Zainub Priya (ZP) Dala was born in KwaZulu-Natal. She is a freelance writer who has received degrees in physiotherapy and psychology. She has also been the recipient of a certificate in Creative writing from the University of Cape Town. Her writings have been published in a number of print publications such as The Guardian and The New York Times.
In 2015, Dala expressed her admiration for the writing style of controversial author, Salman Rushdie, during a session at the Time of the Writer Festival. Later, she was attacked with a brick and sworn at in Overport, Durban. The incident made national headlines and Dala received further scrutiny after it was alleged that she had been coerced into a mental hospital. The attack was met with an outcry from the literary community and several prominent members voiced their support such as fellow Time of the Writer authors Charlotte Otter, Kirsten Miller and Futhi Ntshingila. International support has also been issued by Rushdie and Index CEO Jodie Ginsberg. A full list can be viewed on The Daily Vox’s site.
Her debut novel, What About Meera, was officially launched on 21 March 2015 at the KZNSA Art Gallery as the closing event of the Time of the Festival. In an interview with Saraba Magazine, she revealed the inspiration behind her novel:
When I wrote What About Meera I wanted to use the narrative of the Indian woman in an African country, displaced from her closed society, trying to find out where she fits into the world. I also deeply wanted to tell a story that very few people know exists. There are stereotypes that abound about Indian girls and Indian families. But underneath all that glossy Bollywood-style pastiche lays reality. And this reality is most often pushed and shoved away into dark cupboards. I wanted Meera to somehow champion the cause for a South African woman of Indian descent who gives hope to the young girls out there who are different, and who do not fit the mould.
What About Meera received generally positive reviews since its release. Bettina Pahlen described the book as a “tough read” that “delivers an unrelentingly hard look at the multiple motives behind dehumanizing psychological and physical abuse”. Andrea Van Wyk also found the novel to be a difficult read but praised it as a “bleak and wry examination of uncomfortable topics around abuse, and even race”. Samantha Gibb lauded the book as “unnervingly beautiful despite its depressing and unsettling content, which [she found made] it all the more disturbing”. Joseph Omotayo found What About Meera to be “irritatingly informative” but enjoyed the book's interesting story and captivating moments. Margaret von Klemperer, reviewing for ArtSmart, lamented the way the coverage of Dala’s attack had overshadowed her “thought-provoking and beautifully done” telling of Meera’s story.
Dala has received several accolades for her body of work. Her short fiction has been long-listed for the Orange Prize and she has been the runner-up in several short story competitions, including the Woman & Home Short Story Contest (1999, 2012), Elle Short Story Contest (2012), the Witness True Stories of KwaZulu Natal Competition (2012) and the SA Writers’ College Short Fiction Contest (2013). What About Meera, earned her a place in in the 2015 Goodreads Sunday Times list of Top Novelists to look out for in 2015. The novel was longlisted for both the 2015 Etisalat Prize and the 2016 Sunday Times Barry Ronge Fiction Prize. What About Meera was also listed in the “Afridiaspora List” of the best African novels of 2015. Later that year she won in the “Debut Category” at the Inaugural Minara Aziz Hassim Literary Awards. In 2016, Dala received a special mention for her entry in the 2016 Short Story Day Africa Prize. In the same year she was also selected to attend the International Writing Program held in the U.S.
Dala has lived and worked in Dublin, Ireland, and currently lives in Durban, where she is a psychologist at a school for autistic children. A second novel, The Architecture of Love, is forthcoming in 2017.
Twitter: @zpdala | Facebook: @zpdala