Brief Biography of Kamila Shamsie
Kamila Shamsie was born in 1973 in Pakistan, the daughter of journalist and editor Muneeza Shamsie. Shamsie was brought up in Karachi before attending Hamilton College in New York, and then she received an MFA from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Shamsie wrote her first novel, In the City by the Sea, while she was still in college, and it was published when she was 25 years old. Between 2000 and 2014, Shamsie wrote five additional novels. Her novels have won the Patras Bokhari Award, a prestigious literary award in Pakistan. Home Fire, her seventh novel, won the 2018 Women’s Prize for Fiction. Shamsie moved to London in 2007 and is a dual citizen of the UK and Pakistan.
Historical Context of Home Fire
Shamsie wrote Home Fire in the wake of the rise of ISIS (also known as ISIL, or the Islamic State), a terrorist militant group that follows a fundamentalist jihadist doctrine of Sunni Islam. ISIS gained global prominence in 2014 when it drove Iraqi government forces out of key cities in Iraq, then captured Mosul. Since then, ISIS has carried out attacks on government forces in Syria, and by December 2015 (around the time in which the book takes place), it held a large area from western Iraq to eastern Syria, enforcing sharia law there. At the time, many stories sprang up of young people leaving their families from Britain, the United States, and France to join ISIS; between 2012 and 2019, it is estimated that 900 British citizens left the country to join ISIS—just as Parvaiz does in Home Fire. Shamsie likely also drew inspiration for part of her plot from the fact that the British Home Secretary can withdraw citizenship from dual nationals, under the Immigration, Asylum, and Nationality Act of 2006, as long as that withdrawal is “conducive to the public good.” Additionally, although this appointment did not come to pass until after the novel’s publication, there are parallels between Karamat Lone in the novel and real-life Home Secretary Sajid Javid, who served in office from 2018-2019. Like Karamat, Javid is British Pakistani and from a Muslim background, but also like Karamat, he is not religious. Javid is also a member of the Conservative Party, and, like Karamat, he has both been targeted for his Muslim background and been accused of turning his back on the Muslim community.
Other Books Related to Home Fire
Home Fire is a modern retelling of Sophocles’s play Antigone
, with characters in the novel directly correlating to characters in the play (Isma to Ismene, Aneeka to Antigone, Eamonn to Haemon, Karamat to Creon, and Parvaiz to Polynices). The major plot points of the novel also follow the developments of the play closely. Shamsie has also credited the documentary play Another World: Losing Our Children to Islamic State
as a major source of inspiration and research for her novel. Shamsie has written several other books on similar subjects, including Burnt Shadows
, Broken Verses
, In the City by the Sea
, Salt and Saffron
, and A God in Every Stone
. For another reinterpretation of a classic told through the lens of contemporary Muslim families, Uzma Jalaluddin’s Ayesha at Last
is a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice
Key Facts about Home Fire
Full Title: Home Fire
When Written: 2014-2017
Where Written: London, England
When Published: August 15, 2017
Literary Period: Contemporary
Genre: Novel, Political Fiction
Setting: London, England; Amherst, Massachusetts; Istanbul, Turkey; Raqqa, Syria; and Karachi, Pakistan.
Climax: Men strap bombs to Eamonn and Aneeka runs into his arms.
Antagonist: ISIS; xenophobia and racism
Point of View: Third-person limited omniscient; each of the five sections focuses on one of the five main characters’ point of view.
Extra Credit for Home Fire