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tv   Book Discussion on The Upstairs Wife  CSPAN  February 15, 2015 3:00pm-4:01pm EST

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had was that the women some of the women when we sat in the front came down from the back of the bus sat down and assess in hebrew what we were doing and why. they themselves are wondering what is going on. the men some of them put their hats and came on the bus and refuse to sat down next to us. >> at not unusual for women to be gatekeepers of the pastry art. it's the phyllis schlafly's of the world. there's a lot of places where women take a role to preserve the gender order for lots of reasons. there are women for whom the gender inequality that we have this sort of comfortable in safe and what is known to them and i'm doing all of that is scary and threatening for whatever reason. sometimes the women are even more vehement in that we can't make change.
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denmark -- .. >> there is going to be an audio taping tonight, and if we get to that
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point, come to our audience microphone over here that way c-span and politics & prose will get your questions recorded as well as our author's answers to them. and lastly if you could do us a huge favor fold up your chairs lee them against -- leave them against something solid, it'll help us get to the book signing. welcome to politics & prose. my name is abby i run our in-store events, and this evening we are so pleased to have with us rafia zakaria to discuss her new book "the upstairs wife." it's her experience with the country she grew up in and she begins at pivotal moment in 2007 when -- [inaudible] one of her uncles had decided to take a second wife and the book really becomes this unique look at culture and politics and she's really showing a lot about the country through her own story. so her works has appeared
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you've probably seen it in al-jazeera america, other publications, and she's also a human rights activist and on the board of amnesty international usa. so tonight she's joined in conversation by -- [inaudible] who's a producer and reporter for npr's "all things considered," and -- [inaudible] so please join me in welcoming both of them to politics & prose. [applause] >> i think you need to hold that. >> yeah, you do. >> oh, she does? sorry. let me get my mic as well. sorry. this is rafia's first book talk, so this is a great privilege to have her in d.c. for the first discussion she's doing of the book. so thank you for this amazing book. i wanted to start with rafia as a columnist in pakistan every week she writes for the leading english newspaper there, and her work looks at human rights,
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women's rights, all kinds of discrimination issues. and i'm curious when you've written something as personal as this book is, what was the origin of sort of deciding to take the kind of writing you do every week and say something in the way that you've done here? >> okay. well, first of all, thank you everybody, for being here. i'm sure you hear authors say this all the time writing is a lonely job. and so there's really nothing better than sitting in front of people who read your work and who are interested in it. but it's rare that, you know i write mostly for a pakistani audience. i'm a columnist for "dawn" which is the largest newspaper and a lot of the genesis of this book was in my interactions with women in pakistan who write to
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me every week sometimes in response to the columns. it's, you know, difficult in the united states to get people interest in a book -- interested in a book on pakistan. i was talking earlier to my p friend, and he was saying well you know, if you have a title that says "the nukes are safe" or, you know, "more terrorists than anyone else," then you can sell a book on pakistan. but a book about pakistani women, particularly about karachi which is the city i'm from and seen through the eyes of women is a harder sell. so it's so encouraging to see everybody here. you know, i envision this book as a way to show people what it feels like to be pakistani more than anything else. so the themes in this book are an effort to promote the
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emotional landscape of pakistan. it's i think, a dimension of the country that is lost in the narrative that is dominated by security issues especially here in d.c., by terror by violence. there's very little sort of exploration off the internet life that goes on behind closed doors. but that forms really the narrative of the country and the city. >> i mean, and you said that, you know, you had initially thought about doing something that would bring you to the emotional landscape maybe through fiction. there's a lot of pakistani fiction writers and they have been able to do a lot of stories that are about families and individuals and their struggles. but ultimately, you chose to not only write a more literary piece, but also something that's deeply personal where you take your own family's a story and put it on the page. that's all the women in your family from your grandmother to your mother to your aunt and to
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yourself. that decision, too was a difficult one to put something like a private life in pakistan which is very private in the public in the way that you have. >> um, yes. it is difficult, and it continues to be a struggle. and i think that way i looked at it was that i had to be true to my commitment as a writer in that i wanted to present as honest as possible a story. that was true to my heart and that captured the experiences of people i love. but, you know sometimes that comes up against the expectations people have of you as well as the relationships you have with people. so it's a balancing act. but i guess my strongest motivating factor was that i strongly believe that a lot of
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suffering results from silence and that because some of these private boundaries are not traversed, already a lot of women who might on some dimension go through similar situations that feel alienated or alone or that feel that their struggle is a singular one. and to have the story told, hopefully, is way for other women to share their stories and to realize that, you know, there are sort of universal strands of human emotion that unite us whether we're pakistani or american. i mean the central theme of the book is being in love with someone who doesn't really love you the psalm way you love -- the same way you love him. and, you know that's something i think that everybody goes through. or has gone through or will go through at some point. >> you talk a little bit about the central character in the
