Sheba Karim

Author of
  • Skunk Girl
    Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2009
  • That Thing We Call A Heart
    Harper Teen, May 2017
  • Mariam Sharma Hits the Road
    HarperTeen, spring 2018

Sheba Karim was born and raised in Catskill, NY. Her young adult novel, Skunk Girl, was published in the United States, Denmark, India, Italy and Sweden. She is the editor of Alchemy: The Tranquebar Book of Erotic Short Stories 2, released in November 2012 by Tranquebar Press, India. Her fiction has appeared in580 Split, Asia Literary Review, Barn Owl Review, Kartika Review, Shenandoah, South Asian Review, Time Out Delhi and in several anthologies in the United States and India, including Cornered, Electric Feather, andLove Like That and Other Stories. Two of her short stories have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She is a graduate of New York University School of Law and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and was awarded a 2009-2010 Fulbright-Nehru Scholar research grant to research her current project, a historical fiction novel set in 13th century India.

Books by Sheba

Skunk Girl

As if navigating high school isn’t hard enough, 16 year old Nina Khan also has to deal with being the only Pakistani-American at Deer Hook High, the impossibility of living up to her brainiac older sister Sonia, the social restrictions placed on by her parents, her genetic disposition toward body hair, and falling hard for the new boy in school. In this wryly funny debut novel, the smart, sassy, and utterly lovable Nina Khan tackles friends, family, and love, and learns that it’s possible to embrace two very different cultures – even if things can get a little bit, well, hairy.

Praise for Skunk Girl

The book’s strength is Karim’s writing, which makes light work of balancing the darkness of the pre-“post-racial” world with the annoying but perennially interesting problems of teenage girlhood: singledom, first love, heartbreak—and hair.

Mint (India)

As the first person narrative progresses, Karim’s acerbic insights into America’s Pakistani society will have readers chuckling loudly. Nina’s ready wit and sarcasm are thoroughly enjoyable as she describes her tiresome relatives, her cloistered life, her perspectives that are always at odds with her parents’, and her constant struggle with body hair.

The Telegraph (India)

[T]here are only two types of people who spend their Friday nights in high school at home—Pakistani Muslim girls and future serial killers.” Although Nina Khan was born and raised in small-town Deer Hook, N.Y., and has never visited her parents’ homeland, she must adhere to their rigid cultural and religious beliefs, including no sleepovers, alcohol or dating. With dark skin, a wide bottom and an overabundance of body hair that makes her a “skunk girl,” what are her chances of dating in the predominantly fair-skinned, closed-minded town anyway? But when Italian Asher transfers to her high school, she dreams of romance for the first time. In this debut, episodic novel, rife with smart, self-deprecating humor and set in the 1990s just as a phenomenon known as e-mail is gaining interest, Nina searches for identity and emerging independence while accepting the reality of her home life.

Kirkus Reviews

Karim’s first novel provides a rare exploration of Muslim culture and will be a welcome addition to teen collections.


Narrator Nina has a wry, witty take on her life’s circumstances, yet her humor is subtly delivered, deftly intermixed with the novel’s undercurrent of seriousness. Whether they share Nina’s circumstances or not, readers will readily identify with her struggle, and they’ll find her an endearing and admirable literary companion.

Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

Readers will get a kick out of a story featuring a character whose background may be nothing like theirs, but who is someone they can relate to all the same. They’ll appreciate — and maybe admire — Nina’s sense of humor about her predicament, and they’ll root for her in her quest to win Asher’s heart. The jury is still out on what the future will hold for Nina (and for those like her). But if what Karim has written thus far is any example, she’ll probably be fine.
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That Thing We Call A Heart

High school has ended and Shabnam Qureshi is facing a summer of loneliness and boredom. She’s felt alienated from her gutsy best friend Farah ever since Farah started wearing the Muslim headscarf—without even bothering to discuss it with Shabnam first. But no one else comes close to understanding her, especially not her parents.

All Shabnam wants to do is get through the summer. Get to Penn. Begin anew. Not look back.

That is, until she meets Jamie, who scores her a job at his aunt’s pie shack and meets her there every afternoon..
Shabnam sees Jamie and herself like the rose and the nightingale of classic Urdu poetry, which, according to her father, is the ultimate language of desire. Jamie finds Shabnam fascinating—her curls, her culture, even her awkwardness. Shabnam quickly finds herself in love, while Farah, who Shabnam has begun to reconnect with, finds Jamie worrying.

In her quest to figure out who she really is and what she really wants, Shabnam looks for help in an unexpected place—her family.

THAT THING WE CALL A HEART is a funny, fresh, and affecting coming-of-age story about the importance of love—in all of its forms.

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Mariam Sharma Hits the Road

The summer after her freshman year at college, Mariam is looking forward to working and hanging out with her best friends: irrepressible and beautiful Ghazala and religious but closeted Umar. But when a scandalous photo of Ghaz appears on a billboard in Times Square, Mariam and Umar come up with a plan to rescue her from her furious parents. And what better escape than a spontaneous road trip to New Orleans?

The friends pile into Umar’s car and start driving south, making all kinds of pit stops along the way – from a college drag party to a Muslim convention, from alarming encounters at roadside diners to honky-tonks and barbecue joints.

Along with the adventures, the fun banter, and the gas station junk food, the friends have some hard questions to answer on the road. With her uncle’s address in her pocket, Mariam hopes to learn the truth about her father (and to make sure that she didn’t inherit his talent for disappearing). But as each mile of the road trip brings them closer to their own truths, they know they can rely on each other, and laughter, to get them through.

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