One used copy of Skeena for $307.53

At Amazon, two used copies of ‘Skeena’ are each being offered for $307.53 + 3.99 shipping while on the same page the new copies of the same novel are still selling for the usual $20.

It was brought to our attention last night by Andrew John Gie, a Facebook user who was visiting Amazon to buy a new copy of Skeena. He contacted author Fauzia Rafique from Skeena’s Facebook page asking ‘Is there something else in the used copies we should know about?’

There’s contemplation around why a used copy of Skeena would be or could be (so much) more valuable than the new one. Another Facebook user Amjad Mahmood says: ‘The question is those books are used by whom? if by Princess Kate,than price is less.’ Abbas R. Kazmi likes it, and Skeena’s author Fauzia Rafique wonders if perhaps there’s money in used books.

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Update May 5 – Facebook
We have a more ‘realistic’ appraisal of a used copy of novel ‘Skeena’: $19.99. New of course still at $20.

The Amazon page where last week two used copies of Skeena were selling at $307.53 each, now has three copies for sale, one still at over three hundred, and two at $19.99 each. Just one cent less than the new.

A part of it could be that the novel is not really available at many places, but it still is a strange and refreshing compliment to my work, and i think i need/ed it for sure. Here:

Update May 17

Three used copies. Two at $19.99, one at 91.09!
Goings on with Skeena!

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‘Expansive Emotive Well-paced and Realistic fictional work’ – Novel Skeena

South Asian Ensemble, a Peer-reviewed Canadian Quarterly of Arts, Literature and Culture has published a review on Skeena in Volumes 3/4 of Autumn 2011 and Winter 2012.

The book review is written by Shikha Kenneth, and it is published on pages 223-28. Kenneth acclaims Fauzia Rafique for ‘uniting various contemporary topics of interest and presenting them in the form of an expansive, emotive, well-paced and realistic fictional work’.

View complete text here:

South Asian Ensemble
A Peer-reviewed Canadian Quarterly of Arts, Literature and Culture
Vol. 3, Number 4, Autumn 2011 &
Vol. 4, Number 1, Winter 2012
ISSN 1920-6763

Pages 223-28

For South Asian Ensemble
Editor Rajesh Kumar Sharma

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‘Writing for Social Change – Betsy Warland & Fauzia Rafiq’ by Susan Crean

Betsy Warland and Fauzia Rafiq were our featured writers in November, on back-to-back Sundays. They are both spirited feminists and activists, committed to a way of writing that reflects the real personal and political experience of women. So, as women and writers they have lived and worked close to the edge, challenging the norm; Betsy as lesbian, and Fauzia a non-practising Muslim.

I met both women in the eighties in Toronto, and so their visits to Kogawa House were opportunities to reread their work. It was delicious going back to Betsy’s early books, submerging myself in her exploration of words and meanings, her archaeological expeditions. Serpent (w)rites from 1987; Open is Broken in 1984. After a while I could see poetry in the Table of Contents. Nothing is in not considered in these texts; the visual composition of the poems matters, the bibliography matters. Here it is cast as prose, gathered in a single paragraph. Nothing is sacrosanct. Quotes from other books are used, and references to feminist theory and archival documents made. So, non-fiction poetry?

Then there is Bloodroot. A personal essay/memoir about her mother’s dying, it is at heart a meditation on how her mother dealt with homosexuality and in the end, as death approached, found a way around it to her daughter.

With Fauzia, it’s her short story “Birth of a Murder” I return to. About the stoning of a baby in front of a mosque in Karachi, that was published in This Magazine in 1989. Her 2007 novel Skeena might be taken for as a portrait of that baby’s mother, for it’s the universal story of Muslim women. In this case, the little village girl become student in Lahore, and then a wife in Toronto and at each stage finds her wings clipped, confined to the prison within the family. (At the end, though, it is the Surrey Police in the aftermath of 9/11 who put her under house arrest.)

The group at Betsy’s reading were full ideas and interjections, and asked about the changes over time in her work. Not just the forms, but the ideas and arguments. They expressed a delight in her reading, and I felt the same. It was as if Betsy had scored the passages she read. The repeated pauses, the drawing of breath.

When I introduced Fauzia to the gathering, she told us about the impact Obasan had on her when she read it shortly after arriving in Canada. In Joy’s novel about Japanese Internment during the War she saw tremendous harshness and suffering, yet there was a gentleness, a kind of peace underlying the telling. She admired that, and aspired to do something similar in her own fiction.

