Shaila Abdullah

Noted as "Word Artist" by critics, Shaila Abdullah is an award-winning author and designer based in Austin, Texas. Abdullah's new novel Saffron Dreams, released in February of 2009, explores the tragedy of 9/11 from the perspective of a Muslim widow. Her debut book, is a collection of stories about Pakistani women. She maintains a fairly active blog online by the name of Beyond the Cayenne WallCayenne Lit around the literary work of diverse authors. More information is available at

An excerpt from
Saffron Dreams...

A housekeeper’s nightmare.

An artist’s haven.

There was no other way to describe my turpentine-reeking workroom.

For the longest time, I thought my life was like the canvas of a barmy artist who knew when to begin a project but not when to stop.

I looked at the tubes of color around me. They spoke volumes about my house management skills. They were all over the floor, squished, twisted, folded back, some oozing paint, others with rainbow-colored thumb imprints. I plastered the colors all over the canvas with no subject matter in mind, and gradually frenzy overpowered me. The brush in my hand took on a life of its own, and I bent to its whim. The frantic slish-slosh on canvas was deafening in the quiet room; the errant brush had its own mood. I looked at the hopeful blues on the canvas that with repeated strokes had turned the brilliant orange to sad murky brown. In the end, the hodgepodge of colors that dripped off the canvas all bled into one: scorching black, the only color I wanted to forget.

In all fairness, colors define me. Red reminds me of my marriage, the color of the heady, fragrant mehndi or henna, intricately tattooed on my palms in the ways of tradition; the crimson shimmering wedding dress called sharara I wore the day I married Faizan; yellow, the color of ubtan, a paste I applied religiously to my face twenty days before my wedding in the hopes of getting the coveted bridal glow; and orange, the color of saffron, dusty powder that with the right touch added flair to any dish. It was also the color that Faizan dreamed of having on the cover of his unfinished book, a project he thought would make him a famous writer one day.

But black reminds me of all that is sad and wrong in my life. Ironically, in this country, it validates my state of being a widow. It is also the color of my hijab—the dividing line between my life with Faizan and the one without him. How different lives are from continent to continent. White, the bridal color in the West, is the color a widow is expected to wear in the East, the color the body is shrouded in before being buried in the earth.

The brush fell from my guilty hands, landing on the floor with a tired thud. I stepped back as if struck and looked at the picture in mad fixation. Staring back at me from the canvas, behind the dull last strokes that failed to hide the subject, were entwined towers engulfed in reddish blue smoke. And in the midst of the smoldering slivers was the face of a forlorn and lost child.

Links to the author
Buy Saffron Dreams
Visit the author's website
Visit the author's literary blog


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