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 selected for Exclusive Book's Homebru List. It has been translated into Italian (Le Radici Altrove). You can find it on Good Reads or Amazon and you can read an extract here. 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.
When Shubnum Khan signed up for a photoshoot as part of an art project in college, she hadn’t imagined that the photographs would be plastered on billboards and advertisements all over the world. Two years on, her smiling face had sold condos in Mumbai and Florida, drawn subscribers to dating websites and convinced desperate customers of the supposed wonders of skin-lightening creams. This is but one of the many astounding misadventures she chronicles in How I Accidentally Became a Global Stock Photo and Other Strange and Wonderful Stories.
In this part memoir, part travelogue, Shubnum takes the reader on unpredictable journeys far from her family home in South Africa. Whether it’s going off the grid in the Himalayas, getting pulled out of the ocean in Turkey or becoming a bride on a rooftop in Shanghai, she is quirky, moving and vulnerable in what she shares. All the while, she reflects on what it means to be a woman, especially a single Muslim woman, in the modern world.
Drawing from her diverse personal experiences, Shubnum shows us how to courageously take on life's most absurd surprises with good humour and a fistful of hope. Her book is a helpful reminder that once ‘you step off the edge, anything can happen’.
It is available in South Africa and India. You can find it on Good Reads or on Amazon (South Africa) and Amazon (India). You can find it at any good bookstore in South Africa or India or order it online.