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Middle Eastern
women's studies

The Upstairs Wife: An Intimate History of Pakistan

Rafia Zakaria.
Publisher Beacon Press  
Format paperback
Product Dimensions 9 x 6 x 0.75 inches
ISBN 9780807080467
Pages/Publication Date 251/2015
Daedalus Item Code 69126
This item is not available.
From the historical moment of Benazir Bhutto's assassination in 2007—the same moment that the author's Uncle Sohail was himself near death—human rights activist Rafia Zakaria looks back to give us this stunning portrait of Pakistan, both in the full sweep of history and in the personal journey of her family. For these Indian Muslims, who emigrated from Bombay to Karachi in 1961, Pakistan represented enormous promise. But by the 1980s the Islamization campaign of the country's military dictators had deeply eroded women's freedom and safety—changes brought home when Uncle Sohail took a second wife. The young Zakaria grows up in the shadow of her Aunt Amina's shame and fury, while the world outside her home turns ever more chaotic and violent, the opportunities available to post-Partition immigrants are dramatically curtailed, and terrorism sows its seeds in Karachi.

"A masterful tapestry. Through the eyes of Karachi's women, the beauty and horrors and mysteries of Pakistan are laid bare. Zakaria elegantly weaves personal memoir with historical treatise."—Medea Benjamin

"Zakaria captures polygamy's emotional toll on wives: the depression, self-doubt, and jealous calculations that poison the politics of intimacy."—Ms. Magazine

"In this emotionally generous, beautifully written memoir, Rafia Zakaria tells two stories that are really the same story. One is the descent of Pakistan into violence, poverty, corruption, and extremist Islam; the other is the smoldering misery of family life in which women have little power, except, sometimes, over each other. The Upstairs Wife is a revelation."—Katha Pollitt

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