The good Shepard

Samina S Quraeshi April 27, 2010

KARACHI: I was dismayed to read Batool Zehra’s simplistic profile in your Sunday magazine on documentary filmmaker Sadia Shepard. The profile portrays Shepard as a glib, opportunistic Pakistani- American ‘savvy’ enough to exploit her heritage. The article indicates that the writer has a superficial understanding of Shepard’s work — for which the latter has received wide critical acclaim. For starters, the writer seems to continuously confuse Shepard’s persona as a character in her memoir and misses the point of her book entirely.

The Girl from Foreign makes no pretence of presenting a ‘cohesive story or history’. To fault it for not doing so is to fundamentally misunderstand the very nature of the book, which is an episodic personal narrative with a circular structure. Unfortunately for readers in Pakistan, the book is barely available here and so very few will get the chance to discover this story on its merit.

The profile says: “When the time comes to move from the merely interesting to the deeply moving, the writing falls apart, with moments of intimacy coming across with stiff discomfort.” But Zehra neglects to provide a single example of what she means by “stiff discomfort”, or in fact, mention a single moment of intimacy. And there are many. Shepard’s deft rendering of her maternal grandmother’s death is a central element of the book that goes completely unmentioned. I expect more from The Express Tribune in the future.