Mariam Pirbhai

Mariam Pirbhai is a creative writer and academic. She is the award-winning author of a short story collection titled Outside People and Other Stories, a novel titled Isolated Incident, and a book of creative nonfiction titled Garden Inventories: Reflections on Land, Place and Belonging. She has also authored several academic works on diasporic, postcolonial and world literature, including Mythologies of Migration, Vocabularies of Indenture: Novels of the South Asian Diaspora in Africa, the Caribbean and Asia-Pacific. Mariam was born in Pakistan and lived in England, the United Arab Emirates and the Philippines before her family immigrated to Canada in the late 1980s. She completed her Ph.D. in English at the University of Montreal, for which she received the Governor General’s Gold Medal. Mariam lives and works in Waterloo, where she enjoys photographing and painting the natural landscapes of southwestern Ontario.


In Garden Inventories, award-winning fiction writer, emigré, and nature-watcher extraordinaire, Mariam Pirbhai compels us to look twice at everything — from lawns to the Precambrian Shield to mulberries in her garden — for what they are, here and now, and what they represent elsewhere and in another time. With delightful and intelligent prose, Pirbhai crosses nature-nurture, east-west, and observer-tinkerer divides in the world of plants. Each chapter is an exuberant local journey of curiosities and sensibilities, eschewing nostalgia. This makes for a refreshing, essential addition to Canadian nature-writing literature.

Madhur Anand
This Red Line Goes Straight to Your Heart

“Absorbing, earnest and beautifully written, Isolated Incident is a loving portrayal of Canadians besieged by hate-crimes. Through fluid and insightful storytelling Mariam Pirbhai shows how each must rise above grief, rage, and despair to face the price and dangers of belonging.”

Shauna Singh Baldwin
The Tiger Claw, What the Body Remembers and English Lessons

“As Diane Arbus is to photography, so is Mariam Pirbhai to literature – bringing forth the margins, but nobly, with understanding and an unusual generosity…”

Shani Mootoo
Cereus Blooms at Night, Polar Vortex

  • A still, broad river winds to the right against a distant horizon.

Two views of the Grand River near Waterloo, Ontario
(Photo: M. Pirbhai)