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book, which is your aunt who is also the title of the book, "the upstairs wife," -- >> yes. >> what you mean by that and tell us a little bit about them if you want to read a little bit about your observation of what happened to her. >> well, the central character is my aunt and only, the story revolves around her husband taking a second wife and her coming first coming home to what was her father's house, to our house and what that was like to kind of, you know, as a child get snippets of what was going on but not really knowing what the matter was or why everyone was so upset or why she was so upset. so that's the central character. and i think through that i tried to explore this whole idea of public and private and how people, you know how there's a connection between the violence
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outside in pakistan and the violence in intimate relationships and how they can also tear you -- that can also tear you apart. so the portion that i'm reading right now is sort of the view from the outside. you know, in this neighborhood where everyone knows everyone else and they know that this man, my uncle, has taken a second wife -- >> and he's divided his home into multiple levels where your aunt lives on one level, and his new wife lives on the second. >> absolutely. absolutely. i'm going to try to do this balancing act. >> i'll hold your mic for you. >> all right, thank you. with the arrival of second wife, the eyes of neighbors focus with rejuvenated fervor or my aunt's newly-enlarged house. in the evening the women watch the lights turning on upstairs
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or downstairs the men watch the comings and goings of my uncle whether he ascended or descended the stairs between his two women. propounding at length about his dutiful virility. the oddity of the household -- the only one on the lane where two women shared one man -- provided a safe conversation topic at their own dinner tables. a reprieve from nagging concerns about jobs and money and traffic and schools. is he upstairs or downstairs tonight always managed to draw a laugh from the most harried of housewives, the most overworked of husbands. thus, the newry-created neighborhood of stragglers from bombay reunited on one short lane of houses in karachi had found a juicy drama that was reliable fodder for casual gossip. >> and i mean, what's interesting is that you take the those kinds of observations of what was happening in your family's life and interlace that
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throughout the book with the history of pakistan so the reader is getting both this kind of, you know sad and juicy -- i suppose as you described it in your words -- you know, the story of your family alongside the narrative of pakistan's political leaders and the one woman who you write a lot about in the women which is benazir bhutto who i think many americans know as one of the only leading sort of female politicians in the world and of her time. she was a larger-than-life figure, and she also sort of loom over your book as the freest woman you know, you describe. can you juxtapose your family's experience and the women in your life with benazir bhutto, a daughter of karachi known around the world? >> yeah. i mean, you know, as a pakistani woman especially when living in america, that is probably one of the most frequent questions that i'm asked, is that oh, you know benazir bhutto was the prime minister. so, you know, in many ways
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pakistan -- that is a public face for many, a particular face of pakistani women. but i wanted to present her as how i saw her as a kid when she was getting married herself and what that was like, how i interpreted that as a girl growing up in catchy. karachi. so, you know, more than anything here you've got an environment, my environment where choices are very circumscribed. i was definitely being raised to be married and have children, and, you know, i wanted very much for her not to do that 'cuz i wanted at least one example of a woman who was not doing what every other woman i knew was doing and was sort of, you know, their lives centered around marriage and childbirth. and so i remember watching benazir's wedding on tv and being sort of sad because it's
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like okay, here's the freest -- and it is true, this is the freest woman i know and she also has to marry this man and, you know, to the child rafia, he wasn't a particularly good looking man. [laughter] i mean no political subtext whatsoever. but as a kid. and you're thinking, why is she doing this? because i wanted at least one way to say, you know not everybody has to do this. not everybody has to make these compromises and fit into these very constricted roles. and that's kind of the shadow because, i mean, it is through the lives of other women and the marriages that you see that you are, you know, interpret what your high is going to be like and -- your life is going to be like and the choices that you're going to make. so that's why she's a significant influence in the book. and also because this book, you
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know, very much -- you asked earlier about the origins. as a pakistani woman, you cannot help but look at what's happening and be sad and be, you know despondent about the way things are and be with upset about the fact that you're not seeing a reflection or that women are being erased from pakistan whether it's the public spaces or the history or any of important dimensions of life. so i just got to this point where i felt that this was the only way to reclaim pakistan, is to present the story of pakistan through the eyes of women and that that in itself was, at least for me, the ultimate subversive thing that i could do is, you know, here i have story after story of women who i love
