Thursday, June 15, 2017

My Interview with Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

I met Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, author of acclaimed novels like Palace of Illusions and The Mistress of Spices, earlier this year. We talked about the importance of women's stories, and she told me about her next book. 
When you really look back and read the character of Sita as presented by many people in the history of the Ramayan, Sita’s not like that at all. At some point a patriarchal interpretation of Sita was created and pushed onto women. Sita is very demure, she’s obedient to whatever her husband says, she’s a doormat, she accepts everything that happens to her – and ladies, you better be like Sita. 
That’s what I want to counter. Look, it’s not just me: it is already there in the story. It’s just, the patriarchal spin has been given to it. Sita makes a number of important choices, some of them right, some of them wrong. She’s a very active character. My goodness, she’s the world’s first single mother in literature, and she brings up those children with great courage.
It will be a challenging project. I pray that I can do a good job.
Read it all here. 

Monday, June 05, 2017

Books I read in May

A funny coincidence: each of the three book posts I've done this year has 18 books each. This one has... ten. Next month will be even fewer I suspect. Oh well.

Novels I read for work
Friend of My Youth by Amit Chaudhuri
I found this typical of Chaudhuri's oeuvre: excellent at capturing the small moments, veering between boring and profound, and you suspect profound because it seems intensely self-aware. Anyway, I had great fun writing the review for Scroll, in which I used internetspeak to mock the novel's somewhat prissy tone. Read it.

The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who Got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe by Romain Puertolas
This book is being made into a Hollywood movie starring Dhanush, and I interviewed the author. The book itself is hilarious fun, if you can get past the racist stereotypes, the misogyny, and the casual transphobia. Nice cover though.


Romance and YA
Baaz by Anuja Chauhan
I have to give up and admit Anuja Chauhan is just not for me and trying to understand why everyone loves her. I liked Pricey Thakur Girls but the others I've read have been meh. The hero of Baaz is the kind of annoying know-it-all I would give a wide berth (okay, maybe after lusting after him first). The heroine is great but seems to be there just to make the hero look cooler. I don't know, man. Read if you like Chauhan, I suppose.

Duels and Deception by Cindy Anstey
This is more my kind of romance, even though I've forgotten most of the book in less than a month since I read it. It was more feminist than most romances, which to me is essential: the heroine is young and her flaws are evident but relatable, the hero is really nice for a romance hero, and the plot is nonsensical but fun. Excellent timepass.

If We Kiss by Rachel Vail
Like all of Vail's books that I've read so far, this YA romance was sweet, light, hopeful. I read this late one night when I couldn't fall asleep, and it was just what I needed.

Non-fiction
Living a Feminist Life by Sara Ahmed
A brilliant book that I read slowly for weeks and am not done thinking about. I highlighted so many lines that I want to return to. It made me think of so much, not least friendship and solidarity.

We the Children of India by Leila Seth and Bindia Thapar
I saw this book recommended after Leila Seth's death, and ordered it immediately to gift to a nephew. It's beautifully explained and wonderfully radical, and Thapar's illustrations are gorgeous.



How to Read Literature by Terry Eagleton
A surprisingly funny, very readable book on literary criticism: kind of a basic introduction. Highly recommend this.

Signs and Images by Roland Barthes
Look at this beautiful hardcover!

Okay, the book itself is great if you're interested in cinema and images and criticism. I wanted to read more Barthes, and this was really good (and less expensive than many of his books).

A Lover's Discourse by Roland Barthes
More Barthes. A bit dense, especially as I don't know most of the material he refers to, but I found some of his comments about how lovers are viewed (and gendered expectations) very interesting.