Much of the talk that afternoon revolved around language — Punjabi, Urdu, and English. Fauzia writes in all three, and she spoke about her voice differing in each. Several other writers joined in, Tariq Malik, Phinder Dulai, Ashok Bhargava, and Ajmir Rode included.

All of these writers have gotten behind a new initiative, Surrey Muse, which hosts monthly get-togethers at the Surrey Public Library with an open-mike and scheduled readers. “Interdisciplinary arts and literature presentations” which deliberately cross-over and invites intruders. It’s first meeting was on November 25th and I read along with Greek poet Manolis, and a very young and talented playwright, Sana Janjua, who read a passage from her play that had people in tears. The highlight of the evening was a young man who stumbled upon the meeting, and stayed to listen. He asked interesting questions, and before the evening was done, we’d ascertained he was a poet and pressed him to recite something. Which he did, in Ukrainian. (Manolis had also read in Greek.)

I believe the writing we value is writing which springs from necessity.” — Betsy Warland

Published on February 8th, 2012 at:

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Novel ‘Skeena’ Now Available in eBook Format

The English edition of novel ‘Skeena’ by Fauzia Rafique is now available as an eBook.

Publisher Libros Libertad has converted ‘Skeena’ to efficient and enjoyable electronic reading formats.

The novel can be downloaded from the following links:
Amazon Kindle

Order Paperback edition

Contact Libros Libertad at
Or call 1-604-838-8796


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‘Skeena: a contribution to thank for’ by Dr. Shuja Alhaq

It sounds great if not exotic to live in a foreign land for nearly three decades and then return with a Punjabi novel in hand. And that is precisely what Fauzia has done. Indeed Skeena speaks of her success as a writer, and of Punjabi novel, above all.

What struck me most at the outset, I may say, was the natural flow of the narrative. The form and content, the technique and the story, the language and thought – do not part company from each other at any time. The writer does not seem to be struggling to find the right word or form to speak her mind. This is not something that every writer can achieve. And if a first time author demonstrates a natural talent for it, her choice of writing as her medium of expression seems justified.

Only at the end, when Skeena declares that she has no history, no story, no name, does the spell break and one wonders whether this character was real or fictional. But this does not diminish or impinge negatively on the power of the narrative. Rather it deepens its effect, in that it forces the reader to think of the character, as to why she acted and lived as she did! Could she do it differently? Could she rebel at any point earlier in life? Or did she rebel at all?

The most evident fact about the form of the novel is its neat division into two roughly equal halves. My reading of fiction is quite limited. Still at the very start of this novel I immediately sensed that it was a new story. Of course the story of our archaic feudal structure cannot be new. But what made it a fresh perspective was its narrator, a woman. In my limited experience I had not heard the archaic story as seen and lived by a woman in our part of the Panjab and, least of all, in Punjabi, and so it was quite an encounter. Since the narrator belongs to my generation, there was a lot to relate to as the story unfolded. (Not only thematically but even in details. Comrade Petha, for instance, reminded me of Comrade Laddoo, whose great company and patronage I had the good fortune of enjoying in my youth). By the time Skeena manages to attend a meeting of the comrades, one is fully engrossed in the saga, almost feeling the terror that she must encounter by the state and the society in the not unforeseeable future.

Here, there are events and certain passages which pull the reader along to those lengths where he or she may not have intended to go in the first place. I mean, the reader is made to get involved emotionally. One such passage is on page 95 where we find Skeena lying on her belly on the floor and attempting to listen to the beat of the Dhol. The expression is really beautiful and intense. Dhol di dhamak zameen tun aina utte vi mainun labh laindi ai. Mere naseebe change ke mele di te har jumerat di rat main ainan nachdian talan te sauni aan (the resonance finds me so many feet above the ground{her room being on the first floor}. Each night of the festival, I receive this gift of falling asleep to a basic rhythm.) These three pages, 95-7, are indeed amongst the most memorable ones. But I was really enthralled from page 134 onwards. More especially, the sequence of events unleashed with the sentence magron shaiaan avde aap hon lag paiaan (after that, things began to happen on their own.) (p.146-50) are most certainly the stuff that takes one’s breath away. I think this moment is the apex of the novel. It demonstrates the great potential and possibility that a human being, apparently a naught being, contains within herself which comes to fruit when she suddenly finds herself free to act decisively. This is the moment of revolution in Skeena’a life.

