The Miraculous True History of Nomi Ali

Uzma Aslam Khan

Winner of the 2023 Massachusetts Book Award
Finalist for the Foreword Indies Book of the Year Awards, historical fiction category
Selected as one of the best historical novels of 2022 by New York Times
Winner of the Karachi Literature Festival-Getz Pharma Fiction Prize 2021
Winner of the 9th UBL Literary Award English Language Fiction category 2020
Shortlisted for the Karachi Literature Festival-Getz Pharma Fiction Prize 2020
Shortlisted for the TATA Literature Live! Best Book of the Year Award for Fiction 2019

Miraculous True History of Nomi Ali

‘The Miraculous True History of Nomi Ali brilliantly excavates a forgotten past of several societies and honors its human complexity with a narrative of delicate precision. As affecting as it is intellectually powerful, the novel is a master lesson in the art of historical fiction.’ Pankaj Mishra

‘A glorious novel about a forgotten place and a part of our history that we hardly ever talk about.’ Mohammed Hanif

‘Uzma Aslam Khan’s THE MIRACULOUS TRUE HISTORY OF NOMI ALI is indeed a miraculous performance, although the young girl called Nomi Ali is only one of the many characters whose histories are entangled here. Set in the Andaman Islands, a British penal colony in the Bay of Bengal, just before and during World War II, Khan’s suspenseful, thought-provoking narrative is a challenge to simple assumptions about enemies and friends, loyalty and betrayal.’ The New York Times

‘Khan draws on the history of a British prison colony on the Andaman Islands in this carefully plotted examination of power and oppression. The story opens on the morning Japanese soldiers arrive on the archipelago in 1942 and oscillates throughout the better part of 11 years, from 1936, when a political prisoner known only as 218 D (D for dangerous) is brought to the island, to 1947, when Britain’s rule in India ends. At the core are four vividly drawn characters; along with 218 D, there are siblings Zee and Nomi and their friend Aye, all “Local Borns.” In Khan’s intricately intertwined narrative, the characters experience the brutalizing rule of the various occupiers. Upon embarrassing a Japanese soldier during an incident on the street involving a chicken, Zee must flee or suffer dire consequences. 218 D joins a hunger strike in the prison, where Aye witnesses horrible atrocities while working for the jail’s superintendent. Nomi is swept up in the drama, and Khan unfolds her story of survival, which bears out to be miraculous indeed. Khan engages readers with a confident style and seamless storytelling.’ Publisher’s Weekly

Set in the Andaman Islands (used by the British and later the Japanese as a prison – particularly for political prisoners), and based on fact. This is the story of Nomi, her family and friends as they go through changes brought about by international politics, one oppressive regime replacing another as the Andamans change hands during WW2. Tackling the issues of freedom, detention, resistance… you could call the Andaman Islands the British Guantanamo. In her usual stunning prose, Uzma presents us with characters facing constant challenges, their humanity, mankind’s cruelty, finding unlikely love, warmth amongst betrayal, oppression and horror. It’s a gripping tale, all the more powerful for being based in truth. She shows us the strength of women (and some men), racial abuse but also cross-cultural, inter-racial understanding. And all this against a backdrop of paradise-like islands.

‘A historical novel that is both deeply researched and beautifully written, Khan shines light on a story little known outside the Andaman Islands and gives voice to the most vulnerable in this global narrative… Khan perfectly captures global history in all of its ironic and disorienting glory.’ Kirkus

‘In the novel, the lives of these characters intersect and their destinies get intertwined. Khan is adept at creating worlds that are at once magical and terrifying. She creates a universe out of a footnote of history. Her writing is crystal, vivid.’ Indian Express

‘A richly imagined universe…The characters are vividly drawn, and their voices ring true …Khan’s prose slows the reader down to retrace and savour words … If we are to strive for a more just world, we need to hear the stories.’ The Hindu

‘Part of the beauty of Khan’s writing stems from the fact that she does not need to actively portray racism, she makes virtually all her characters live it … Khan writes with quietly restrained but powerful passion.’ The Dawn, Pakistan

‘Though the stories are based on true life incidents and characters, it is a work of fiction — fiction that will move you immensely. A consummate storyteller, Uzma keeps the readers engrossed till the end. Even as you grapple with the questions: where is humanity in such times and what is the definition of ethics and morals when survival is the moot point — it is one story that you should not miss.’ The Tribune

‘A perfect work of historical fiction is one that is as compelling as it is enlightening. Uzma Aslam Khan’s new novelThe Miraculous True History of Nomi Aliis just that — a perfect balance of history and the imagination.’ The Hindu Business Line


  • Context/Westlands India, English language rights for India
  • Elan Vital, English language rights for Pakistan
  • Ordfront Forlag Sweden
  • Deep Vellum USA
  • Deep Vellum UK

Material: finished copies of Indian edition (370pp)