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Onion Tears

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  158 ratings  ·  23 reviews
Love, loss and life are the themes that weave through this tale of three generations of Muslim women living in suburban South Africa. Khadeejah Bibi Ballim is a hard-working and stubborn first generation Indian who longs for her beloved homeland and often questions what she is doing on the tip of Africa. At thirty-seven, her daughter Summaya is struggling to reconcile her ...more
Paperback, 286 pages
Published November 30th 2011 by Penguin Books South Africa
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Average rating 3.84  · 
Rating details
 ·  158 ratings  ·  23 reviews

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Oct 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
There are various reasons why this novel deserves a 5 star status. First and foremost the lyrical prose in which it was written is truly a salve to the soul. Secondly the language use of the three women is typical to their age and calender time. Thirdly the themes of life and loss are handled in a way in which the reader becomes a part of these emotions and not an innocent bystander. I find the author's metaphors refreshingly new and deeply meaningful. The title not only relates to Kadeejah's ha ...more
Santhani Rungan
Apr 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: south-african
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The experience of being a South African Indian woman came alive in the most palpable ways, I felt as if I could’ve lived through certain parts of the book. Excellent addition to South African literature.
Meneesha Govender
Apr 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
It is her debut novel and is already being translated into Italian. Moreover, 1 500 copies have been
bought and will be sold in India. I spoke to Shubnum Khan about her
novel that was shortlisted for the Penguin Prize for African Writing and has made this year’s
Exclusive Books Homebru list

ONION Tears is a story about three generations of Muslim women living in Johannesburg. It is a simple story of loss, love and life. Its characters are women in a single family, going about their lives as best the
Jan 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
I really really enjoyed this easy to read but not vacuous story.
This South African novel tells the story of three generations of Indian women, living in South Africa. The very distinctly South African feel merges wonderfully with what feels like a very authentic Indian experience.

I love South African literature and try to read as much of it as I can. This book is a great example of South African literature. It is wonderfully rich, real and vibrant, and very clearly South African without beating
Thobeka Nzama
Mar 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book is a beautiful ode to women. All women trying to find their place in a male dominated world, society, community, household, environment. It's not what makes us the same that matters. It's how we are different. That's where our strengths lie. That's how we survive all that's meant to put us down. 3 generations of incredibly wise females, beautiful and smart, and at different stages of life. All so relevant and all so genuinely portrayed. Enjoyed the character development and style of wr ...more
Mar 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Onion Tears is very easy to read, the conversational, precocious tone of the narrator makes turning each page a pleasure than a chore. Never does it seem the reader is "going through the motions", every sentence and every detail adds to the story and each character's profile. At the start we would be learning some stuff about each character and then every so often we'd be told something out of the blue that almost jolts us, but causes us to realise the assumptions we've automatically subconsciou ...more
Jun 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shubnum Khan's debut novel gives us a perspective on South African life that in my opinion has so far been missing from our country's literature. Reading this for me was like an intimate conversation with a friend who understands and knows the idiosyncratic culture of South African Indian people. The familiarity of reading about characters who, although in the novel are Muslim, by their mannerisms and culture represent a much wider spectrum of Indian South Africans and our experience of identity ...more
Jun 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A light-hearted still a touching story - I found this book to be a wonderful read.

The story telling is powerful with various layers intertwined - complex characters with strong identities, their intricate past, and the society they deal with. The author never fails to see the humour in all of it, and as she reveals the layers of the personalities, answers to their questions, and the different faces of society, the commentary leaves the reader with much to think about, and a smile lingering behin
Sinovuyo Nkonki
May 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shubnum writes the way I aspire to write. She writes about a Muslim family, focusing on three generations of women within the family. This book contains poignancy, it is poetic yet jarringly real. She creates suspense throughout the book about a family secret that kept me hooked. She knows when to slow down the pace and when to hurry up and get to the point. I believe it is art through the written word. I found myself wondering how the characters were doing after putting it down...she fooled me ...more
Dec 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
The novel starts off leisurely, almost lazily and about midway you begin to wonder if anything is going to happen. There appears to be a dearth of plot. But as soon as you've thought it, things begin to move. Events, incidents, flashbacks, new characters. The story picks up pace and then it gets pretty meaty. If you're looking for something easy flowing, languid and yet displays a terrific play of words and simile and metaphor, this is worth a read. ...more
Jan 09, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book surprisingly gentle and touching and it often brought tears to my eyes.

Khan manages to transport readers into this world of women, all with their own secrets, heartaches and desires. Each character is distinct and yet their shared experience comes through clearly.

The language, to me, was spot on and I enjoyed being immersed in that world.

I recommend it!
May 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
what a beautiful book! i've been meaning to read this book for a while now. I bought it a few days ago and was surprised that it was a local south African author! I didnt even know that. I finished it tonight in a restaurant and cried in public. wow, what gut wrenching emotions. and it was so beautifully written. this book really deserves a five star! ...more
Apr 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
This novel is set in South Africa and tells the story of 3 generations of women from an Indian family. The story is well-told and it brought me into the world of the Indian community in South Africa, a perspective I hadn't yet explored. ...more
Oct 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
My review of Onion Tears can be found in the following audio story: ...more
Apr 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
An enormously satisfying book. Highly recommended.
Nazia Kera
Jan 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013
Poignant and touching, An affirmation of sorts.
Aug 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Could not put it down. Beautifully written. Love how the ending of one chapter flows into the next one.
sonno profondo
Le radici altrove è l'opera prima della scrittrice sudafricana di origine indiana Shubnum Khan. Il romanzo racconta le vicende di tre donne, nonna, figlia e nipote, tre donne di origine indiana che vivono in Sudafrica. Ognuna delle tre donne vive in modo diverso il legame con le proprie radici, passando dalla nostalgia della "matriarca" Khadeejah alla pressoché totale integrazione in Sudafrica di sua nipote Aneesa. Procedendo nella lettura, ci accorgiamo che ognuna di queste donne convive con un ...more
Linda Curling
Jan 12, 2021 rated it liked it
I dithered between the 3- and 4-star ratings before settling on 3 stars, but I am happy to see that it garnered so many 5-stars. The portrayal of the grandmother and her granddaughter are the strengths of this novel. It ticks the boxes for an authentic South African story.
Dec 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Quite a real life story of innocence lost and lives lived. Very good.
Jul 22, 2011 rated it liked it
Quite slow paced but an enjoyable read. =)
Oct 03, 2016 rated it liked it
When generation after another peeling layer after another the tears don't stop until someone reaches the core. Life of three women tangled in hope,fear and a lot more. ...more
Mar 16, 2014 rated it liked it
two and a half stars. Nice. 100 page book in 300 pages.
Masivuye Madikane
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Mar 21, 2020
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Nov 05, 2012
rated it it was amazing
Jun 09, 2017
Roxanne Bosman
rated it it was ok
Oct 17, 2020
Lavanya Arora
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Aug 02, 2018
rated it liked it
Mar 22, 2013
rated it it was amazing
Sep 07, 2019
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Shubnum Khan was born in Durban. She has a degree in Media Studies and a Masters degree in English.

Her first novel Onion Tears was shortlisted for the Penguin Prize for African Writing and the University of Johannesburg Debut Fiction Prize. Her work has been translated into Italian, Vietnamese, Afrikaans and Norwegian. She is a Writing Fellow at Writers OMI in New York and the Swatch Art Peace Ho

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  Kerine Wint is a software engineering graduate with more love for books than for computers. As an avid reader, writer, and fan of all things...
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