After going to a number of readings and discussions where "must read" books were mentioned, I'll highlight a few of the books I want to read. (This will serve as my wish list for later)
"Cracking India" by Bapsi Sidwa - So I lied. I read this already. But, it's one that I highly recommend in order to get a better understanding of the India-Pakistan Partition. I'll always remember the profound impact of this book because I was reading it Sept 2001. Even though I had seen the movie "Earth", I suddenly understood how Lenny's world turned upside down in one day and everyone is suspect. As a side note, Bapsi Sidwa is still elegant and poised at her age. And, you have to admire a woman of her generation who talks about reading books on her Kindle!
"The Match" and "Monkfish Moon" by Romesh Gunesekera - He read excerpts from these two books; I'm not familiar with his work, but his writing has a certain charm.
"House for Mr Biswas" by VS Naipaul - Amitava Kumar and Bapsi Sidwa both discussed Naipaul's writing and I know Shashi Tharoor has written a lot about the man. I'm moving Naipaul up a notch on my "to read" list.
"Haunting Bombay" by Shilpa Agarwal - Her story steps away from the typical stories with a twist with ghosts, encompassing the historical and legends.
"Leaving Home" by Minal Hatrajwala - This is a personal account of three generations of her family's journey out of India and into various parts of the world including Fiji, New Zealand, and the US.
"Disobedient Girl" by Ru Freeman - Her book is coming out this summer! I missed my friend Ru's reading, but know this story will bring in the flavors and energy of Sri Lanka in so many contexts.
"Love Marriage" by VV Ganeshananthan - This book also dives into Sri Lanka and focuses on families, making the war more personal and recognizable to the readers.
Poetry by Amit Chaudhuri - Amitava Kumar read some of these poems. I'm pretty sure we have some of his stories on my shelf so I have to make my way to them.
"Meatless Days" by Sara Suleri - Another book that was recommended, and I remember my friend Julie talking about Sara Suleri years ago.
"White Tiger" by Aravind Adiga - OK, I'm not sure what to do about this book. Do I read it because it's been so notable and acclaimed? But some people who have read it have issues with it, so do I read it and end up frustrated? What's the point then? Should I just go read Amitav Ghosh's critique of this book instead?
"Pickwick Papers" by Charles Dickens. Of course we should the classical British writers too.
"Ask Me About My Divorce" anthology by Seal Press. I came across this book today on the web and it includes "Sita's Eyes" by R M Hora (I googled more and confirmed it's Reenita Malhotra Hora). Seems like a powerful collection in general.
Other sites to make note of:Sita Sings the Blues
(I didn't get to watch this fully, but when I do, y'all will hear about it! It's absolutely creative and beautifully put together!)
On a personal note, I had a great time interacting with other writers and readers. It was refreshing to meet someone and be asked "So, what do you write?" And, then maybe 10 minutes later or even 2 days later, he or she asks "By the way, what do you do for a living?"
I can't remember the last time I was in a bar discussing literature and politics or talking about book covers and writing process over dinner. I found such energy and enthusiasm for the arts. I have two action items from this event. First one is to organize and create a literary community close to home. The "real housewives and husbands" in the 'burbs like to read too! My other take away from this event is that I will focus and finish my short stories. I've been writing poetry because that's what comes to me, and I've been refining my manuscript. It's time to leap out of my comfort zone and write that South Asian vampire cowgirl story that needs to be told.