Colour Code: Books By Female Authors With A Blue Cover

The rains are upon us! The sky overcast. The clouds grey and ready to spill.

The mood is grey, happy, light: whatever floats your boat.

To add to the blues, here is a fun series: Colour Code!

Colour Code gives recommendations based on book covers’ colours. Sometimes, it is okay to judge a book by its cover! Or colour!

It is Monday and we all suffer from the Monday blues! But, I don’t know why blues has such a reputation in the English language. The colour blue certainly doesn’t way weigh me down or give me a bout of moodiness.

Blue can be such a refreshing colour!

Imagine infinite blue skies, punctured with pure cotton clouds!

Imagine a pristine river gushing quietly.

Imagine the rich blue in an ink pot, the nib of the fountain pen dripping.

It is all blue. How can this vividness give anyone sadness? How is there anything dull about blue?

Grey/gray I can imagine being dull.

But blue? No. Just cannot fathom.

But before I start again on rants about blue and its misuse, let’s get back to the topic.

So for the first edition, Colour Code brings to you books with a blue cover written by female authors.

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Aren’t the covers simply gorgeous?

Now, that we are done ogling at them and perhaps changing our mind about blue being dull, let’s see what the books are about, in alphabetical order.

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Poesie: Method To My Madness by Rohini Kottu

Method to My Madness by Rohini Kottu is a collection of 32 poems.

The poems capture several daily everyday aspects of our lives which we might miss to observe and gaze at in wonder.

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For example, the opening poem, ‘Time,’ personifies Time through an old man selling clocks. It evokes a watch shop from a bygone era given that now in our digital era, we hardly ever bother with buying clocks or appreciating them!

‘Not Just Numbers’ is another poem that uses personification but this time it gives the poem the comic touch with numbers depicted as having personalities!

Kottu gives voice to numerous momentary emotions from the need to remember a vivid travel memory (‘Travel For the Soul’) to a sudden realisation of the ephemeral nature of one’s existence (‘Not Here Forever’).

She also writes about deeper emotions such as falling in love, heartbreak or jealousy using fresh yet relatable metaphors.

For example, ‘Love is a Swamp’ carries a powerful metaphor. Love’s force is compared to a swamp that pulls you in completely. The pull could be a good or a bad thing. This ambivalence and the unlikely metaphor is the charm of the poem.

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The House That Spoke by Zuni Chopra

Imagine living in a house as old as time, with a living and breathing library at your disposal, an ornate fireplace, and an armchair to sit back for hours and read. No, I am not talking about the library from Beauty and the Beast. But yes, this could easily be a dream for all book lovers, especially when cooped up indoors during the pandemic. Who would not want a beautiful house where you could while away hours on an end, as time passes slowly by?

Soon to turn 15, Zoon Razdan, luckily has exactly that in Zuni Chopra’s YA novel, The House That Spoke. She lives with her mother, Shanti, in Srinagar in their ancestral house. Her grandma lives close by, down the street. Zoon loves her home. Her favourite place in the house is the library where she loves spending her mornings and having some noon chai. Thus, when one day Zoon finds a realtor, Mr. Qureishi in her house, all hell breaks loose and strains her relationship with her mother. Zoon then embarks on an adventure to stop her mother from selling the house. To help out, she has a bunch of curious and unlikely friends along with her shy and newly found friend, Altaf. Altaf is Shanti’s friend, Lameeya’s son.

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The House That Spoke is suffused with a fairy tale atmosphere that is a cross between Beauty and the Beast and the Chronicles of Narnia because her own historic house is a portal to both adventure and danger. Despite this magical element, Zoon’s adventures and life are tangled with the dangers that anyone living in Srinagar might face from acts of terrorism to government and army excesses. Chopra portrays the ‘normal’ in Kashmir through Zoon’s eyes: from stray shooting to a bomb blast. The fact that even a 15 year old knows how to navigate through this terror and thinks of it every time she crosses the street to see her grandma, her tathi, manifests the way in which the state has been paralysed with violence and how successive governments have failed it. Hence, the magic evoked in The House That Spoke is fraught with the realities of everyday life, of the darkness that engulfs the state and how Zoon, in trying to save her house, must also save her home, her state from this inexplicable darkness.