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who try to claim the country for themselves. and that includes benazir bhutto. and they were not able to do so. and so i wanted to tell story of the country in the struggles of those women because that, you know, i mean, i guess they say history is defined or written by the victors. well, i'm writing the history first and hoping there'll be victors next, you know? [laughter] and that women will discover come -- that women will overcome. because they will see in a narrative like in this just how powerful and resilient they have been and that they can be and that, you know, they continue to push the system and continue to push the boundaries of what are often very constricted choices. >> when you said that a lot of the ideas in the book came out of your e-mails that you have with women readers in pakistan who write many to you every week from your column that has to do with some of the ways that you
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present the political history of pakistan some of the personal anecdotes that you share. can you talk about how the kind of e-mails with your readers who are women is sort of strewn into this book and is part of this book? >> definitely. i mean before i even say that i will say it's in my acknowledgments too. but, you know pakistan and "dawn," the newspaper that i write for is at the front lines of a society that is transforming and that is extremely violent. and i am just tremendously grateful for my editors who week after week really allow me to push the boundaries and write articles about women, about issues like polygamy, about issues like laws against adultery and all the other hinges that activists -- all the other things that activists are working on. but, you know more centrally than that, yes, i'm touched by the fact that, you know,
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pakistani women are out there. i mean they -- i get letters from university students, from women who work and women who are even within their own families fighting so that their daughters can work and have choices. doctors in hospitals. and i wanted to sort of reflect that plurality in a book. you know, because as they say you know, i didn't want to present one story. i wanted you to be able to see as many stories as possible so that you understand that there's a mixture of, you know, of pushing and pulling. there are women, as you'll see in the book, who come out on the streets, college students who fight. and then there are women who retreat. and all of that is a part of pakistan. more essentially though, i think at this point in pakistan's history issues like polygamy are very, very alive
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mostly because polygamy within the pakistani context is being presented as solution to destitute women. and the more authentic islamic way to live and arrange a marital relationship and i think that in those discussions of polygamy, you know there's a lot of discussions like what the quran says that's not allowed discussions like that. but there's no discussion of like the emotional ruin that arrangements like that can cause to women. so exploring marriages and exploring those intimate relationships was a way to sort of begin that conversation. and, you know, within the american context i think it's also important because, you know, in a very different way the u.s. is also engaged in looking at questions of what are intimate relationships, what's marriage, what are the boundaries of what we want as a
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society in different ways. and i think that's a way to sort of relate people who might not have any background in pakistan to sort of understand that our central impulse of wanting to be with someone or wanting to be the only person in someone's life is universal a, you know? i mean, it's the same whether it's for my aunt or my friends here or myself or for many of you. >> i wanted to ask you, actually about what you just said which is that you wanted it to be more universal by looking at these questions of love, ultimately. you are on board of directors at amnesty usa and amnesty international, and it's very evident that these questions are so value to what you do in your -- so central to what you do in your oh work. but i also think you put together a book that is very literary and has quite a personal touch to it. one of things i was going to ask you to read a section in which
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rafia describes the man who founded pakistan, and he's credited as the sort of, you know, as the central figure in its history. but you actually decide to tell his story through the story of the wife who died before he came to what became fanning in 1947 -- became pakistan in 1947, and i wonder if you could read how he was also someone who had to lose love and marriage in his life to be a politician. >> okay. definitely. >> sure. >> yes. and to set this up a little bit more, you know another sort of theme in this book is migration. and this whole idea that we can never really go back to what we leave. and, i mean i think, obviously this is about migration in place, but i think it's true, i think, for all our lives where, you know, you can never go back to being a kid, you can never go back to a time that existed before. and i think that that sort of is woven through this book in that
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i'm constantly, i was constantly growing up seeing people who longed for another place and were trying to rebuild it in this new country that was supposed to be home but that to them didn't feel like home m -- home. and then the reason i tell -- this is the founder of pakistan -- his story to the woman who he, in a way, left behind, is because of that, you know? it's because he was not just the founder, but he had a personal life and that in some ways the creation of pakistan involved a great personal loss for him. so -- [inaudible] died on february 20 1929. she was buried in one of bombay's muslim cemeteries. it was here that mohamed visited her in august 1947 in the days before he left for karachi. the last days he would ever
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spend in bombay. here the grave of the woman who he had lost for the sake of the country he had to create, mohamed was said to have wept. one year later he too would lie dying far away in newborn pakistan. in september 1948 almost 20 years after the death of his wife, he too would be gone. mohamed had gained a country but lost his love. he was buried in the center of karachi, and over his grave a pristine white mausoleum of marble was built. its unblemished dome could be seen far away. in death he belonged to pakistan. the children of pakistan learned a lot about him about his education, his political acumen, his strategic prowess, but we never learned about his non-muslim wife, about the woman he had loved.
