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Gender-bending the normative: Acritical evaluation of Shamsie’s Best of Friends

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Organizer: Zia Ahmed

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There have been very few models of female-friends protagonists in mainstream print and visual narratives like that of Shamsie's Best of Friends. Shamsie, as a Pakistani postcolonial Muslim woman writer, has projected models of female protagonists like Vivian, Hiroko, Anika, and Raheen, but Maryam and Zahra stand alone as female friends leading the story simultaneously because male characters are either absent or are gradually wiped away from the position of the protagonist. The narrative ranges from their teenage school life in Pakistan to becoming mature women in England. The female bond overrules all taboos and cultural biases about female friendship in the leading role and sustains even during social, emotional, and political crises. This necessitates investigating the motives and implications of creating such a model of protagonists in a world where the male company has always been compulsorily available to fulfill the fundamental canons of storytelling. This study draws upon the framework of female friendship provided by Terri Apter and Ruthellen Josselson, and attempts to scrutinize chunks of the story to determine the extent of success of such a prototype of female friends in the world of Pakistani postcolonial fiction and the consciousness it generates that female friendship is as enduring and influential in the fictional world as it is in actual society and can play a successful leading role at a stage when the socio-political setup of Muslim countries is rapidly embracing leading female roles

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