Beyond The Fields is Aysha Baqir’s debut fiction novel set in Southern Punjab, Pakistan. The story is about two twin girls, Zara and Tara, who navigate issues of identity and honour in a society which penalises the less fortunate and shows no mercy to those who become victims of tragedies like rape and prostitution.
Living in a village, Zara and Tara are already at a disadvantage in life. They’re not allowed to be educated or pursue dreams which will give them independence in any form including thought. Typical of characters based in villages, Zara and Tara’s fate is determined by their over-protecting parents who care more for the honours attached to their daughters than the daughters them self.
Restrictions are put on the twins when they come of age (12 y/o). What they can and can’t do in their free time is controlled. However, one fine afternoon, Tara the golden child, and Zara the ambitious one, decide to play a game of hide-and-seek in the wheat fields with their brother, Omar. What starts off as harmless afternoon fun turns into a lifetime of nightmares. Tara gets raped.
The story deals with a number of significant issues which have already been written about in the literary world. It is commendable to see Aysha making a debut by taking on critical themes such as rape, honour, social exclusion/inclusions and prostitution. However, these themes have all been explored on a peripheral level without dealing with any one of them in depth.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Aysha grew up in Pakistan. Graduating as valedictorian of her class, she won a scholarship to Mount Holyoke College, where she studied International Relations. Her time in college sparked a passion for economic development, and upon her return to Pakistan, she saw that the poor needed access to economic resources and networks before they could voice their demands for social justice. In 1998, armed with an MBA, she founded a pioneering not for profit economic development organization, Kaarvan Crafts Foundation, focused on poverty alleviation through the provision of business development and market-focused trainings for girls and women. In 2013 she relocated to Singapore. She is on the Board of Kaarvan Crafts Foundation, an Ashoka Fellow and a member of Singapore Writers Group.
During the time she spent in the villages, her life interfaced closely with girls and women and her admiration and respect for their determination, strength and humor in times of despair grew immensely — with so little they managed to achieve so much. The characters in her debut novel Beyond the Fields challenge the roles that have been defined for them, determined instead to persevere and achieve their dreams. She is currently working on her second novel.
Beyond the Fields will be available in Kinokuniya and Popular Bookstores in Singapore by February 15th 2019
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