Associate Professor of Fiction Writing
She is the author of four novels, translated worldwide to critical acclaim. These include Trespassing, nominated for the Commonwealth Prize in 2003; The Geometry of God, a Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2009, and winner of the bronze award at the Independent Book Publishers Award; and Thinner than Skin, nominated for the Man Asian Literary Prize and the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature in 2014. In 2018, her short fiction won and was nominated for awards in Zoetrope: All Story, and Calyx A Journal of Art and Literature by Women. Her short fiction has appeared in Granta and The Massachusetts Review, and is forthcoming in Nimrod International Journal of Poetry and Prose and Calyx. Uzma has also written non-fiction for the Guardian, Counterpunch, Drawbridge, Herald and Dawn, among other national and international periodicals and journals, on a range of topics that include women and the arts, U.S. foreign policy, and orientalism, particularly in representations of Muslim women.
Uzma’s fifth novel, The Miraculous True History of Nomi Ali, is forthcoming in 2019. Set in the British penal colony of the Andaman Islands during the 1930s, through the Japanese occupation during the Second World War, the book, twenty-seven years in the making, writes into being the stories of people caught in the vortex of history, yet written out of it. These include women prisoners––who were also transported to the prison colony, but have merited scarcely a footnote in the material written on British and Japanese rule of the islands––and the descendants of prisoners. Central to the novel, then, is the question of whose history we believe, and whose we erase. The question is central also to Uzma’s teaching. Her courses offer a global perspective on creative writing and literature, existing at the intersection of history, politics, art, religion, science, and the natural world, with an emphasis on marginalized communities displaced by colonialism and war.
Uzma has taught in Morocco, Pakistan, and Hawai’i. She joined Hampshire College in Fall 2012.
From Huckleberry Finn to Catcher in the Rye, the world is rich in stories that depict loveable young men resisting entrenched societal norms. But where are the loveable women and gender non-conformists, young and old, and of color? Our course will look at those living under silencing, societal constraints, both in the West and East, who, denied the same liberties as the dominant group that creates the boundaries, in one way or another become 'runaways,' often simply by claiming their fundamental worth. This is a hybrid course that will ask for creative writing and possibly one analytical essay. We will read fiction and non-fiction, across styles and genres: surrealism, historical fiction, memoir, comics, and more. This course is by instructor permission. NOTE: All students MUST attend the first day of class to ensure a seat.
This is an intermediate creative writing course that explores narrative structure. The focus will be on works (mostly fiction, but also non-fiction) that have pushed the boundaries of conventional "girders" by using as building materials visuals, verse, and radical space/time-shifts, all while maintaining a clear cohesive whole. Course requirements will include reading international and national books (which may include novellas and comics); in-class presentations; critical response papers on the readings; original works of creative writing in which you will be expected to explore some of the narrative shapes covered in this course. Students may find the course particularly suited for those with an interest in the long form, as their narratives grow interconnected in some way (perhaps with the creation of one overall piece comprised of individual elements, or chapters). However, our focus will be on generating new work that explores the techniques in this course, both in a historical and contemporary setting. NOTE: While the course is not by instructor permission, all students, including those on the waitlist, MUST attend the first day of class in order to keep their seat.
The critic David Lodge describes defamiliarization as "Overcoming the deadening effects of habit by representing familiar things in unfamiliar ways." Our focus will be on re-perceiving the East, asking what it is, how we see it, how we don't see it, how we could see it, all in the hopes of more closely, critically, and compassionately developing different habits about where and how to look. Not deadening habits: living habits. Course requirements will include reading international fiction and non-fiction; in-class presentations; critical response papers; creative writing; and keeping a regular "sensory journal" in which individual, cultural, and/or universal habits are re-examined (e.g., on dress, foods, music, war.) and periodically shared with the class. Bringing supplementary materials to the class (e.g., an article that made you rethink a comfortable position on the 'other') is strongly encouraged. Note: Students MUST attend the first day of class in order to keep their seat.
Our focus will be on recognizing, analyzing, and developing the different narrative techniques used to write the short story. Each technique will be studied individually, as well as in relation to the work as a whole. As David Lodge writes in The Art of Fiction, "Effects in fiction are plural and interconnected, each drawing on and contributing to all the others." We will take apart these "effects" in order to better appreciate how they are linked, both when reading and writing. While the course is open to all (and not by instructor permission), in order to better keep up with course requirements, including attendance, students must attend the first day.
This is an intermediate creative writing workshop with a focus on writing and closely observing the natural world, particularly - though not exclusively - the realm of birds. Both fiction and creative non-fiction will be written and read, with the purpose of more intimately understanding what it means to have an 'environmental imagination,' local and global. A birdwatching field trip (weather pending) may be involved. Students may also be asked to incorporate research into their projects, as a way to practice humility and embrace writing as an uncertain exercise in 'failing better each time.' To this end, students will be expected to fully embrace the revision process. The course is ideal for those with a love of both the sciences and the arts, though it is also ideal for those who may not know it. Though the course is not by instructor permission, students MUST attend the first day of class in order to keep their seat.
This course will appeal to fiction writers with a passion for exploring transitions, both chosen and unchosen, as an engine for beautiful expressions of art. It will also appeal to those with a passion for understanding how movement is controlled, and who controls it. We will look at writers who embrace these themes in many different contexts. For instance, in the context of those who move to escape being profiled for their race, religion, or sexual orientation. Those who are refugees dislocated by wars, colonialism, climate change, and poverty. Those who relocate by choice, say for work or education. The move itself may be from one country to another. It may be from one identity to another, say a religious conversion or a gender expression. It may be from entering a groundbreaking career, or a change in physical ability, or in diet (becoming vegan?). The focus will be on critical reading, as well as on creating your own original works of fiction. While the course is not by instructor permission, to keep up with attendance requirements, students must attend the first day.
Through reading novels and short stories in a range of styles and from a range of places, we will look at how fictional characters shape and are shaped by history. What are the tools writers use to create their characters, and how do we talk about character in historical fiction? Are we looking for a portrayal that in some way complements our understanding of a time and place, one that challenges it, or both? The focus will be on critical reading and writing, as well as on creating your own original works of fiction, for which you will need to do research, all while keeping in mind that you are not writing a text book but a narrative. Fact checking the background of your character(s) by doing some basic homework while at the same time remaining true to your imagining of the story is one of the many challenges this course will embrace. NOTE: Students must attend the first day of class in order to be considered for enrollment.