Not all revolutions succeed, though. The failure of the revolution in Skeena’s life says all, for symbolically it tells the story of us all, from Bhutto to each one of us who did come to the point of pulling the trigger, but then fell back into the insurmountable logic of the whirlpool that we call the system. Fauzia’s achievement is that she has been able to tell the story through an allegory. And that takes her ahead of us all.

But that is not all. This was reality. Now the question is can she, as an artist, create that which is unreal, which is magical? Can she create a character who is free or becomes free after pulling the trigger? Fauzia might refer me to Skeena’s final release and escape from her captors to whom she was sold by her family. But that sounds like the release of a corpse. As a reader, one is little moved by it. That is not a free woman, the one Skeena’s creator apparently intends to be. So can she, if I may ask, tell her story?

These impressions, to be honest, say far less than I wish to. The reason for which is largely my limited experience of literature in general. But what one cannot fail to mention are the early years of Skeena. They impressed upon my mind the most. The portrayal of her free spirit, which very much sounds her natural spirit, a spirit endowed to her by birth, seems Fauzia’s real success: her attempts to enjoy freedom, to literally steal every moment of freedom that she can manage to grab from an otherwise miserly, oppressive society that is fearful of her, of her as a free individual. It is this inward freedom of her that makes her final confrontation with the Gang led by the maulvi appear so realistic, and therefore thrilling and inspiring. And further, her brilliant portrait of her sensitive, freedom loving childhood and adolescence brings into sharp relief the straightjacket that society seeks and succeeds in putting on her. It cannot but remind one the famous saying, ‘Woman was born free but everywhere she is in chains.‘ (An amendment to Rousseau, of course, in the light of Fauzia’s portrayal).

After this revolt, though, the interiorization of the oppression, largely through her mother, sets in. This interiorization, her determination to keep her family happy by sacrificing her free self, is as irritating to the reader as her early attempts to enjoy freedom were exciting. Once again, though, this is realistic. It demonstrates that the writer is not making things up. After all, she could have made her leave the house or elope with some one. But what she has shown is, as it seemed to me, that at this moment she (the writer) is not ready for it. And if she is not ready for it, any attempt to make Skeena overrun the walls of her parental home would have looked artificial, as most of our inqilabis are. Fauzia might certainly have appeased them, but then she would have written a pamphlet, not a novel.

I must say why I, as a reader, failed to get inspired by Skeena’s escape from her husband after ten brutal years. Because her sacrifice of her free self at her family’s alter, which means at society’s alter, was fatal. She had obeyed her mother and brother, and accepted arranged marriage. Ok. But there probably was an opportunity for her to escape once she was in Canada, and nobody would have blamed her for that. But she did not want to hurt her mother. The sacrifice was total, so one feels any hope of resurrection after that is going a bit too far.

If Skeena submitted to the brutal occupation of her husband and mother-in-law because she did not want to hurt her mother and her brother, while not being in Pakistan but in Canada (I mean where there were more opportunities to escape), then it is her decision, nay, her choosing. The arrival of the news of her mother’s demise and her escape is not a coincidence. She seems all the way waiting for her mother to be safely in the grave until she rebels. This means that it would be off the mark to place all blame, or to locate the sources of her submission wholly in the social and religious forces that shaped her life. The society has its apparatus of oppression, but in these our times, the opportunities to defy or escape have also multiplied. And if an individual happens to be of change naseebe (good fortune) to find one, her failure to avail it, on whatever pretext, is her failure, the failure of the individual. For if we hesitate to concede this, we end up in a kind of determinism that is inimical to thought and freedom. This, nevertheless, remains my view of it.

At the end, though, one must say that thanks to Skeena one can count at least one Punjabi novel (in our part of the Punjab) worth the name. It might fall short of expectations for some, but at least the prospective writer would know what she or he has to surpass. That is no small achievement. At least it goes some way towards alleviating the paucity of our poor mother tongue, or of modern Punjabi literature, to be more precise.

Written in Lahore in 2007 at the launch of Punjabi (Shahmukhi) edition of Skeena (Sanjh Publication 2007).

Dr Shuja Alhaq is a teacher of philosophy, an author, and a poet. He has lived and worked in UK and Pakistan. At this time, he teaches philosophy at the University of Multan.

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