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Circus Folks and Village Freaks

The idea of perfection or of being perfect engulfs us all in its suffocating grip. Our bodies, our work, our dress, our hair, and our everything must be somehow perfect in this deeply flawed society. Such are the contradictory expectations that society foists on us all, egged on particularly by the mass media and mass popular culture. Protagonists in movies, pop culture idols, and even politicians are projected as embodying the perfect. The ideal to achieve, then, is only perfection in all spheres of life.

Ancient Greek playwrights were perhaps one of the first to talk about characters with a deep flaw through the concept of hamartia which means ‘to err.’ Shakespeare’s tragic plays feature protagonists that are wholly defined by flaws such as Hamlet and his indecisiveness, Othello with his jealousy, or Macbeth and his greed. Even popular culture has slowly embraced imperfection, often treating its characters through a more nuanced lens rather than just the dichotomous notion of perfect versus imperfect.

Aparna Upadhyaya Sanyal in her prose poetry novel, Circus Folk and Village Freaks, wholly rejects these superficial notions of the perfect ideal and instead portrays 18 different tales of characters who are misunderstood and rejected by society as being out of the ordinary, who we would also label ignorantly as ‘freaks.’

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When society rejects these freaks in the novel, they all find solace and space in a village circus, whose circus master is more than happy to accommodate and make a spectacle out of them.

From Siva, the Snake Man who finds an affinity to reptiles rather than humans, to Miss Rita with her chin full of hair because of hirsutism, from the Siamese twins, Sita and Gita to Miss Luxmi whose passion was throwing darts; all kinds of people could make it big and feel accepted among the peculiar circus folk.

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The Reading Spree: First Time on Kindle

My experiments with Kindle began when a friend, Rajitha, suggested all the merits of Kindle. Thus, I embarked on giving it a try considering I had one lying around but was too old fashioned to try it out.

So I decided to find where this device was hidden in my home and then dedicated June to reading on Kindle.

I must say I am still a sucker for normal, actual books. The feel, the smell and even the action of turning a page was much missed.

But yeah, I must reluctantly admit, Kindle is definitely convenient and light. I see its merits as my dear friend suggested. I have already stored so many books to read on them! My TBR list just got a digital revamp! Sigh! Oh the list is positively infinite now!

The best thing is that I found many Japanese and Korean translations in mobi format. This was what eventually convinced me to give Kindle a try since otherwise these translations are pretty expensive to get as paperbacks!

So the three books I read on Kindle were:

  • We Of The Forsaken World by Kiran Bhat: I got this free copy from Book Sirens. It was not the best of reads but engaging enough with its world building and interconnecting narratives. The book comments on the many environmental problems of the world through its different interlinked stories. Continue reading

Short Story Of The Month: Cat in the Rain

Welcome to the eighth short story of the month!

Books, cats, rain, and a steaming hot cup of tea are a few of my favourite things.

Come July, it is also Ernest Hemingway’s birthday. It falls on 21st July and one of his short stories beautifully combines two of my favourite things: rain and cats.

Cat in the Rain is a perfect, short read for a rainy day.

What is the story about?

Oh where do I even begin summarising this story? Hemingway’s use of the iceberg theory is well known and perhaps the most widely taught writing theory in creative writing classes.  So, it is hard to summarise or pin point what any of Hemingway’s story is about since there can be infinite interpretations.  Layers and layers are stitched together in all his stories’ clipped and succinct sentences.

But essentially the story is about an American couple staying in a hotel somewhere in Italy. One day, it begins to rain and the wife, who is simply known as ‘American wife’ spots a cat trying to hide from the rain under a green table.

The woman is then seized with a sudden need to save the cat and also own one. She expresses her desire to get a kitty so that she can have one sitting on her lap purring while she strokes its fur.
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The Top 5: Pride Month Reads From India

The Book Cafe had done a post earlier this month on Pride Month Reads talking about five queer literature books from around the world. 

Today, for Pride Month we highlight books from India that talk about diverse queer experiences.

Here are Top 5 LGBTQIA+ Indian books to read and understand different facets of love.