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>> it's beautiful, thank you. >> thank you. >> for reading that. and i'm curious too, with -- you know, the subtitle of book is "an intimate history of pakistan," but we've had many books about the nukes and the political history and all of that. what you meant by wanting this to also have a historical record of this country that was founded 60 years ago the idea you felt knowing the intimate history was key to understanding the country. >> yeah. i mean, you know before an american audience -- and i've taught, you know in american colleges, and i generally, you know, and i write for an american audience you kind of as a pakistani i imagine most imi-- immigrants feel this way want everyone to know the larger context of what you're talking about, you know? instead of having the isolated nuggets of, you know pakistan is drone attacks pack san is
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al-qaeda pakistan is taliban, to have a tacit feel for what the society is like. so i wanted to weave together both, you know, stories like we didn't -- pakistan today didn't just become pakistan today. and i wanted people to see that in sort of a cinematic scape of just human, human beings, of ordinary pakistanis. i mean, you know the other challenge often for me as a pakistani writer is that, you know, here i'm telling you this story of a very ordinary middle class family. that's not a narrative. in general, not was people from pakistan, but in general people from my sort of background don't become writers. we become computer programmers -- well, i guess i did become a lawyer, but i'm obviously not doing that when i'm writing, and we don't get to
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tell the stories of just what ordinary life is like and how that's woven together. sometimes events affect lives. other times there are events that should affect lives, but they don't. you know, in this story revolves around polygamy and, you know how laws on marriage affect women. but the fact is a lot of women in pakistan have no idea what these laws are and how they affect them. so in that sense it's posing a question. i mean shouldn't, shouldn't there have been more -- shouldn't they have been more interested? shouldn't the women in my family have known, you know what the laws were or -- and then, i mean, you know, that's sort of how ordinary peoplely their live -- live their lives. how many of us actually pay attention to things that are going to abridge our rights on a daily basis? we're consumed more by the proximate what happens to our
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husbands, wives and childrens, and that's, you know, it's very similar in pakistan. and so in that sense the book is also a question about where women's rights are, where they should be, how and why women do and don't organize. the two sort of binaries that you see between my aunt and the other wife are important questions because, you know my aunt was a housewife. she was raised to have children and to raise children. she -- the other woman was a career woman. she met my uncle at work. those are are choices that women face about, you know the good or the bad woman and how that's constructed in societies and how you have more or less freedom based upon those choices and how they're going to affect you. and finally i think the crucial
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thing was that i saw in many ways women being the instruments of cruelty and subjugation to other women. that's something that's difficult to talk about in any society. but i think that one of the most insidious ways that, you know women perhaps contribute t to each other's oppression is by not being mindful, is by themselves sort of buying into a male mindset where the other woman is the enemy and not the man who is, you know, at the center of this arrangement. that's a question i think, for the people who read to decide you know? where the blame lies and whether a different perspective even in those limited choices can give you a different, you know, a different read on the situation or a different set of choices
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for yourself. >> thank you. i'm sure many of you have questions for rafia and about the book and also about how it's written, and i think this is a great time to perhaps open up if floor to those who wanted to ask her about the book. >> if you could just make sure to come to our microphone here so everyone can record it. thanks. >> this is a question that my wife asks me many times. [laughter] and she says so there is this woman loves a son. the son loves a woman, that's his mother. she takes care of him. but when he grows to become an adult, he looks at his mother like -- [inaudible] in society. and he's willing then to treat his wife-to-be the same way. how can a man coming from the belly of a woman whom he loves.
