Commentary, Literature

In Memoriam: Sara Suleri Goodyear

It is with a deep sense of loss that we share news of the passing of author Sara Suleri Goodyear, at age 68. Her family reports that she died in Bellingham, WA, on 20 March 2022. Sara’s now classic memoir, Meatless Days, was published by the Press in 1989 and hailed on its appearance as “a tour de force of memory and interpretation” by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., in the Village Voice.

Sara Suleri, about 1989, courtesy of Yale University

Born in Karachi, Pakistan, Sara was the daughter of Z. A. Suleri, a prominent journalist, and Mair (née Jones) Suleri, a professor of English at Punjab University in Lahore. She graduated from Kinnaird College, Lahore; received a master’s degree in English literature from Punjab University; and earned her Ph.D. in English from Indiana University. She taught at Williams College and, for most of her career, at Yale University, where she retired as professor emeritus. She was a founding editor of the Yale Journal of Criticism and the author of numerous scholarly articles. She also published a memoir of her father, Boys Will Be Boys: A Daughter’s Elegy (Chicago, 2003) and, with Azra Raza, A Tribute to Ghalib: Twenty-One Ghazals Reinterpreted (Penguin, 2017).

Both Meatless Days and Sara’s scholarly book The Rhetoric of English India (Chicago, 1992) became important touchstones in postcolonial studies. Of Meatless Days, Francine Cunningham wrote in the Irish Times that “the glory of this volume is its use of language. Suleri has colonized the English language on her own terms.”  But Meatless Days is also a book about private loss. In an introduction to an edition of the book for the Penguin Women Writers series, Kamila Shamsie writes,

“In a broad sense, you could say that Meatless Days is a book about what people do to our lives by being in them. But if you dig deep down, it’s a book about what people do to our lives by ceasing to be in them. The deaths of Suleri’s mother and sister—both killed in distressingly similar ways, two years apart—form the heart of the book. Her sister’s death in particular gives rise to some of the more heart-shaking writing about love and grief I’ve ever read.”

Shortly after Meatless Days appeared, Sara wrote to her editor at Chicago, Alan Thomas, that “my father has finally read the book. His comment to me: ‘On judgment day, I will say to God: be merciful, for I have already been judged by my child.’”

Sara Suleri Goodyear was predeceased by her husband, Austin Goodyear, and by her older siblings, Nuzhat Akhund, Ifat Mawaz, and Shahid Suleri, and is survived by her younger siblings, Tillat Khalid of Vancouver, BC, and Irfan Suleri of Birmingham, UK, and by many nieces, nephews, and their children. The Press extends its condolences to all of them.