  1. Cobalt Blue by Sachin Kundalkar: Translated from Marathi to English by Jerry Pinto, this novel is divided into two parts and set in Pune, Maharashtra. The novel portrays the fluidity of sexuality through two different’s character’s relationship with the same person.
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  2. Kari by Amruta Patil: This dark and gritty graphic novel is about Kari’s relationship with Mumbai and with Ruth.
    Check out more such books set in Mumbai here.
  3. Talking of Muskaan by Himanjali Sankar:  This YA novel sensitively portrays the stress, trauma and bullying that a school girl goes through because she is not attracted to boys. It is an excellent read for both parents and teens to broach and understand the issues around homosexuality and Article 377.
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  4. The Roof Beneath Their Feet by Geetanjali Shree: Chachcho and Lalna’s budding relationship on the vast, connected and common terrace of Laburnum House is a beautiful story of female friendship and more.
  5. Mitrachi Gosht by Vijay Tendulkar: Translated from Marathi as A Friend’s Story, is a play, also set n Pune, during the pre-Independence era. It is about a love triangle in a college campus. Like Cobalt Blue, it comments on both the heterosexual and homosexual relationships.

Do you have any other queer literature recommendations? Leave your suggestions in the comments below!

 

 

Poesie: Anna Akhmatova and her Poetry

Born on 23rd June in 1889 in present day Ukraine, Anna Akhmatova was a prolific poet of her times and became a symbol of resistance during Stalin’s iron rule. Eventually however, she was forgotten, becoming a poet overshadowed by fellow male Russian writers instead.

There has been a slow revival of interest in her poetry since the 1990s. Her works have been translated in English several times now and this review will look at the Vintage publication, Selected Poems by Anna Akhmatova, translated by D.M. Thomas.

Anna Akhmatova published her first collection, Evening, in 1912. Many of her earlier poems were well received and had quite a large female readership. They depicted the torturous realities of love from the excitement of clandestine visits to the heartbreak of a parting. One of her poems from Evening, shows her wit and is reminiscent of Wendy Cope’s light hearted love lyrics:

He loved three things alone:
White peacocks, evensong,
Old maps of America.
He hated children crying,
And raspberry jam with his tea,
And womanish hysteria.
…….and he had married me. 

Feminist Retelling

Akhmatova by Nathan Altman / Public domain
Akhmatova by Nathan Altman / Public domain

It is not only a humorous poem but also shows her concerns about wifely duties and even makes a jibe at the misconception of hysteria as uniquely female. Many of her poems express her anguish about fitting into roles of a mother and wife.

One way in which Akhmatova portrays the female point of view is through retelling of folklore, Biblical stories and literary anecdotes. She humanises Shakespeare’s Cleopatra and Ophelia in her poems, Cleopatra and Reading Hamlet respectively. She also gives a humorous spin to the Cinderella tale when she ends a poem from her collection Rosary (1914) with Cinderella more worried about her shoe rather than the Prince’s love for her:

Where can I hide you?
And it’s a bitter thought
That my little white shoe
will be tried by everyone.

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Poem of the Month: Fernando Pessoa

Welcome to the eighth poem of the month!

Set aside all your Monday blues with June’s poem of the month!

Last month, we celebrated Tagore’s 159th birth anniversary with the poem, Where the Mind is Without Fear

This month, in June, we celebrate the birth anniversary of another poet, Fernando Pessoa. His birthday was on 13th June.

Fernando Pessoa was a Portuguese poet. His poetry and his unique Modernist style of writing put Portugal on the map of European Modernism.

Pessoa in Portuguese means ‘a person’ and the poet is well known for embracing different sides of his own personality. However, he did not just create alter egos but completely new authors who had their own literary backgrounds and distinct style of writing.

The theme of the poem I picked for this edition of Poem of the Month is something that will resonate with us all. Because all of us fall prey at sometime or the other to thinking and fretting over the future.

Beyond The Bend In The Road
(Para além da curva da estrada)
Beyond the bend in the road
there may be a well, a castle.
There may be simply more road.
I neither know nor ask.
As long as I’m on the road before the bend
I simply look at the road before the bend,
since I can see only the road before the bend.
It would do no good to look elsewhere
or at what I can’t see.
Let’s just concentrate on where we are.
There’s beauty enough in being here, not elsewhere.
If anyone’s there beyond the bend in the road,
let them worry about what’s beyond the bend in the road.
That is the road, to them.
If we arrive there when we arrive we’ll know.
Now we only know that we’re not there.
Here there’s only the road before the bend, and before the bend
there’s the road with no bend at all.

