Pakistani-American author Soniah Kamal has released her debut novel An Isolated Incident in Pakistan. A saga of loss, love, and survival set in Kashmir, Pakistan, Afghanistan and America, An Isolated Incident explores how to survive the most devastating losses of all– the loss of family and ideals. More than 20 years in the making, Soniah conceived the idea in her youth. She took the next several years to develop the story, and she finally began to write it after promising her late Kashmiri grandfather that she would write about Kashmir.
An Isolated Incident is the story of Zari Zoon, a young woman refugee from Indian Kashmir, who has come to the United States after a devastating tragedy to live with a distant uncle and his son, nineteen year old Billy. Zari and Billy are drawn to each other, Zari by her need to connect after her trauma, and Billy who finds his life in a D.C suburb unfulfilled, and discovers in Zari and her past a reason to live, and to go to war. Brought up on the tales of his grandfather’s heroism, Billy is eager to live up to his grandfather’s freedom fighting days, but little does he realize that the truth he believes will set him free can just as easily imprison him.
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As Billy travels from a jihadi training camp in Afghanistan and from there to Pakistani Kashmir, his dinner table ideals and loyalties are tested—do they lie with a religion and God he’s always been unsure of or with his beloved country whose ideals and values he’s beginning to question? Back in the U.S., Zari is also beginning to question herself and her God as she strives to find the meaning home and hope in a precarious world where healing herself depends on perhaps more than just taking revenge.
Speaking about the book, Soniah Kamal said “I wanted to explore the role of silence, and speaking up, in memory and history both personal and collective. As for inspiration – the maternal side of my family is from Srinagar and one summer, relatives visiting Lahore related how difficult life in Kashmir was (at the time) and that a late night knock could very well mean death or even worse. I could not get the ‘even worse’ out of my mind and the story and Zari’s character were born in tandem. Billy was born when a schoolmate’s brother ran off to become a ‘freedom fighter.’ This was a boy from an affluent family, he’d studied at elite schools, was a stellar student, was supposed to make his mark on the world- only, not in the way he did, and I saw how his act changed his family. Then it was just a matter of bringing these two worlds together.”
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In his endorsement of An Isolated Incident, Khaled Hosseini, acclaimed author of The Kite Runner says, “Soniah Kamal has written a riveting and deeply engaging novel about the longstanding turmoil in Kashmir and the multi-generational impact of the conflict on one ordinary family. With remarkable poise and elegant, precise prose, Kamal explores identity and exile, hope and disillusionment, and the myriad fault lines in the lives of the people living in the shadow of war. A wonderful novel.”
Born in Karachi, Soniah Kamal grew up in Pakistan, England and Saudi Arabia and currently lives in the US.Soniah’s stories and essays have appeared in award winning and critically acclaimed anthologies such as ‘And The World Changed’ and ‘Madonna and Me: Women Writers on the Queen of Pop’. Her fiction, essays and work have appeared and are forthcoming in Cosmopolitan, The Rumpus, xoJane, Huffington Post, Akashic Thursdaze, Bengal Lights, The Missing Slate, Commonwealth Writers, SAWNET, Sugar Mule and more. Soniahis currently working on her second novel.