The Books That Made Me Who I Am


Tehmina, currently working as a journalist/editor, was previously a research associate in the Economics Department at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), having graduated with a BA (Hons) in Economics from the University of Waterloo, Canada. wary of sounding pretentious by saying “I find myself in books,” but since that is her reality, She hopes people understand and forgive her for it. Tweeting occasionally as @tehmina_k., Tehmina talks to Afshan Shafi about the books that mean the most to her

Late Nights onAir by Elizabeth Hay

I read this book in the summer, the week I turned 23, during my last semester of college in Canada. It is penned by a Canadian author and set in the Canadian North. It features very grown up, very whole female characters. I identify more with Gwen but was more in awe of Dido (“Don’t look at me like that, she’d told him once, you’ll wear out your eyes.”) It was my first brush with female characters like them and it somehow pushed me along to be a bit more sure of myself. There’s also something beautiful about the placid and long Canadian summer, and this book was a perfect harmony of reader and book in terms of timing,setting, and pace.

August: Osage County by Tracy Letts
(Technically, this is a play, not a book!)

I’m always drawn to stories about families, especially if they’re forced by circumstances to come together all of a sudden. The Weston family is extremely dysfunctional. There is one exchange between Barbara, the eldest daughter, and her estranged husband, in particular, that gave me major pause. It was like seeing something you could become, and being cautioned to be careful: “You’re thoughtful, Barbara, but you’re not open. You’re passionate, but you’re hard. You’re a good, decent, funny, wonderful woman, and I love you, but you’re a pain in the ass.”

Overwinter by Ratika Kapur

(Thank you Afshan for turning me to this author!) I’ve rarely felt so aligned with a character as I did with Ketaki. Especially since I was the same age as her when I read the book and was being set up left and right. Much of the book is her just doing her own thing, but also being pressured/convinced to give set ups a shot and those shots ending “in disaster.” The heroine is in the creative field as well, “she of scattered ambition and ability,” and is protective of her work, which is very relatable. And naturally the aversion to being “coupled” springs from deeper, more complex reasons, and one of the plotlines (regarding an uncle) can seem off-putting, but it’s handled deftly and makes complete and utter sense.

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

Hailed as the next JK Rowling (no pressure!) Samantha is one of my absolute favourite authors. I love following her on Twitter. She started The Bone Season series when just a student at Oxford. Part of a seven-book series that is a work in progress, the novel is a supernatural, dystopian fantasy with Paige as its protagonist. Often when I feel beat or cowed down, I remember Paige and it gives me a kick, because she’s such a fighter. Other than that, it’s just a completely gripping, super imaginative, thrilling, mysterious and addictive series. Can’t wait for book three, out this March.

Just Like Heaven by Julia Quinn

I read a lot about dark dysfunction, and to bring back the light joy in my (reading) life, I turn to historical romances. They’re quite clever and heart-warming and I never laugh as much as I do while reading them. Julia Quinn writes about the flip side of family – the warm, charming, annoying but loving side. This novel is a part of the “Smythe-Smith quartet” about a bunch of cousins who are forced to participate in the annual family musical and publicly embarrass themselves. Naturally one girl falls in love during the course of the story, but the warm, cosy embrace of the Smythe-Smith family, to me, is where the real love is.

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