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A dazzling first novel of two lovers' struggle for freedom and passion in a city riven by turmoil

Back in Karachi for his father's funeral, Daanish, a Pakistani student changed by his years at an American university, is entranced by the gazelle-eyed girl in the traditional dupatta who appears one day at the house of mourning. But the dupatta is deceptive: Dia is the modern daughter of a mother who, as the owner of a silk farm and factory, has ...
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Trespassing: A Novel

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A dazzling first novel of two lovers' struggle for freedom and passion in a city riven by turmoil

Back in Karachi for his father's funeral, Daanish, a Pakistani student changed by his years at an American university, is entranced by the gazelle-eyed girl in the traditional dupatta who appears one day at the house of mourning. But the dupatta is deceptive: Dia is the modern daughter of a mother who, as the owner of a silk farm and factory, has achieved a degree of freedom rare among Pakistani women. It will take a handful of silkworms, fattened on mulberry leaves, to bring Daanish and Dia together. But their union will forever rupture the peace of two households and three families, destroying a stable present built on the repression of a bloody past.

In this sweeping novel of modern Pakistan, Uzma Aslam Khan takes us deep into a world of radical contrasts, from the stifling demands of tradition and family to the daily oppression of routine political violence, from the gorgeous sensual vistas of the silk farms to the teeming streets of Karachi-stinking, crumbling, and corrupt.

At once delicate and passionate, Trespassing introduces a new and powerful voice from a land we know too little about.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Khan limns the conflicts between modern Western and traditional Pakistani mores in an intelligent, ambitious novel (her first to be published in the U.S.) about two star-crossed young lovers in contemporary Karachi. Daanish, a journalism student in "Amreeka," as his aunt calls it, returns home to Karachi for the funeral of his beloved father, a prominent, forward-thinking doctor. He catches the eye of a comely Karachi student, Nini, with whom his traditional mother would like him to make an advantageous marriage. But when Daanish meets Nini's best friend, the thoughtful and challenging Dia Monsour, who helps run her family's silk farm, romance blossoms quickly. Their families' disapproval casts a pall over their meetings, though, and Daanish begins to feel uncertain about seeing Dia as the date for his return to America draws closer. Khan's portrayal of life in Karachi, seen from multiple perspectives, is rich and complex, and her supporting characters, such as Salaamat, a young fisherboy who becomes a driver for a group of freedom fighters whose attacks have a deadly impact on Dia's family, add great depth. Khan's frequent flashbacks can be jarring, and the affair between Dia and Daanish is stretched perilously thin as the primary story line, but Khan's prose, ornate yet precise in its discussions of both love and politics, mark her as a truly gifted observer of moments grand and minute. (Oct.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Set in the turbulent Karachi of the early 1990s, Khan's second novel is both a work of fiction and a political statement targeting U.S. foreign policy in Iraq while exploring ethnic conflict, social inequality, environmental destruction, and the status of women in the author's native Pakistan. After the death of his father, Daanish returns home from studies in the United States with a deep antipathy for U.S. politics and its complicit media. Meanwhile, Dia has been leading a life typical of Pakistani women even as her mother raises her to resist social restrictions. The two launch an affair that tears apart their families, and a devastating revelation concludes the novel, although readers are left with the hope that good could yet emerge from these damaged lives. Unfortunately, though the book serves an important social purpose, ultimately it suffers as art; politics and literature mix uneasily here, with Khan often presenting political arguments via dialog, to stilted effect. Still, Khan's sentiments are timely and will interest those looking for another voice in the ongoing debate on U.S. hegemony overseas. Rebecca Stuhr, Grinnell Coll. Libs., IA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A contemporary romantic tragedy displays a startlingly fresh voice as Khan illuminates the complex social, religious, and economic mores of Pakistan while offering an outsider's hard-eyed perspective on American attitudes during the first Gulf War. Dia's Western-educated mother, Riffat, who has run the family's silk business since her husband's random murder, raises Dia to share her independent thinking and assures her daughter that she'll be allowed to marry for love. Daanish is an Amherst journalism student on a visit home after his father Shafqat's death. Daanish is frustrated by the prejudice he encountered and the sloppy journalism he witnessed in America, but he can't find a place for himself in Karachi, either. He adored Shafqat, an enlightened doctor who traveled the world, but Daanish's smothering and needy Pakistani mother, the traditional Anu, is pushing him into an arranged marriage with Dia's best friend Nini. When Daanish and Dia meet, though, the attraction of like minds is as strong as their sexual tension. Soon, they are arranging trysts. While Dia is head-over-heals in first love, Daanish has a more casual American attitude, though neither knows that they are following in their parents' footsteps, that Riffat and Shafqat had a love affair years earlier in England. Dia and Daanish's ill-fated affair forms the story's main arc, but Khan surrounds the couple with a richly drawn Pakistan filled with characters struggling to survive with some semblance of dignity: Nini, who tries to make up for her early British education by being the extra-dutiful Pakistani daughter, and bitter Anu, who destroys all Shafqat's gifts to Daanish. Foremost is the driver Salaamat, whose fishingcommunity was destroyed by foreign trawlers and who considers the central romance trivial compared to the issues of survival he's faced. A rare, wonderful gift of a novel that defies mere plot synopsis: a complex fictional world that illuminates the real one and seamlessly merges the personal with the larger sociopolitical conundrums we all face today.
From the Publisher
"Trespassing sets the standard for a new generation of Pakistani novelists. There is an abundance of sumptuous prose, a gripping story, layers of plot seamlessly woven together fashioning a high-class novel, a rich, tender portrait of youth, family, life, love and Pakistan. Superlative." -The Sunday Times
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312423551
  • Publisher: Picador
  • Publication date: 11/12/2005
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 448
  • Sales rank: 1,488,275
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.99 (d)

Meet the Author

Uzma Aslam Khan grew up in Karachi, Pakistan, and has lived in New York and Arizona. She currently lives in Lahore with her husband. Trespassing, her first novel to be published in the U.S., will appear in eleven languages.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 16, 2009


    there were parts that were really well-written and insightful. overall, it was raw and difficult to finish.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 6, 2004

    Unexpected and Powerful

    I bought this book on impulse, not knowing what to expect, but was deeply impressed. It is very moving, following several different storylines, and quite skillfully weaves them all together. There is some sex and some politics but this is primarily a book about human relationships and how battered they can become while remaining resilient. The larger political picture is not used to score points against the USA or Pakistan's incompetent govt, but to give a context for the human stories in the foreground. I've never read anything quite like this. Quite powerful and highly recommended.

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