Skip to main content

Boys Will Be Boys

A Daughter’s Elegy

Sara Suleri Goodyear’s Meatless Days, recognized now as a classic of postcolonial literature, is a finely wrought memoir of her girlhood in Pakistan after the 1947 partition. Set around the women of her family, Meatless Days intertwines the violent history of Pakistan’s independence with Suleri Goodyear’s most intimate memories of her grandmother, mother, and sisters. In Boys Will Be Boys, she returns—with the same treasury of language, humor, and passion—to her childhood and early adulthood to pay tribute to her father, the political journalist Z. A. Suleri (known as Pip, for his "patriotic and preposterous" disposition).

Taking its title from that jokingly chosen by her father for his unwritten autobiography, Boys Will Be Boys dips in and out of Suleri Goodyear’s upbringing in Pakistan and her life in the United States, moving between public and private history and addressing questions of loss and cultural displacement through a resolutely comic lens. In this rich portrait, Pip emerges as a prodigious figure: an ardent agitator against British rule in the 1930s and 1940s, a founder of the Times of Karachi and the Evening Times, on-and-off editor of the Pakistan Times, for a brief time director of the Pakistan military intelligence service, and a frequently jailed antagonist of successive Pakistani leaders. To the author, though, he was also "preposterous . . . counting himself king of infinite space," a man who imposed outrageously on his children. As Suleri Goodyear chronicles, Pip demanded their loyalty yet banished them easily from his favor; contrary and absurdly unfair, he read their diaries, interfered in their relationships, and believed in a father’s inalienable right to oppress his children.

Suleri Goodyear invites the reader into an intimacy shaped equally by history and intensely personal detail, creating an elegant elegy for a man of force and contradiction. And perhaps Pip was not so preposterous after all: "On Judgment Day," he told his daughter, "I will say to God, ’Be merciful, for I have already been judged by my child.’"

136 pages | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2003

Asian Studies: South Asia

Biography and Letters

Literature and Literary Criticism: General Criticism and Critical Theory


"[Boys Will Be Boys] is best read, as Suleri signalled in her earlier book Meatless Days, as a procession of ’little tales’: honed into near-perfection by the story-teller’s art, haunted by the elegance of Urdu and English poets. Meatless Days has a singular position in the South Asian canon. Boys Will Be Boys, echoing it after a wait of fifteen years, is, if anything, better still."

Aamer Hussein | The Independent

“Sara Suleri Goodyear brings her family vividly to life once more. . . . The author has the rare ability to knit together moments of such absolute sadness, with vivid, light-hearted memories of those she has loved and lost. . . . Suleri remains a skilled miniaturist. She can compress entire worlds into a few brief sentences, filling in the tiny details, but never losing sight of the balance and structure of the whole. This is a thoroughly satisfying read.”

Muneeza Shamsie | Newsline

Table of Contents

Boys will be boys
Love demands patience
Ask of Kohakan’s heart the reality of existence!
There is a wilderness within the wilderness
My golden town, Kasur!
Give birth to your own world, if you are among the living!
Why ask about Mir’s religion and beliefs? He has long since drawn a line on his forehead, sat in a temple, and renounced Islam
There are many brothers here, but few friends
You are with me, as it were, when no other can be there
The pious keep going to report to the authorities: That Akbar actually names God, in this very age!
Don’t trouble me, you perfumed wind, take to your road! You have frivolity on your mind while I sit here in despair
We are the lover, they the impatiently disdaining: Dear God! What kind of business is this, anyway?
Long live, you purest land!
The point of the tongue

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press