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Shubnum Khan PDF Print E-mail

Shubnum Khan is a South African writer and university lecturer. She has a Media Studies degree summa cum laude and a Masters degree in English, cum laude.

In 2012 she was selected as the Mail & Guardian's 200 young South Africans.She published her first novel, Onion Tears with Penguin. It has also been translated into Italian. It was shortlisted for the Penguin Prize for African Writing and the University of Johannesburg Debut Fiction Prize. It was longlisted for the Sunday Times Fiction Prize and selected for Exclusive Book's Homebru list.

She has published articles with Marie Claire, O, the Oprah magazine, The Sunday Times, The Big Issue, Seventeen, The Daily Vox and Glamour. She has published literary work in Flash the Short Story Magazine in the UK, Cappelens Forslag Conversational Dictionary in Norway and in the Vietnamese Literary Journal, AJAR. She has participated in the Franschhoek Literary Festival, Time of the Writer, The Jaipur Literature Festival and the Midlands Literary Festival.

In 2013 she travelled to Indian-occupied Kashmir and taught in a village on a mountain. In 2015 she was selected for the Art Omi Ledig House Writer's Residency in New York. In 2016 she was selected for the Swatch Art Peace Hotel's Residency in Shanghai.

She is interested in South African, Indian and Muslim culture, women's struggles, love, memory and loss. She is currently at work on a second novel tentatively titled, Paper Flowers.

She lives by the sea in Durban and she's always searching for sincerity.

To read more about her:

Twitter: @shubnumkhan | Instagram: shubnumkhan

Extract from Onion Tears

Khadeejah poured oil into the pot and added the sliced onions.
“Tsk, Tsk. You must always keep your oil container clean. Don’t let the oil drip down the sides like this. Tsk! And remember, ghee is better. It might be bit more expensive, but it makes the food taste acha.” She raised her voice over the loud simmer as the onions hit the oil. “Ja, I was saying his heart is in his stomach. An Indian man especially. God made them that Way. Some men have their hearts in their head, some down there,” and she waved her spoon at the girl’s lower regions. “But the Indian man has it in his stomach. Now I will tell you something.” She motioned for the girl to come close to her. “Look at my husband eh? He’s not great saint. He shouts me and he fights, but we not so bad, neh? He doesn’t bish-bash me so much, neh? He can, I’m sure he wants to. But why doesn’t he?” She lowered her voice. “I cook good food.” She looked up with a confirming nod and stirred the onions. “It’s true. You see men like ours, they think all that wives are there for is to make babies and fry aloo paratha. You can’t get divorced eh? Your parents won’t let you. And you have child to worry about. What you will do for money? This stupid men with their big brains give us our money. So . . .” She took the chopped tomatoes from the girl and put them into the pot and then added haldi and chilli powder to the onion mix. “You can try to make it better for you. A man with a full phetoo cannot hit you. Remember that. A heavy stomach makes the hand tired.” She turned to look at the girl. “Cook! Give him his food on time. I know you don’t give him on time – I hear it. If you want to take him away from his mother, at least know how to cook. And if this – this,” she gestured to the girl’s state, “doesn’t cut down, then learn something quickly. Learn to sew, to sell samoosas, to do something! Learn to make money and go. Jau. It is not worth it then,” she said and then looked up at the girl. “Arre. Come now, stop crying. Let’s see if you can finish making this moong by yourself.”
As she watched the girl add the lentils to the simmering onions she sighed, “We must make the sacrifices, neh? Always the woman must make it. Otherwise no one will end up making the sacrifice and we will all end up killing each other.”


2010. Onion Tears. Penguin Books.