Monday, June 15, 2009

Kriti Festival Follow up

I had a wonderful time at DesiLit's Kriti Festival in Chicago this weekend. It was an event that brought together prestigous writers with up and coming writers, as well as the readers who love South Asian lit. For me, it was an opportunity to meet and be inspired by the other participants. And, were it not for US Airways baggage fees and my husband's warning about buying more books, I would've snatched up every book there!

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:

Writing the Lines of Our Hands

Fishouse Poetry

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.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Obama’s Address in Cairo

This is truly a new page upon which history is being written.

President Obama (six months later, I still feel like it's not real) stepped into Saudi Arabia, and is not being afraid to recognize its Islamic importance as a country. His speech in Cairo is definitely an important event.

I was listening to his speech at work, and this jarred me. I found a complementary quote, which is just as profound

It's a story with a simple truth: violence is a dead end...That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered
- President Obama

Moral authority is never retained by any attempt to hold on to it. It comes without seeking and is retained without effort.
- Mahatma Gandhi

I also found the closing of his speech beautiful and balanced. As a religious minority in the US, I'm always conscious of Judeo-Christian references. So, this was remarkable.

We have the power to make the world we seek, but only if we have the courage to make a new beginning, keeping in mind what has been written.

The Holy Koran tells us: "O mankind! We have created you male and a female; and we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another."

The Talmud tells us: "The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace."

The Holy Bible tells us: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." (Applause.)

The people of the world can live together in peace. We know that is God's vision. Now that must be our work here on Earth.

Side note to scriptwriters: Couldn't we have thrown in something about love and peace from the Hindu scriptures? I know, I know, we were recognized during the Inaugural speech.

I was listening to Geoffrey Nunberg on NPR's Fresh Air yesterday. They were discussing the importance of words as defining eras. 1960's were war, peace, love.. 1970s were spiritual and disco. The first decade of this century will be defined by politics, and how words are transformed, distorted and used until the original meaning has been shaken out. He pointed out that Obama used words like "hope" and "change" which don't have a distinct definition - thus their endurance and power.