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that's his mother i'm sure they love -- the pakistan men love their mothers. how can he then see his mother as a person inferior? and then when he marries but even to his sisters, he marries, he doesn't treat his wife the way finish as an equal to himself. how can that happen? that's beyond my come pre-- comprehension and my wife's comprehension. could you help? [laughter] >> wow. okay. i wish i had an answer to this question, you know on how to do that. i think that, i mean, my best guess would be -- and perhaps i guess i know in this not from being a son, but from being a
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daughter -- is that children are people and want to identify with whoever is powerful. so, you know, when they see their mothers not having power, they identify with whoever, you know, with the father who has power. because everybody, you know sees that that is, i think perhaps as much of a natural instinct as the love is to be you know, the person that's calling the shots and that's deciding what happens. in this book at least i mean you know you get quite a bit of -- and i'm sure that a lot of my perspective is determined by the fact that i'm a twin and i had a twin brother. and so everything that i saw, i saw double in that i could see how it would be different if i was a boy. and that obviously influenced
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how i saw my aunt's life, how i saw the world around me. and i think that that, you know i think that that underscores how we determine our relationships. it makes no sense, yes. misogyny makes no sense at all. but it exists. >> hi. i'm looking forward to reading book. so it's clear that benazir bhutto was an inspirational figure for you growing up. i'm wondering if today you see any either political figures or civil society groups that are advancing the place of women in pakistani society? >> it's, i mean, i think that the battles in pakistan are being fought on a very individual basis. so, you know, it is the women, for example, if you go to
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karachi who use public transport. and they might be -- [inaudible] but they're there. they're there in the buses, and they won't give up their seats. and they're going to work. it's in the students who fight against, you know, in pakistan there's a big issue about limiting the quota for girls in medical school, for example. it's the girls who are fighting against that. the pakistani women who are in universities all time, every year year after year outdo the boys. you know, in terms of their grades. so there is definitely a lot of promise and a lot of hope because we have a young pakistan. our pakistan is 60% under 20, and is half of that is women. and so those -- that pushes them. and in a lot of ways you see
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conflict because there is transformation, because women are out there, you know? they're, they have to learn. you know, they're out in the malls, they're in the shops selling things, they're in the offices, they're, you know they're at the airport. even now if you go the officers there are women. so they're there and they're pushing. it's perhaps conflict-ridden because war in pakistan is over public space. you know women's visibility is a huge political issue. and, you know, in the book reason why i emphasized the inside-outside dynamic is because women are coming outside. and that's what inspires in many ways the backlash against them to push them back in, to push them into a different life. but, yeah, i mean, i would say, i mean, you know the fact that
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my editors are running the newspapers that we're writing things about what's happening we're bringing it out into the forefront, that, you know, they're not willing to back down. and politically though, you know, there's a lot of conflict and they don't have representation. but that doesn't mean that individually they're giving up their drives for education and their drives for visibility. >> thank you very much for talking about women and their progress in pakistan. i wanted to share a little something in answer to the question that that gentleman posed about how the son treated
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his mother and wife with, as an inferior. because pakistan is not the only country that has polygamy. >> uh-huh. >> in indiana chebt times -- in ancient times china also had that, and my own great grandfather had, you know, 18 concubines. but his wife did not get treated with less respect. and i think that's the difference. because he gave her the power of the pursestring, you know? he had two houses just like your uncle. he had a house for the con cue wines -- concubines, he had a house for his primary wife. and in that house she had the money. she decides how to spend that money. and believe me, because he respected her the children the
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sons respected her. and other people. or the men respected her. and i hope for the sake of pakistan that with the women working and becoming financially independent, that someday this will also happen, that the women will be better respected. >> yes. i actually would say -- and that's some of, that is one of the issues that i try to express in the book is that there's a difference between respect and love. i'm not sure that is she lost so much respect as she felt unloved. and for me, that is perhaps the most pernicious thing about about polygamy or the fact that she couldn't leave and he could have his, wife that he married to please his family and the wife he marries for love, but she could only have him. but, you know, that's, that's
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kind of a difficult question with right? i mean does someone have the right to be loved and is that same thing as gratitude or duty or respect? but thank you for your comment. >> um, i just wanted to, first, say that writing this book is incredibly brave on your part. for someone of a pakistani background who knows what it's like to, to even to talk about certain stories within the family can be -- you're not allowed to say certain things. so, i mean i'm very impressed. i'm very amazed that you even had the ability to write. that is fantastic. but my, my question -- now that my phone is turned off and i said that -- what challenges do you continue to encounter as a result of writing this book? >> well, this is the first event. [laughter] i'm sure a lot of my family are
