Instant City by Steve Inskeep
Life and Death in Karachi

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From the host of NPR's Morning Edition, a deeply reported portrait of Karachi, Pakistan, a city that illuminates the perils and possibilities of rapidly growing metropolises all around the world.

In recent decades, the world has seen an unprecedented shift of people from the countryside into cities. As Steve Inskeep so aptly puts it, we are now living in the age of the "instant city," when new megacities can emerge practically overnight, creating a host of unique pressures surrounding land use, energy, housing, and the environment. In his first book, the co-host of Morning Edition explores how this epic migration has transformed one of the world's most intriguing instant cities: Karachi, Pakistan.

Karachi has exploded from a colonial port town of 350,000 in 1941 to a sprawling metropolis of at least 13 million today. As the booming commercial center of Pakistan, Karachi is perhaps the largest city whose stability is a vital security concern of the United States, and yet it is a place that Americans have frequently misunderstood.

As Inskeep underscores, one of the great ironies of Karachi's history is that the decision to divide Pakistan and India along religious lines in 1947 only unleashed deeper divisions within the city-over religious sect, ethnic group, and political party. In Instant City, Inskeep investigates the 2009 bombing of a Shia religious procession that killed dozens of people and led to further acts of terrorism, including widespread arson at a popular market. As he discovers, the bombing is in many ways a microcosm of the numerous conflicts that divide Karachi, because people wondered if the perpetrators were motivated by religious fervor, political revenge, or simply a desire to make way for new real estate in the heart of the city. Despite the violence that frequently consumes Karachi, Inskeep finds remarkable signs of the city's tolerance, vitality, and thriving civil society-from a world-renowned ambulance service to a socially innovative project that helps residents of the vast squatter neighborhoods find their own solutions to sanitation, health care, and education.

Drawing on interviews with a broad cross section of Karachi residents, from ER doctors to architects to shopkeepers, Inskeep has created a vibrant and nuanced portrait of the forces competing to shape the future of one of the world's fastest growing cities.


About Steve Inskeep

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STEVE INSKEEP is a co-host of Morning Edition, the most widely heard radio news program in the United States. After the September 11 attacks, he covered the war in Afghanistan, the hunt for Al Qaeda suspects in Pakistan, and the war in Iraq. He won a National Headliner Award for investigating a military raid that went wrong in Afghanistan and the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for a series on conflict in Nigeria. This is his first book.
Published October 13, 2011 by Penguin Books. 305 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences, Travel. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Amid a combustible mix of religious difference—though the population is overwhelmingly Muslim—and divisions of class, language and even ancestral home village, Karachi is a city where “[l]ifelong residents and newcomers alike jostle for power and resources in a swiftly evolving landscape that dis...

Sep 01 2011 | Read Full Review of Instant City: Life and Death ...

Publishers Weekly

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The old man he encounters outside a liquor shop, the slum under construction, the upscale leisure park tell us more about the city than any bomb blast.Occasionally, Inskeep overreaches—such as when he tries to understand the mood of the nation by deconstructing the wardrobe of its founder, Moha...

Dec 29 2009 | Read Full Review of Instant City: Life and Death ...

Christian Science Monitor

One of the finest passages in Steve Inskeep’s informative, ambitious, chaotic, and sometimes glorious Instant City, which relates the epic story of Karachi, is a bravura evocation of the momentousness of Pakistan’s birth.

Oct 17 2011 | Read Full Review of Instant City: Life and Death ...

IBN Live

'Instant City' chronicles the life of Karachi - of a city in Pakistan that seems to be the only metropolis and yet the dichotomy lies in it being so backward at times, that even its people fail to recognize it.

Nov 30 2011 | Read Full Review of Instant City: Life and Death ...

The Express Tribune

In Instant City: Life and Death in Karachi, Steve Inskeep tries to make sense of Pakistan’s largest city.

Dec 04 2011 | Read Full Review of Instant City: Life and Death ...

The Moderate Voice

This is thoughtful, important work.” Inskeep’s book is a must-read role model for reporters and nonfiction writers in the 21st century, compelling, dramatic and filled with passages that recount Pakistan history (his section the partition of India into India and Pakistan is the BEST and most fa...

Dec 29 2011 | Read Full Review of Instant City: Life and Death ...

A recurring theme of "Instant City," one that paradoxically elicits admiration for Karachi’s resourceful inhabitants even as it induces a feeling of helplessness regarding their disorderly actions, is that Karachi’s growth has consistently outpaced – and thereby often rendered useless – city plan...

Oct 17 2011 | Read Full Review of Instant City: Life and Death ...

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