The William Smith community can be proud of one more achievement. Uzma Aslam Khan's (WS '91) third novel, “The Geometry of God,” was released in India in January. The novel will be released in Italy, France, Spain and Portugal later this year.
The book challenges the idea of fundamentalism and freedom in the Muslim faith during the reign of General Zia. The novel is, in part, about a young girl named Amal, who accidentally makes an important discovery about whales while on a fossil dig with her grandfather in the Salt Range of the Punjab. Amal later becomes Pakistan's only woman paleontologist, but is prevented from satiating her infinite curiosity by country politics and family expectations. The novel details the personal, religious and political trials which Amal faces while living in Pakistan at a time when history and scientific knowledge were essentially being rewritten.
While working on the novel, Khan explains the difficulty of being a female writer. “My access to material and hence, to the development of my themes, is severely hampered because I'm a woman. I learned this especially while writing my newest book. I wanted the complete story to unfold in these mountains. But my mobility was restricted, both because the area is army-run and because it's difficult for an 'unaccompanied' woman to explore freely. My restrictions became Amal's; I wove them into the story.”
She credits her more realistic novels to living in Pakistan. “Writing is a sedimentation process. By living here, I feel the place every day. When I write, I tap into these unconscious layers. Because “The Geometry of God” is in part about digging, this is the metaphor I'm reaching for, but I could also talk about writing fiction as fishing. You drop the hook, wait for years for that eel that lurks somewhere to take the bait, and at last show itself. As an author, I specifically wanted to show a strong, educated South Asian woman, instead of the stereotypical oppressed Muslim woman which is commonly represented in the United States.”
Khan is also the author of “The Story of Noble Rot” and “Trespassing,” the latter of which was been nominated for the 2003 Commonwealth Writers Prize and has been translated into 13 languages. In addition to this success, Khan has also been named Distinguished Visiting Writer at the University of Hawaii, Manoa for the fall of 2008. She holds a master's of fine arts from the University of Arizona.
While at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, she majored in comparative literature and minored in French. She was a member Phi Beta Kappa and worked at Saga.
Those interested can get more info from her blog http://uzmaaslamkhan.blogspot.com.