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watching this and is i'm not sure -- and i'm not sure. but, you know i mean i agree. the two things that give me courage, the first is that i love all the women in my family very, very dearly. and it's been difficult for me to see them believe that their lives didn't mean anything. and so for me writing this book was a way to sort of deal with with -- or, you know give, pay my homage to them and say that your lives have meant something. i couldn't write this book if they hadn't gone through what they did. and done it with sort of grace that they did. and so i think that's sort of
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what i believe. but, i mean you're absolutely right. in a family, you know, you preserve harmony by not taking a position. and this is -- [laughter] i've taken a position on everything. [laughter] and everyone. so i don't know. when i was writing it i told myself no one's going to read this. [laughter] so that was the only way for me to get through it day by day. so but now it's a book and you can buy it and read it, and you'll know everything about our family. and so, but hopefully that -- it is definitely it comes from the desire that people will realize that all families have these issues and that we cannot as a culture, a world really become more empathetic, you know unless we try to stand in someone else's shoes. and so that's really what the
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goal was with this is to try to get even, you know an american audience to stand in a pakistani person's shoes and see how the world looks to them. thank you. >> hi. >> hi. >> so my question is twofold. part of it is as a pakistani-american i think we grew up hearing things about often quoted how women being -- [inaudible] i was at a meeting recently and the former ambassador said something along those lines, women are going to kind of bring pakistan back into this golden era or whatever you want to call it. and so my question is i guess, in what ways do you see women sort of reclaiming that, fulfilling that sort of notion that you often hear men or other people sort of mentioning? and the second part of the question is the book deals with
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polygamy and i guess how does -- what is -- how is it seen in pakistan these days? the notion of polygamy or taking more than one wife? is it divisive is there something going on there? >> it's very devisive, and it's -- divisive and it's an issue that has suddenly gained a lot of attention. i get more letters if i write an article about polygamy i get more letters generally than any other, you know, any other topic. and that's because you like i said, you've got a transforming society. suddenly women are out there and they're earning and there's a lot of, you know, there's a lot of confusion about what the new pakistan will look like, you know? a pakistan where a largely urban pakistan b, you know 20 years ago pakistan used to be a rural country. now in 2030 it's estimated to
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become an urban country. karachi, the city that this book certains around is the large muslim city in the world. it's 18 19 million people. and, of course, living in a city that size requires women to earn and be out there. and so that's sort of a conundrum that the society's dealing with. ask one of the ways in which sort of especially the more conservative elements who want to preserve an old system where women were still within the house is to say that, you know the way we have no destitute women -- it's funny. like in one sense polygamy's supported by people who are very very traditional and want to keep an old system, and on another sense it's supported by people who are almost like pro-feminist in their thinking, right? it's my choice, and if i'm
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deciding to do this, then who has the right to tell me? and so those debates are going on nearly every soap in pakistan now features the polygamy issue. but then again, you know that's the center. are you going are women constantly going to look at their role in society as conducted through men? because that's essentially, what polygyny in -- polygamy in the book's context is. how much you can control your husband's affections means how much you have, you know, respect and control over money and freedom to do this or that. and so that is being perpetuated. instead of saying -- they're saying, okay the islamic way to have no destitute women is for every man to marry four women. and you are a devout woman, you should not have an objection to your husband taking another wife because you need to be that
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selfless. and those sorts of things again, like i said the rule, the whole point of describing this life of one week and another week that she had to live is to reveal the absurdity of certain rules when they're translated to people's lives. i mean, you know you cannot divide your affection equally. s it is an impossibility. you know that if you're a parent and definitely in this situation. so i think that that is, that is a question that is being debated. and, you know, in terms of the victories, i'll say that, you know, even if the victories aren't directly coming out of, like, a big feminist movement they're coming like i said, in terms of demographic changes. you know the council of islamic ideology a week or so ago had to say, you know, one of the biggest issues in pakistan had been that men can divorce women by saying, "i divorce you,"
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three times. well this council in 1961 -- and that's also in the book -- they passed a law saying that you cannot divorce a woman like that. since 1961 until two weeks ago this council of islamic ideology has been saying that that's wrong because men have that right, and you can't abridge that. well, now they've said actually that's right. the reason for that is because a lot of people are getting divorced, you know? pakistan, according to them has seen like 100 or 200% increase in divorces. and so now they're thinking, oh okay, we were preserving rights of men, but now we have to think about whether there's going to be families at all because people live in these cities and they get fed up with each oh, and they go their own way. say it three times, and i'll be out of here. [laughter] you know, it's happening. it's happening. so, i mean, there is definitely -- change is coming, you know? whether people like it or not.
