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  • WINNER

    PORTRAIT OF A WOMAN IN PAIN

     by

    Raniya Hosain

    Raniya is from Lahore and and won the Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition in 2014 at the age of 15. She is currently studying for her Master’s degree in English Literature at King’s College, London and is working on launching a digital literary magazine called Spacebar.

    An experiential examination of womanhood in Pakistan that weaves a picture that is at once personal and prosaic as well as universal and profound. A clever, multi-dimensional piece full of memorable one-liners and razor-sharp wit. An original voice with a striking command of her craft.

    WHAT THE JUDGES SAID

    • The first two paragraphs shook me so much. All one has to do is read them to see that this woman has an amazing literary base - AR

    • There is anger, there is humour, there is hope. Moreover, there are questions: of what subtler things harassment takes from you, of agency, of the uncomfortable spaces we occupy because we must, and of the degree to which our identity defines us and we define it.  She chooses complexity over easy answers every time and the result is wonderful. - SV

    • Just beautiful - the microcosm of Ladies Hour at the Islamabad Club Pool as a place without patriarchy is a captivating yet tragic depiction of womanhood in Pakistan - AA

  • HIGHLY COMMENDED

    BAD HOUSE

     by

    Ayesha Alizeh Arbab

     

    Ayesha is a writer, artist and architect from Karachi, interested in exploring the relationship of the political to different art forms.

    An evocative piece of writing, that takes one seemingly mundane complaint and allows it to unfurl into an unsettling psychological study. The writing deftly creates a suffocating atmosphere and sense of foreboding, exploring the claustrophobia of the domestic sphere – a theme especially pertinent during lockdown.

    WHAT THE JUDGES SAID

    •  It reads like a horror film with a feeling of intense foreboding before it turns into mundane human misery. At first this takes it down a notch before you realise its even more horrifying! - HK

    • It's the cyclic renewal of hope that makes this piece so painful -- we are there with the author and her mother, watching the light fade to despair every time.- SV

    • Powerful and suffocating. A remorseless examination of the feeling of being trapped without escape.-AA

  • HIGHLY COMMENDED

    FATHERS,  BE GOOD TO YOUR DAUGHTERS

     by

    Tooba Masood-Khan

    Tooba is a researcher and journalist based in Karachi. Her work has appeared in Dawn, Herald, Samaa Digital, NPR and HuffPo India. She’s interested in writing about Karachi’s old buildings and preserving archives. 

    An unsentimental, but emotive description of a harrowing moment and a complex familial relationship told with impressive clarity and courage.

    WHAT THE JUDGES SAID

    • A very strong narrative - it felt like a thriller, like you were in Karachi. A great depiction of family and work relationships, the story is moving in an unexpected way. - AA 

    • It is unique in addressing the relatable theme of a complicated father-daughter relationship. It makes us wonder: how does one forgive something so unforgivable? -HK

    • A tightly plotted tale well-told. The way she uses language means we are breathless when she is breathless, numbed when she is numbed. An author who remains in complete control of her narrative, whilst simultaneously making it feel naturalistic. -SV

  • HIGHLY COMMENDED

    HAIRY

     by

    Sara Khan

    Sara is a writer from Peshawar who thinks about writing more than she writes, and mostly she writes about women, or books, or books about women. She was the winner of The Missing Slate’s New Voices Competition in 2017. Her work has appeared in The News on Sunday.

    A compelling piece of writing full of humour and wry wit that takes one absurd beauty standard and uses it to analyse overarching patriarchal structures. The author skilfully shows how western feminist theory is not always a match for lived reality in Pakistan.

    WHAT THE JUDGES SAID

    • It brings the nuance of a racial lens to feminist body hair discourse -- expanding outwards to consider the intersection of colonialsm and patriarchy. Plus no Western feminist could ever have written this way about the way parents police the bodies of their daughters. - SV

    • An incredibly bold, courageous piece that will both shock and enhance understanding amongst Pakistani men on the plight of hairiness amongst Pakistani women. -AR

    • It was funny, moving, really enjoyable. It highlights the difference between being a Pakistani and white feminist - a very valid critique. -AA

  • HIGHLY COMMENDED

    INHERITANCE

     by

    Yumna Baloch

    Yumna is a lawyer based between Lahore and Islamabad. She occasionally writes stories as a respite from legal drafting. She believes in the healing power of behenchara and loves words in all their forms.

    A warm, delicate and moving portrait of a complicated grandmother. Full of both grief and glory, it explores the hidden rebellions of women of different generations and examines how story-telling has a different sense of urgency for old and young.

    WHAT THE JUDGES SAID

    • The skilful writing presents something we can all relate to. It is done perfectly, with real aplomb. There are no missteps; the pitch and language are perfect. -AR

    • A  familiar theme that is highly elevated by the writing. The intergenerational nature of the work tackles the notion of judging our elders through the eyes of the present day. -HK

    • It handles the storytelling of a grandmother so well - the bits that you miss and the bits that you catch and the preciousness of those stories. The masterful use of language prevents it from being overly sentimental or mawkish. -SV  

  • HIGHLY COMMENDED

    MOTI, SAAND

     by

    Angbeen Abbas

    Angbeen is from Lahore, and is currently an undergraduate at the London School of Economics. When she’s not busy narrowly avoiding essay deadlines, she writes and makes podcasts for LSE’s student newspaper, The Beaver. 

    A brave memoir about how trying to conform to conventional notions of attractiveness in Pakistan manifests itself in debilitating body dysmorphia, and how the strength to resist such toxic pressure can be found in solidarity with other feminists.

    WHAT THE JUDGES SAID

    • This a point of view which should be heard. It effectually describes the internal oppression of women’s bodies, the horrible feeling of being forced into clothes that you don't fit into. -AA

    • It is a breath of fresh air in that it is so different from the other stories in this collection. It portrays the taught hatred and dissonance that heavier women are made to feel towards their bodies. -HK

    • She manages to describe the trauma that comes from refusal to conform in a hyper-conforming society without drifting into self-pity. She brings self-awareness to her internal meditation in a way that is refreshing. -SV