Fauzia Zohra Rafique
A South Asian Canadian writer of fiction and poetry, Fauzia has published three novels: ‘Keerru‘ Punjabi (shahmukhi, Sanjh Publications 2019 Lahore PK), ‘Skeena‘ English and Punjabi (gurmukhi, 2019 Patiala IN. English 2011, Surrey CA. shahmukhi, 2007 Lahore PK), and ‘The Adventures of SahebaN: Biography of a Relentless Warrior’ English (Libros Libertad 2016 Surrey CA). Her eBook of poems ‘Holier Than Life’ was published in 2013. Earlier, she edited an anthology of writings of women of South Asian origin, ‘Aurat durbar: The Court of Women’ (Toronto 1995). In Pakistan, Fauzia worked as a journalist and screenwriter.
In 2020, Fauzia received the City of Surrey’s Arts & Heritage Literary Arts Award, and, her novella Keerru won Ali Arshad Mir Award for the best book in Literature (prose). Her short story ‘The position of her power’ was a Finalist for the Sequestrum 2018 Editor’s Reprint Awards. In 2013, Fauzia declined Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal. She was recognized in 2012 by peer group WIN Canada as ‘Distinguished Poet & Novelist’ for her first novel ‘Skeena’ (Libros Libertad 2011) and the first chapbook of English and Punjabi poems ‘Passion Fruit/Tahnget Phal’ (Uddari Books 2011).
Most of her work centers around the empowerment of women, writers and artists; positioning against religious oppression, class/caste based prejudices, systemic racism, homophobia and ableism; and supporting the struggles and rights of POC, Indigenous Peoples, Queer communities, refugees, and migrants. Through creative writing, blogging and community development work Fauzia supports the struggles for equality. She publishes blogs on Punjabi literature, and, she is a co-founder and the coordinator of Surrey Muse Arts Society (SMAS).
Fauzia was born in Lahore in 1954 to a landowning family of the Punjab. She ‘drew’ her first story for fellow children on the mud floor of her village when she was four. Her mother Zohra Begum wrote poems in Punjabi, and she was a major influence on Fauzia’s life.
Fauzia’s first published writing was a letter to the editor titled ‘Urdu adab murda adab hai-Urdu literature is dead literature’ that she sent to Quarterly SEEP in Karachi, and it was published by the journal as the Editorial. Her first paid job was at Lahore’s monthly DHANAK where she was hired as Assistant Editor while a first year student of journalism at University of the Punjab. Later, she studied South Asian politics at SOAS in the UK.
Fauzia came to Canada as a convention refugee in 1986. She now lives in Surrey BC, in close proximity to her two daughters and a son, her friends and peers; and, she works as a freelance writer and an arts activist.
About Fauzia’s fiction and poetry
‘In Holier Than Life, Fauzia Rafique presents in English poems written in three languages, to blend the voices of self in a full and unified presentation. From soft intimacies to polemic, from private indignities to those that are the shared burden of at least half the planet, the poet gives voice to self in a wide sweep of style and metaphor, revelation and critique, visiting a kaleidoscope of concerns and blending literary values that, ultimately, express a single flame of being…’
A single flame of being
Joanne Arnott, Author of ‘Wiles of Girlhood’ and ‘Mother Time’
‘The novel (Skeena) documents yet another personal account of a powerful voice that breaks the code of silence in the world of violence against woman and oppression of all peoples… A page turner from beginning to end. A potential best seller.’
A Page Turner from Beginning to End – Novel Skeena
Writer/Presenter Valerie B-Taylor. Previous President, New West Writers.
‘A writer like Fauzia not only shines or dazzles but radiates and awakens the dormant senses.’
In a comment at Uddari Weblog
Author/Poet Ashok Bhargava. President, Writers International Network Canada.
‘Skeena is a novel everyone should read: not only for its remarkably insightful commentary on racism, violence against women, classism, the experience of immigrating to a new country and the human heart, but also because it is just an incredibly absorbing experience, I read it in a weekend and couldn’t put it down… Once hooked, Skeena’s voice will stay inside your head and heart for a very long time!’
Educator/Activist Bryonie Baxter. Executive Director, Elizabeth Fry Society, Ottawa.
‘You have given your readers an unprecedented view of life behind the veil as Skeena’s story unfolds. This beautifully crafted book made me sad, but it also made me smile. I am in awe of your talent.’
Author Anthony Dalton. Previous National President, Canadian Authors Association (CAA).
‘Skeena is not the book you can put away politely, Skeena is that book of words you either keep close at hand, or THROW AWAY. So what if it angers someone? If this is not what literature should do, then what else?’
‘This book tells us of the specificity of Pakistan, of being a woman in Pakistan, and of the politics that have shaped the country since independence in 1947. And the continuing legacy of colonial occupation, and the ongoing intervention of global powers in the making and unmaking of the region. But it also speaks to the most general features of the Human Condition. It is thus deeply particular, and deeply humanist, like all real works of art. And I think this is that, one that will not only make its mark in Punjabi— in India and in Pakistan and in Canada— but in its English form, in these countries and farther afield.’
Author/Educator Anne Murphy. Assistant Professor/Chair of Punjabi Language, Literature, and Sikh Studies, University of British Columbia (UBC).
Skeena ‘treats the familiar themes and experiences of a South Asian woman in Pakistan and Canada without conforming to or selling stereotypes to the public… It moves flowingly almost screenplay like reproducing vivid scenes, such as the punishment of a villager in Skeena’s village, in the reader’s imagination… Telling a story of discovery, death and determination, Skeena is inspiring without being overblown, political without being ideological, and heart-rending without being tragic.’
‘Rafique is to be lauded for her ability to convey, in clear and precise language, the effects of multiple layers of oppression – gender, religion and race – on innocent people who get trapped in situations from which there is, often, no escape.
This book is a MUST read !!’
Author Gomathy Puri. Novel ‘Islands Unto ourselves’.
‘Rafique covers a vast landscape of ideas in this book: violence against women, religion and male domination, migration, war, racism, piety and more. Each of these huge topics is dealt with honestly and delicately… the novel is bold and refreshing.’
Natural Health Practitioner Farah Shroff. Works with UBC.