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The Miraculous True History of Nomi Ali

Nominated | Book Awards 2020 | Creative Writing in English (Fiction & Poetry)

The Miraculous True History of Nomi Ali

Author: Uzma Aslam Khan
Publisher: Amazon

Award Category: Creative Writing in English (Fiction & Poetry)
About the Book: 

‘The Miraculous True History of Nomi Ali brilliantly excavates a forgotten past of several societies and honours its human complexity with a narrative of delicate precision. As affecting as it is intellectually powerful, the novel is a master lesson in the art of historical fiction.’– Pankaj Mishra

‘A glorious novel about a forgotten place and a part of our history that we hardly ever talk about.’– Mohammed Hanif

‘Mama says there are freed convicts who are savages.’

‘What if Baba was still a prisoner? Would you call him that?’

‘I’m just telling you what she said.’

‘What about what Baba says?’

‘About what?’

‘Mama sides with the British, Baba with the Japanese, whose side are you on?’

Nomi and Zee are Local Borns—their father a convict condemned by the British to the Andaman Islands, their mother shipped off with him. The islands are an inhospitable place, despite their surreal beauty. In this unreliable world, the children have their friend Aye, the pet hen Priya and the distracted love of their parents to shore them up from one day to the next. Meanwhile, within the walls of the prison, Prisoner 218 D wages a war on her jailers with only her body and her memory.

When war descends upon this overlooked outpost of Empire, the British are forced out and the Japanese move in. Soon the first shot is fired and Zee is forced to flee, leaving Nomi and the other islanders to contend with a new malice. The islands—and the seas surrounding them—become a battlefield, resulting in tragedy for some and a brittle kind of freedom for others, who find themselves increasingly entangled in a mesh of alliances and betrayals.

Ambitiously imagined and hauntingly alive, The Miraculous True History of Nomi Ali writes into being the interwoven stories of people caught in the vortex of history, powerless yet with powers of their own: of bravery and wonder, empathy and endurance. Uzma Aslam Khan’s extraordinary new novel is an unflinching and lyrical page-turner, an epic telling of a largely forgotten chapter in the history of the subcontinent.


About the Author: 

Uzma Aslam Khan is the author of four previous novels, translated worldwide to critical acclaim. These include Trespassing, nominated for a Commonwealth Prize in 2003; The Geometry of God, a Kirkus Review’s Best Books of 2009 and winner of the Bronze award at the Independent Book Publishers Awards; and Thinner Than Skin, longlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize and the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, and winner of the French Prize for Best Fiction at the Karachi Literature Festival 2014. Her work has appeared in Granta, The Massachusetts Review, The Guardian, Counterpunch, Dawn, Herald, among other anthologies and journals, national and international. Born and raised in Pakistan, Khan has lived in many locations across the globe, including England, Japan, Philippines and Oceania. She currently resides in the United States. Visit her at uzmaaslamkhan.blogspot.com.


Review: 

‘Brilliantly excavates a forgotten past of several societies and honours its human complexity with a narrative of delicate precision. As affecting as it is intellectually powerful, the novel is a master lesson in the art of historical fiction.’– Pankaj Mishra

‘A glorious novel about a forgotten place and a part of our history that we hardly ever talk about.’– Mohammed Hanif

‘Khan is adept at creating worlds that are at once magical and terrifying. She creates a universe out of a footnote of history. Her writing is crystal, vivid. In a novel of such scale and setting, the story tends to get bogged down and stilted by research, but Khan, as the third-person omniscient narrator, maintains a tight control over the narrative.’ – The Indian Express

‘The Miraculous True History of Nomi Ali is a classically constructed novel.’ – The Hindu

‘As I read The Miraculous True History of Nomi Ali, this beautiful monster of a book, I tried to imagine if there could be one single word to mirror the cadence of Khan’s writing, a writing that feels as familiar as old prayer beads, its lyricism only emboldened by its repetitiveness.’ – Open

‘The novel makes for a brisk read, with the narrative darting back and forth in time. The history is solidly researched with dates and numbers matching what is known. It’s so solid, in fact, that there’s a somewhat cursory feeling to the imagined plot events that occupy the gaps between the history.’ – India Today

‘A richly imagined universe … If we are to strive for a more just world, we need to hear the stories.’ – The Hindu

‘Part of the beauty of Khan’s writing stems from the fact that she does not need to actively portray racism, she makes virtually all her characters live it … Khan writes with quietly restrained but powerful passion.’ – Dawn, Pakistan

The Miraculous True History of Nomi Ali is a vibrant defiance of traditionally accepted histories … Khan writes of the lives that history would rather ignore, creating a brilliant gash in the narrative structure historically manufactured.’ – FirstPost

‘Language remains the strongest character in (the) narrative … A consummate storyteller, (Khan) keeps readers engrossed till the end. It is one story that you should not miss.’ – The Tribune

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