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and women are part of that change. they're having to fight a very tough battle. and they, you know, my generation at least has grown up on these stories. stories like this. and in a lot of ways i think that the things that this generation is doing are motivated by fact that look, this is what was, and we don't want this. >> thank you. >> thank you. >> somewhere in your book, i think it was in the early part of it you covered events that took place way back in 1922. and sad though they were i i thought they were very beautifully written. i want to know what prompted you -- and for those of you who haven't read the book, i'm referring to -- [inaudible] to a much younger lady which fell apart. very nicely covered by you. and i want to know what prompted you to tie that story --
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[inaudible] in with this book? >> well, there are a lot of reasons. the biggest reason is because, you know, there is this question of plurality and muslims and hindus and -- [inaudible] in this case be married or live together? and i found in that story some of -- so to give the background to this is that the founder of pakistan married a parsi woman in the 1920s who was just, you know very beautiful, much younger than him and the son of, like, the richest man in bombay. and she converted at that marriage. and at that time both of them, you know in reading the history were very, very much motivated by this anti-imperialist sentiment that was going through at the time united india.
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so, you know it didn't matter if you were parsi and muslim and you had that difference, you were all against british, and you were agitating against the british and getting them out of there. and that's what that marriage was based on. and so in some ways to see, you know, the sort of demise of that marriage that took place, you know, for me when i was looking through the record and researching for this book was perhaps the demise of that dream, is that well, until the british were there, a lot of people like, you know, the hindus muslims could be united against them. but once the british were gone, you know that unity crumbleed. and that's definitely a theme i think, of book, you know is that do you always need someone to hate? you know, to justify your own
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life? whether it's before that or afterwards, you know politically, pakistan's obsession with india. my aunt's obsession with the other wife, you know? i mean do we, do we consciously do that? do we have to have that sort of to justify what we're doing? if i want to say that my choices are correct, do i have to say all your choices are wrong because they're not the same as mine? >> [inaudible] >> thank you so much. thank you. >> hi. actually had two questions. one of them is, did you actually get to meet benazir bhutto? nope? >> nope, i never met her. >> the other question was, in your opinion what's the worst effects of polygamy especially the effects on the children? >> yes. and i have written i mean, in this case, of course, this was -- i don't want to give too much away, but my aunt couldn't have children, and that was the justification. but since then, of course i've
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written often on polygamy not you know, in terms of articles. and the horrific effects on children because, obviously they don't have two parents and they have an absentee father a lot of times. i mean really good research done on it by a group called sisters in islam which is a muslim feminist organization, and they did a great study that actually interviewed women in polygamist marriages and children to see sort of the emotional effects on children living in this arrangement. and also then kind of the things that happen if, you know, if there are a number of wives. if one wife moves from favor to another, then her children are also moved from favor. so then you go from being, you know, the best loved kid to the less loved can kitted, so on -- loved kid. so, yes, i definitely recommend you can just google sisters in
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islam and polygamy. >> any last questions before we wrap up? no? >> i was interested when you said that you're one of twins and that your twin is a boy. your brother. >> he is watching right now. [laughter] >> is that him? >> no, i mean, he's watching on tv right now. [laughter] i'm sure he's -- wants to know what i'm going to say. [laughter] the first thing he said was like it better not have any bad stuff about me. [laughter] you can read the book and say there's no bad stuff about him at all. >> that's what i was curious about, is what he has thought of what you've done. he obviously, it seemed that he would love you, being attached to you in birth and that he would have feelings about you
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and that you all would share feelings between the two of you. so what does he think of what you're doing and the role that you're playing in the society there and as a writer? >> um, a great last question because that's, you know -- he's extremely supportive. he's or very, very proud of me and has been through every everything i've been through myself. but, you know, the book and also tries to bring this out is that often individual men don't really have the power to do a lot. so, you know, my father and my grandfather in this story did not want my aunt to to suffer. they wanted him to not do this. but, you know, the community had sort of disintegrated on through the migration from india to pakistan. so perhaps even the communal controls that used to exist where you juan let someone do
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this to someone's daughter had failed. and they weren't able to, you know, to stop this from happening. so i think that's important to remember that, you know there's men who are definitely very, very supportive of the men, and, you know i've had them in my life. i've also had other nonsupportive people -- [laughter] but definitely so he's very supportive, and i hope at least some of that got on camera so he can see -- [laughter] how nice i've been. >> do you get supporting letters as well from some of your readers, male readers? >> yes, yes. absolutely. like i said, you know, and this is not a monochrome of misogyny in any way, and i've tried hard to bring that out in my book.
