My first book, A Woman Like Her: The Short Life of Qandeel Baloch, is out now (Bloomsbury / Penguin Random House / Aleph). It is available in the UK, Australia, South Asia, USA, Canada, and as an audiobook.
The murder of a Pakistani social media star exposes a culture divided between accelerating modernity and imposed traditional values—and the tragedy of those caught in the middle.
A beautiful woman in winged eyeliner and a low-cut top lies on a bed urging her favourite cricketer to win the next match. In another post, she pouts at the camera from a hot tub. She posts a selfie with a cleric, wearing his cap at a jaunty angle. Her posts are viewed millions of times and the comments beneath them are full of hate. As her notoriety grows, the comments made about her on national talk shows are just as vitriolic. They call her Pakistan’s Kim Kardashian, they say she’ll do anything for attention. When she’s murdered, they’re transfixed by the footage of her body.
Drawing on interviews and in-depth research, Sanam Maher pieces together Qandeel’s life from the village where she grew up in the backwaters of rural Pakistan, to her stint in a women’s shelter after escaping her marriage, to her incarnation as a social media sensation and the Muslim world’s most unlikely feminist icon.
“In “A Woman Like Her,” an exemplary work of investigative journalism, Sanam Maher delves into the story of a woman as misunderstood in death as in life.” — Parul Sehgal, The New York Times
“A book about killing that tells us how we live now. Sanam Maher has her ear to the ground and a storyteller’s voice that is intimate and yet soars to the skies.” — Mohammed Hanif
“[An] intricately wrought work of reportage … a model of how to report on celebrity: by focusing on the seedy characters who feed and exploit it, and by harvesting the details … that more conventional journalists leave behind. Maher has an often thrillingly slant gaze, an eye alert to the absurdities, ironies and small tragedies at play in the manufacture of images and personas. Her book is full of unforgettable scenes and vignettes … a map of the savage underworld we’ve made.” — Amy Waldman, The New York Times Book Review
“In her excavation of the life of the defiant, glamorous Qandeel Baloch, Sanam Maher has put out the highest calibre of investigative journalism, written with tragedy, poetry and passion befitting of its subject.” — Molly Crabapple
“A breakthrough book, A Woman Like Her bracingly illuminates an increasingly global if yet under-covered phenomenon: the tragic collision between the forged selves of social media and the brute realities of ordinary life. It also describes, with rare intimacy, some profound cultural tumult in a society that is largely known for its political dramas.” — Pankaj Mishra
“Powerfully written and narratively creative, “A Woman Like Her” is less a conventional biography than it is an examination of modern-day Pakistan.” — Isaac Chotiner, The New Yorker