I always used to have my nose in a book, often staying up until the early hours as I was so engrossed in reading that I didn’t realise how late it had gotten.
Motherhood changed that as I would be too exhausted by the end of the day to keep my eyes open. I have only recently started reading again so I was pleased to get the chance to review Brick Walls: Tales of Hope & Courage from Pakistan by Saadia Faruqi.
I started reading the book with an open mind. There is so much negativity towards Pakistan and Pakistani’s so wondered if all the stereotypes would be in this collection of short stories. I also find that with short stories they often lack in substance, that there is not enough information regarding the characters so you feel no real interest or empathy with them. However there was no reason for me to be concerned. I was left wishing that some of the stories were longer so I could learn even more about the characters and what happened next to them. And the stories were written to get away from the stereotypes…to show a different side to Pakistan and the people that live there.
The collection of short stories shows the ‘ordinariness’ of people in Pakistan, showing their hopes and dreams and even their courage in times of adversity, and shows their humanity and compassion. There are a wide range of characters, each story showing a different aspect of Pakistan with some stories challenging the norm.
Characters include, Asma a struggling seamstress, Javed Gul, a pushto rock star who performs even though the Taliban don’t like it, Faisal a potential terrorist and many more. My ultimate favourite story had to be that of Nida, a 10 year old girl, fighting against traditional stereotypes due to her cricket obsession.
What I love about the stories is that the author, Saadia Faruqi, is not afraid to write about controversial subjects. She touches upon someone being recruited as a terrorist, showing how vulnerable people can be prayed upon, and then also writes about a music performer who is at risk of being attacked because he is a performer. These stories show the stuggles that simple, ordinary people in Pakistan face.
What is also brilliant about the stories is that they show the reader different parts to Pakistan, from the eyes of the characters themselves. There is a divide between the rich and the poor, and this is also clear in some of the stories:
‘……In fact, the journey to Malir was a revelation in more ways than one. Rabia had never had occasion to visit this part of the city before, and she was amazed at the sights and sounds – and smells. The contrast with both he current home and her ancestral village in the Punjab was striking. When had the city erupted with colour and noise? Perhaps the signs were already there, but she had never really opened her eyes and looked outside her tinted car window to truly see the humanity outside.’
The stories, although short, are brilliant at evoking a range of emotions in the reader. They show some of the injustices that happen and the adversities people in Pakistan face, such as religious extremisim, poverty, war, political corruptness. But then shows how these people will fight against these injustices, and they often show such strength and faith in the face of adversity.
I look forward to seeing what else Saadia Faruqi publishes. She has brought these short stories to life and I would happily have read more if these were not short stories but full novels.