By Uzma Aslam Khan
Winner: 2023 Massachusetts Book Award in Fiction
A New York Times' pick for "Best Historical Fiction 2022"
A New York Times' pick for "Books for Summer 2022"
Set in the Andaman Islands over the course of oppressive imperial regimes, The Miraculous True History of Nomi Ali is a complex, gripping homage to those omitted from the collective memory.
Publication Date: May 17, 2022
Nomi and Zee are Local Borns—their father a convict condemned by the British to the Andaman Islands, their mother shipped off with him. The islands are an inhospitable place, despite their surreal beauty. In this unreliable world, the children have their friend Aye, the pet hen Priya and the distracted love of their parents to shore them up from one day to the next. Meanwhile, within the walls of the prison, Prisoner 218 D wages a war on her jailers with only her body and her memory.
When war descends upon this overlooked outpost of Empire, the British are forced out and the Japanese move in. Soon the first shot is fired and Zee is forced to flee, leaving Nomi and the other islanders to contend with a new malice. The islands—and the seas surrounding them—become a battlefield, resulting in tragedy for some and a brittle kind of freedom for others, who find themselves increasingly entangled in a mesh of alliances and betrayals.
Ambitiously imagined and hauntingly alive, The Miraculous True History of Nomi Ali writes into being the interwoven stories of people caught in the vortex of history, powerless yet with powers of their own: of bravery and wonder, empathy and endurance. Uzma Aslam Khan’s extraordinary new novel is an unflinching and lyrical page-turner, an epic telling of a largely forgotten chapter in the history of the subcontinent.
Uzma Aslam Khan is the author of five novels translated worldwide to critical acclaim. These include Trespassing, recipient of a Commonwealth Prize nomination in 2003; The Geometry of God, a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2009; Thinner Than Skin, nominated for the Man Asian Literary Prize and DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, and winner of the French Embassy Prize for Best Fiction at the Karachi Literature Festival 2014. The Miraculous True History of Nomi Ali won the Karachi Literature Festival-Getz Pharma Fiction Prize and the UBL Literary Awards English Language Fiction category in Pakistan, and, in India, was shortlisted for the TATA Literature Live! Best Book of the Year, Fiction. Published in the US and UK by Deep Vellum in 2022, The Miraculous True History of Nomi Ali was listed by the New York Times as "Best Historical Fiction 2022," and "Books for Summer 2022." It is a 2022 Foreword INDIES finalist in historical fiction, as well as winner of Massachusetts Book Award in Fiction. Born and raised primarily in Pakistan, Khan has also lived in the Philippines, Japan, England and Morocco, as well as in the US—in Upstate New York, Arizona and Hawaii. Since 2012, she has made a home in western Massachusetts.
"A miraculous performance ... Khan's suspenseful, thought-provoking narrative is a challenge to simple assumptions about enemies and friends, loyalty and betrayal." —Alida Becker, The New York Times
"Deeply researched and beautifully written." —Kirkus Reviews
"Khan engages readers with a confident style and seamless storytelling." —Publishers Weekly
"As affecting as it is intellectually powerful, the novel is a master lesson in the art of historical fiction." —Pankaj Mishra, author of Age of Anger and Run and Hide
"A glorious novel about a forgotten place and a part of our history that we hardly ever talk about." —Mohammed Hanif, author of A Case of Exploding Mangoes and Red Birds
"With piercingly lucid attention, Uzma has drawn an intricate spider's web that is both a record and a refuge ... the tenderness with which (she) write(s) is a kind of intervention of knowing that is in opposition to the colonial one." —Aracelis Girmay, conversation with the author in Los Angeles Review of Books
"Part of the beauty of Khan's writing stems from the fact that she does not need to actively portray racism, she makes virtually all her characters live it ... Khan writes with quietly restrained but powerful passion." —Dawn, Pakistan
“Khan is adept at creating worlds that are at once magical and terrifying. She creates a universe out of a footnote of history. Her writing is crystal, vivid." —Indian Express
"For every historical outrage eventually there comes along a work of fiction that does it justice … miraculously (lifting) the mists of collective forgetfulness. The Miraculous True History of Nomi Ali performs that vital and welcome miracle. The voices of the past have been successfully captured and amplified by this remarkable novel ... (with a) dream-like quality to (the) beautiful prose." —The Herald Pakistan & Scroll.in
"This fiction is the new truth we need to know." —New Indian Express