Finished this book: The World Unseen by Shamim Sarif

Cover of The World Unseen by Shamim Sarif

Cover of The World Unseen by Shamim Sarif

Another wonderful book! This is the story of two Indian women living in South Africa under apartheid who come to know each other despite their very different life circumstances. Amina is a not-really-out-but-everyone-knows-it lesbian who runs a cafe, while Miriam is living a more traditional life with an authoritarian husband and a few kids. Their story together, and their stories individually, are told with so much compassion and empathy for people whose lives are constricted by law and custom but who nevertheless strive toward wholeness and integrity.

Ever since I had the very good fortune and privilege to spend six weeks in Zimbabwe for school, I have been drawn to books and stories about Africa, preferably with protagonists who are rooted there (as opposed to stories in which Africa and Africans are merely superficial and exotic backdrops to the story of some white tourist, for example). I felt that what I saw and experienced in my short time there, and in only one country, was not even the tip of the iceberg, but just a glimpse of the iceberg in the distance. The more I read, the more I learn, and the more I enjoy it.

This beautiful book is filled not only with fascinating characters, but is firmly grounded in the land, the laws and customs of South Africa and of India, and the particular cruelties of apartheid. A good story, well-told, and definitely re-readable.


The World Unseen by Shamim Sarif. 2001. ISBN 978-0-9560316-0-0.

Winner of the Pendleton May First Novel Award and the Betty Trask Award.


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