Arifa Akbar: The Complexity of Sisterhood

In 2016, Arifa Akbar’s sister Fauzia died suddenly, leaving Arifa and her family suspended between shock and disbelief. Only shortly beforehand did she learn that her sister was suffering from tuberculosis. Akbar is the Guardian’s chief theatre critic and in her profoundly moving memoir Consumed, she lays out far more than the tragic story of Fauzia’s illness and death. For Arifa and Fauzia, a fractured childhood in London and Lahore bred resentments which led to a fraught relationship between the sisters. Consumed is an eloquent exploration not just of the grief associated with a sudden death in the family, but a painfully honest reckoning with a sibling she found difficult to understand. It’s a memoir that takes Akbar to Rome to visit the places her sister and Keats (Fauzia’s favourite poet) had both explored; and to her grandparents’ house in Pakistan. Through these journeys, Arifa rebuilds her sense of a sister she’d struggled to know in life, and in this event, filmed live at the 2021 Edinburgh International Book Festival, she shares hard-won reflections on her relationship with Fauzia with journalist Alex Peake-Tomkinson.

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