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Publisher's Summary

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.

In 2016, Pakistan’s first social media celebrity, Qandeel Baloch, was murdered in a suspected honor killing. Her death quickly became a media sensation. It was both devastatingly routine and breathtakingly brutal, and in a new media landscape, it couldn’t be ignored.

Qandeel had courted attention and outrage with a talent for self-promotion that earned her comparisons to Kim Kardashian - and made her the constant victim of harassment and death threats. Social media and reality television exist uneasily alongside honor killings and forced marriages in a rapidly, if unevenly, modernizing Pakistan, and Qandeel Baloch’s story became emblematic of the cultural divide.

In this deftly reported and artfully told account, Sanam Maher reconstructs the story of Qandeel’s life and explores the depth and range of her legacy from her impoverished hometown rankled by her infamy, to the aspiring fashion models who follow her footsteps, to the Internet activists resisting the same vicious online misogyny she faced. Maher depicts a society at a crossroads, where women serve as an easy scapegoat for its anxieties and dislocations, and teases apart the intrigue and myth-making of the Qandeel Baloch story to restore the humanity of the woman at its center.

©2018 Sanam Maher (P)2020 Blackstone Publishing

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A glimpse into 21st Century Pakistan

While this is not a comprehensive book about 21st century Pakistan (it's not trying to be), it does give a peek into a few key aspects of life there. Mainly, the confluence of gender, social media, and internet based fame.

We don't get into the deep personal thoughts on Qandeel Baloch and maybe that's not possible for someone like the Pakistani Kim Kardashian, where personal life and "reality for the cameras" is so blurred. So I assume the author doesn't get more into Qandeel's head because she can't, not because she won't.

What she does give us instead of psychological insight into the woman herself is some insight into the world she was inhabiting. A world of others somewhat like herself (like the illiterate chaiwala catapulted to fame after a viral Instagram post) and into the Pakistani culture itself, steeped in Islamic tradition but struggling with gender issues in a modern world filled with modern technology.

I can't speak for accuracy as I don't know much about Pakistan, but I have lived in other Muslim-majority countries and found many parallels to what the author describes. There are parallels, too, to attitudes about gender and internet fame here in the United States. I think this would be an interesting listen to anyone interested in ways the wider world deals with these same issues.