Onion Tears (Penguin, 2011)
Onion Tears is a novel by Shubnum Khan about three generations of Indian Muslim South African women. It is a tale of love, loss and life.
Loss and life are the themes that weave through this tale of three generations of Muslim women living in suburban South Africa. Khadeejah Bibi Ballim is a hard-working and stubborn first-generation Indian who longs for her beloved homeland and often questions what she is doing on the tip of Africa. At thirty-seven, her daughter Summaya is struggling to reconcile her South African and Indian identities, while Summaya s own daughter, eleven-year-old Aneesa, is a girl who has some difficult questions of her own. Is her mother lying to her about her father s death? Why won t she tell her what really happened? Gradually, the past merges with the present as the novel meanders through their lives, uncovering the secrets people keep, the words they swallow and the emotions they elect to mute. For this family, faintly detectable through the sharp spicy aromas that find their way out of Khadeejah's kitchen, the scent of tragedy is always threatening. Eventually it may bring this family together, if not, it will tear them part.
It was long listed for the Sunday Times Fiction Prize, shortlisted for the University of Johannesburg Debut Prize and the Penguin Prize for African Writing. It was also selected for Exclusive Book's Homebru List. It has been translated into Italian (Le Radici Altrove) and is available at bookstores in South Africa, India and via Amazon all over the world
The novel is currently out of print but you can buy an e-book on Amazon here.
How I Accidentally Became a Global Stock Photo and Other Strange and Wonderful Stories (Pan Macmillan, 2021)
How I Accidentally Became a Global Stock Photo and Other Strange and Wonderful Stories is part memoir, part travelogue and part love letter.
Shubnum Khan takes the reader on a journey around the world. Whether it is teaching children in a remote village in the Himalayas, attending a writers’ residency where the movie The Blair Witch Project was shot, getting pulled out of the ocean in Turkey or becoming a bride on a rooftop in Shanghai, Shubnum is quirky, moving and vulnerable in what she shares.
Shubnum offers an introspective reflection on what it means to be a woman, particularly a single Muslim woman, trying to find herself in a modern world. The stories are drawn from her life journey, which has been full of unexpected twists and turns, and are interspersed with reflections on culture and religion as well as musings on family, relationships and love.
This is a book about holding onto hope and a reminder that once ‘you step off the edge, anything can happen’
It is available in South Africa and India.
You can find it at any good bookstore in South Africa (or simply order it). It's available at independent book stores or any Exclusive Books, Bargain Books and you can order it online for delivery from Takealot or Loot.