Samira Shackle, "Karachi Vice: Life and Death in a Contested City" (Melville House, 2021)


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A young man who turns his desire to join the army into a long stint as a volunteer ambulance driver. A teacher living in an old slum who is the only one brave—or foolish—enough to confront the gangs. A refugee who becomes a community organiser. A woman in a traditional village looking at the new development quickly encroaching on their land. A bored engineer who finds his calling as a crime reporter.

These people are subjects of Karachi Vice: Life and Death in a Contested City (Melville House, 2021), the debut by Samira Shackle. Samira travels to Karachi, the home city of her mother, and tells the stories of ordinary people trying to live their lives in the midst of terrible violence: first by the gangs, then by the Taliban.

In this interview, I ask Samira to talk about the city of Karachi, and the five people she writes about in her book. We’ll talk about the turning points in the violence there, and what it was like to write about her mother’s home city.

Samira Shackle is a freelance British-Pakistani writer and reporter based in London. She is the editor of the New Humanist magazine, and a regular contributor to the Guardian Long Read. She can be followed on Twitter at @samirashackle.

You can find more reviews, excerpts, interviews, and essays at The Asian Review of Books, including its review of Karachi Vice. Follow on Facebook or on Twitter at @BookReviewsAsia.

Nicholas Gordon is an associate editor for a global magazine, and a reviewer for the Asian Review of Books. He can be found on Twitter at @nickrigordon.

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