Every so often, we like to highlight the Karam Family’s amazing work. From soap parties to to bake sales, every contribution goes a long to way to supporting Syrians in need. Today, we are highlighting Bina Shah, an amazing writer and friend of Karam.
Bina Shah’s award-winning haunting short story about refugees and public perceptions ends on a note about the human condition. The story follows Allegra and her boyfriend, Paolo, on their trip to a fictional museum called ‘The Living Museum’ in Rome. This story won the Dr. Neila C. Sesachari prize from Weber University’s literary journal, Weber - The Contemporary West. Shah generously donated the prize-winnings to Karam Foundation.
Karam Foundation: Could you tell us a little bit about your creative process? What inspired this story?
Bina Shah: I always like to talk to migrants, especially Muslims, when I'm in traveling: I'm so curious about their lives and experiences. I traveled to Italy in 2013 and saw many migrants in Rome, especially around the Trevi Fountain at night. The migrants were from Bangladesh and African countries, trying to make money any way they could, selling toys and useless things that nobody needed. But their desperation and persistence frightened the tourists, along with the warnings to beware of pickpockets. It was a desperately sad scene, one that stayed with me for a long time afterwards.
And then I was following the anti-immigrant rhetoric that was raised by right-wing politicians. Coupled with the events of the Syrian War, everything coalesced in my mind into a story about a young Italian woman who is ready to open her mind to people who she finds strange, but not necessarily frightening. The tables are turned on her in the end, and what she finds is that there are connections between all people.
KF: What inspired you to donate the funds to Syria?
BS: I have been an admirer and supporter of the Karam Foundation for several years now. It's one of the most inspirational humanitarian efforts I've seen, addressing the tragedy of what's befallen Syrian children long before the rest of the world caught up. To me, Karam Foundation are the original heroes of the Syrian conflict. Since my short story is about refugees and migrants, it made the most sense for me to use the prize money I won to support Karam's work.
Thank you so much, Bina! For your dedication and care for Syria.
Click here to read the award-winning story, The Living Museum.
Bina Shah is a Pakistani writer from Karachi. The author of four novels and two collections of short stories, her novel Slum Child was a bestseller in Italy. She is a regular contributor to the International New York Times, and she also writes for Dawn, Pakistan's biggest English-language newspaper. She has contributed essays to Huffington Post, Al Jazeera, Granta, The Independent, the Guardian, Wasafiri, and Critical Muslim. Her fiction has been published in Wasafiri, InterlitQ, the award-winning anthology And the World Changed, the Istanbul Review, Bengal Lights, and Asian Cha.
She holds degrees from Wellesley College and the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and is an alum of the University of Iowa’s International Writers Program and the International Writers Workshop at the Hong Kong Baptist University. Her novel A Season For Martyrs was published in 2014 by Delphinium Books.