell Stevens, Fred D'Aguiar and Johanna Thomas-Corr.[32]

Personal life[edit]

Shamsie states that she considers herself Muslim.[33] She moved to London in 2007 and is now a dual national of the UK and Pakistan.[1]

In 2012, she joined the latest incarnation of the Authors XI cricket team, despite never having played the game before. She contributed a chapter, "The Women's XI", to the book The Authors XI: A Season of English Cricket from Hackney to Hambledon (2013), collectively written by members of the team to chronicle their first season together.[34]

Awards and recognition[edit]


  • In the City by the Sea (1998), ISBN 0-14-028181-9
  • Salt and Saffron (2000), ISBN 1-58234-261-X, OCLC 968548654
  • Kartography (2002), ISBN 0-15-602973-1
  • Broken Verses (2005), ISBN 0-15-603053-5
  • Offence: The Muslim Case (2009), ISBN 1-906497-03-6, OCLC 232980963
  • Burnt Shadows (2009), ISBN 0-312-55187-8
  • A God in Every Stone (2014), ISBN 978-1-4088-4720-6, OCLC 939530755
  • Home Fire (2017), ISBN 978-1-4088-8677-9
  • Best of Friends (2022), ISBN 9781526647696

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Shamsie, Kamila (4 March 2014). "Kamila Shamsie on applying for British Citizenship: 'I never felt safe'". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 March 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d Jaclyn (8 March 2013). "Kamila Shamsie: Following in her father's footsteps". South Asian Diaspora. Archived from the original on 3 March 2015. Retrieved 26 June 2014.
  3. ^ "In the City of Storytellers". The New Indian Express. 23 March 2014.
  4. ^ "Kamila Shamsie". British Council | Literature. Retrieved 20 April 2022.
  5. ^ Major, Nick (18 August 2018). "THE SRB INTERVIEW: Kamila Shamsie". Scottish Review of Books. Retrieved 28 March 2019.
  6. ^ Shamsie, Kamila (1 May 2009). "A long, loving literary line: Kamila Shamsie on the three generations of women writers in her family". The Guardian.
  7. ^ a b Long, Karen R. (12 April 2016). "At The Cleveland Humanities Festival, Author Kamila Shamsie Asks 'Why Weep for Stones?'". Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards. Retrieved 20 April 2022.
  8. ^ a b c d Agha, Saira (26 August 2016). "Pride of Pakistan:Kamila Shamsie". Daily Times. Retrieved 16 May 2019.
  9. ^ Hanman, Natalie (11 April 2014). "Kamila Shamsie: 'Where is the American writer writing about America in Pakistan? There is a deep lack of reckoning'". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 15 August 2017.
  10. ^ a b c d "Kamila Shamsie". Bloomsbury. Retrieved 21 December 2014.
  11. ^ "Kartography". Publishers Weekly. 14 July 2003. Retrieved 20 April 2022.
  12. ^ a b "Kamila Shamsie | Burnt Shadows", Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards.
  13. ^ "2015 Shortlist announced". Walter Scott Prize. 24 March 2015. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  14. ^ Driscoll, Brogan (13 April 2015). "Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction Shortlist Announced". HuffPost UK. Retrieved 16 August 2017.
  15. ^ Jaggi, Maya (7 March 2009). "When worlds collide | Kamila Shamsie's epic new novel will challenge and enlighten its readers, writes Maya Jaggi". The Guardian.
  16. ^ "Ten books to read in August". Between the Lines. BBC | Culture. 1 August 2017. Retrieved 20 April 2022.
  17. ^ Beer, Tom (14 August 2017). "What to read this week". Newsday. Retrieved 15 August 2017.
  18. ^ "2019 Shortlist". Dublin Literary Prize. Retrieved 21 April 2022.
  19. ^ "Kamila Shamsie and Mohsin Hamid shortlisted for Dublin Literary Award 2019". The News International. 19 April 2019. Retrieved 21 April 2022.
  20. ^ Flood, Alison (6 June 2018), "Kamila Shamsie wins Women's prize for fiction for 'story of our times'", The Guardian.
  21. ^ "Kamila Shamsie Wins 2018 Women's Prize For Fiction". Women's Prize for Fiction. 6 June 2018. Retrieved 20 April 2022.
  22. ^ "Kamila Shamsie: Islam and offence". Index On Censorship. 20 May 2009. Retrieved 20 April 2022.
  23. ^ Shamsie, Kamila, "The Desert Torso" – A short story from the OX-Tales series.
  24. ^ Kamila Shamsie - "The Letter in response to Philemon" Archived 13 May 2014 at the Wayback Machine, Sixty-Six Books, Bush Theatre.
  25. ^ "Kamila Shamsie". The Royal Society of Literature. Retrieved 20 April 2022.
  26. ^ Best of Young British Novelists 4, Granta 123.
  27. ^ "Kamila Shamsie, Pakistani-British Author at Bocas 2016". British Council | Caribbean. Retrieved 20 April 2022.
  28. ^ Shamsie, Kamila (28 April 2016). "Kamila Shamsie: Bocas and Bogota - Part 1". British Council | Literature.
  29. ^ "About Us". Manchester Literature Festival (MLF). Retrieved 20 April 2022.
  30. ^ "Kamila Shamsie | Professor of Creative Writing". Manchester Centre for new Writing. Retrieved 20 April 2022.
  31. ^ "Unbecoming British | The Orwell Lecture 2018 with Kamila Shamsie". The Orwell Foundation. Retrieved 20 April 2022 – via YouTube.
  32. ^ Chandler, Mark (20 January 2021). "Stevens, D'Aguiar and Shamsie to judge 2021 Goldsmiths Prize". The Bookseller. Retrieved 21 April 2022.
  33. ^ Nicol, Patricia (20 September 2017). "Author of the moment Kamila Shamsie on what it is to be a Muslim today". Evening Standard. Retrieved 28 March 2019.
  34. ^ Authors Cricket Club (2013). The Authors XI: A Season of English Cricket from Hackney to Hambledon. London: Bloomsbury. ISBN 978-1-4088-4045-0.
  35. ^ "100 Women: Who took part?". BBC News. 20 October 2013. Retrieved 18 December 2022.
  36. ^ "Announcing the 2018 Women’s Prize winner!", Women's Prize for Fiction
  37. ^ Flood, Allison (19 September 2019). "Kamila Shamsie's book award withdrawn over her part in Israel boycott". The Guardian.
  38. ^ "Kamila Shamsie on being stripped of writers' award over Israel boycott". Channel 4 News – via YouTube.
  39. ^ Flood, Alison (23 September 2019). "Hundreds of authors protest after Kamila Shamsie's book award is revoked". The Guardian.

Further reading[edit]

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