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Pakistani author’s debut novel captures Karachi Patterson donates 45,000 books to NYC students

‘Karachi, You’re Killing Me!’ (Random House India), by Sabaz Imtiaz The blurb on the back of Saba Imtiaz’s debut novel “Karachi, You’re Killing Me!” compares the book to the single girl’s Bible, “Bridget Jones’s Diary.” I take issue with this. Bridget Jones would never be able to deal with half of the situations that Imtiaz’s heroine, Ayesha, successfully navigates. Sure Ayesha drinks too much, makes some atrociously bad decisions about men and complains relentlessly about her job just as Bridget did. But Ayesha, a journalist in her twenties working in Pakistan’s largest city of Karachi, has a toughness and professionalism that Bridget could never achieve.

“Karachi, You’re Killing Me!” traces Ayesha’s attempts to pursue her journalistic career and find love in Karachi, a massive metropolis on the country’s Southern coast. It is a city she either loves intensely or desperately wants to leave. And it’s not hard to see why. Her assignments include covering shootouts, the aftermath of bombings and riding rickshaws through the countryside while being pursued by bandits.
What Imtiaz is able to do with her novel is capture the absurdity of reporting and living in a city often billed as Pakistan’s most dangerous. Her heroine flits easily from interviewing gangsters in the gang-ridden neighborhood of Lyari to party-hopping through the city’s elite Clifton neighborhood, draining hosts of their bootlegged liquor.

In fact, readers who think of Pakistan as a dry country may be surprised to discover that much like an American high school, the complexities of getting liquor and drinking it feature heavily in the novel. That’s perhaps what the novel excels at — upending stereotypes of Pakistan — but not in a preachy way. In a world that often views Pakistani women one-dimensionally, Imtiaz shows the complexity of women trying to forge careers, find love and be a good friend. Imtiaz uses Pakistani references and Urdu-language words often throughout her novel but instead of being off-putting to non-Pakistanis, the technique lends an air of authenticity to the book.

The book is also a bit of a love letter to journalism and the sometimes-charming — sometimes-psycho — characters inhabiting the world of Karachi journalism. There’s the crime reporter with assassins on speed dial and the newspaper owner who fails to pay his staff for months but still expects them to cover the fashion show where his wife is a model.She writes with an acid tongue about foreign journalists who come to Karachi to write about fashion shows and one in particular who sleeps with her and then breaks her heart.

I don’t think I’m giving any secrets away or robbing prospective readers of the fun of reading this book by saying that Ayesha comes out on top in work and love. According to Imtiaz’s website, the author is currently working on a book about the conflict in her hometown of Karachi, which likely won’t be as funny as “Karachi, You’re Killing Me!” But hopefully we’ll read more in the future about Ayesha’s adventures.

James Patterson’s, one of America’s most prolific authors, will donate 45,000 copies of his books for young readers to students in New York, a city official said on Monday. New York Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina said sixth-grade students in more than 300 schools throughput the city’s five boroughs will be offered the books to encourage them to read during their summer vacation. (Agencies)
“We know that in the long-term summer reading is critical in enabling our students to succeed both in and out of the classroom, and this donation will help do just that,” Farina said in a statement announcing the donation.

Patterson, the author of “Unlucky 13,” “Cross My Heart” and “NYPD Red,” has sold more than 300 million books worldwide and is one of the best-selling authors of all time. The fictional psychologist Alex Cross is among his most famous characters. In addition to his adult novels, Patterson has written the highly praised Middle School books for young readers such “I Even Funnier” and “Ultimate Showdown.” The donation to New York City follows a similar program in Chicago, where the author gave away more than 28,000 books to students. (Agencies)

By Rebecca Santana

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