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men have and do have and continue to have a very important role in being right there with women and trying to change structures. sometimes they're not successful. but that effort and that drive is definitely there, and, you know, men and women's lives are intertwined. and you cannot always separate the two, and, you know they're living life together. >> hi. so hopefully a final question. but i wanted to ask you if you could sort of contrast the experience of polygamy or whatever you've seen of men being married to multiple women at the same time in pakistan would that in arab -- with that in arab countries? i mean, my sense has been that, yes, you do see men getting married to a second wife. with age not very common and compared to what i've heard anecdotally with what happens in arab countries it's relative to
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that. i mean, relative terms -- [inaudible] >> it used to be, it used -- i mean obviously, this book talks about the fact that at the time that this happened it was unheard of. nobody had sort of -- there was no precedent for people to see that -- >> [inaudible] >> but i would say that it's changing very fast. right now it's quite common. i mean, you know i know many many people who are in polygamist marriages and socially it's becoming, you know acceptable. you could argue that that's perhaps because pakistan has gone through urbanization, you know? islamization has gone through urbanization. we've got a lot of people who have gone to the gulf and seen a different culture and come back and try to replicate that because the method that what's
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arab is more muslim than what is asian. so there's many, many dimensions to it. but it's, you know, the more times than not i mean it's not -- it can be exploited right? so if there's a poor girl from a poor family, you know, she can go be a third wife to someone whose older wives are, like, i've seen situations in which older wives are sick or ailing and, well, i need someone to take care of kids and the household, so i'm going to go to a poor family and marry a younger girl there who can do all of those things. all of that needs to be unraveled in the, you know, is that -- it's just exploitation. there's a marital sort of gloss over it. >> okay.
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thank you so much. >> thank you. thank you, everyone. [applause] >> thank you all so much for coming. books are for sale behind our cash register, you can bring them back here and get them signed. please fold up your chairs on the way out. thank you so much. this was amazing. [inaudible conversations] >> every weekend booktv offers programming focused on nonfiction authors and books. keep watching for more here on c-span2 and watch my of our past programs online -- any of our past programs online at a look now at the current best selling nonfiction books according to "the new york times." topping the list, "being mortal." number four is former arkansas
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governor mike huckabee's take on politics and culture. next in "killing patton," bill o'reilly and martin dugard recount the life of george patton in "killing patton." further down the list is the investigation of a racially-charged murder in "ghettocide." "deep, down dark" t is next. up next is steven brill's diagnosis of what's wrong with the health care system in "america's bitter pill," followed by former president george w. bush's profile of his father in "41." "the new york times" nonfiction best sellers' list continues with "guantanamo diary." and in at i am malala the author recounts growing up in
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taliban-controlled northern pakistan. and wrapping out the list a history of the underground railroad in "gateway to freedom." and that's a look at this week's list of nonfiction bestsellers according to "the new york times." >> now on booktv christopher hill. mr. hill appeared on colorado public radio's "colorado matters" program that was recorded in front of an audience at tattered cover bookstore in denver. this is about an hour and a half. ..


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