Source: https://www.poetryintranslation.com/PITBR/Portuguese/FernandoPessoa.php#anchor_Toc503461474

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The Top 5: Pride Month Reads

June is celebrated as Pride Month. This particular month was chosen to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City. While the origins of Pride Month definitely lie in America, it is celebrated globally. And this year, it has gotten an online flavour to it because of the COVID 19 pandemic. Several pride parades and celebrations had to be cancelled and go virtual. Instagram, in collaboration with The Queer Muslim Project, has developed a Well Being Guide to help cope during these trying times.

Literature has always provided a space for expression for all communities and LGBTQIA+ is no exception.

So, let’s celebrate Pride Month with The Book Cafe’s The Top 5 Pride Month Reads!

  1. My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness by Nagata Kabi: This moving manga portrays a protagonist’s struggle with her own demons, societal norms and expectations as well as depression. In the course of the story, the protagonist also explores her sexuality, breaking away from her own conditioned notions around sex.  Read my complete review here.
  2. One Last Drink at Guapa by Saleem Haddad: The novel opens on an explosive note. The protagonist, Rasa is caught in bed with his lover, Taymour by Rasa’s grandmother. You might think all hell may break loose now. But the story then unfolds slowly depicting Rasa’s growth and love for Taymour. Intertwined within the story is not just Rasa grappling with his homosexuality but also with the idea of his Arab identity. This is  a must read.
    Read my complete review here.
  3. Funny Boy by Shyam Selvadurai: Set in Sri Lanka, this coming of age novel is about Arije and his different experiences around ideas of masculinity and sexuality are portrayed against the backdrop of the Sri Lankan Civil War.
    Read my complete review here.
  4. Zami by Audre Lorde: This biomythography traces Lorde’s own life experiences right from her childhood. The debilitating poverty she faces later as a black lesbian woman is highlighted along with her political sensibilities. It is a heartfelt and deeply moving memoir of sorts of her life, her community and country. It is also a must read to perceive the challenges and threats faced by the black community.
    Read my complete review here.
  5. Seahorse by Janice Pariat: Inspired or rather a retelling of the Neptune and Pelops relationship, this novel creates nothing less than pure beauty through Nem and Nicholas’ tender, fleeting love affair in Delhi, India. The watery metaphors it elicits as well as the literary and art references are a delight to indulge in. This novel gives one pure, aching bliss.IMG_20200604_193240129.jpg

If you are hungering for more books to read, here are three more recommendations:
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Guest Post: Why Books Are Better Than Movies

Guest Post by Alexis M.

Alexis Miller writes on her blog at Purple Shelf Club. She is a future neuroscientist who loves to travel and read and write about novels. At her blog, you can see her write book reviews, book tags, and anything about books that you could think of. Learn more about her on her blog and social media:


Recently, I have seen on question forums people asking about comparisons of books that are made into movies. Some people read and watch, some just read, and some just watch.

Yeah, did you catch that last one! Some people say if they have seen the movie, then there is no point in reading the book. I couldn’t believe, if anything that convinces me to read the book. People who don’t read often have also been asking why books are better than movies.

I think they must be asking this because in a movie you can see everything clear as day and you know the whole story in a little over an hour. Regardless, this intrigued me to answer the question. I would argue that the whole story is not revealed in a movie and so much more can be gained by reading than watching. So, to all book lovers, and movie lovers, here are my thoughts on why books are better than movies.

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Photo by Lum3n on Pexels.com

Books Are More Detailed
Even if you don’t read, you probably know that books hold more detail. It’s not just fluff either. If you want to know why books are better than movies you should know that they:
• Reveal more
• Allow you to get to know characters and places better
• Help you understand motives more

Books are there to serve you. They give the detail you beg for when watching your favorite shows or movies. If a book has a movie, all you have to do is read the book to find out more about your favorite scene. Books even reveal more characters, more scenes, and more places that just couldn’t be fit into a movie. And if you thought you knew who a character was just by watching the movie, then you are mistaken, my dear friend.

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Short Story of the Month: Lavanya and Deepika

Welcome to the seventh short story of the month!

June is Global Pride Month. In 2020, owing to social distancing norms in place across the world, Pride month will be a little different. It will be less parade, and more virtual. Several initiatives have taken up this challenge and tried to create solidarity through various means. 

At The Book Cafe, the short story, Lavanya and Deepika, in focus also has a portrayal of queer characters along with many cool twists!

What is the story about? 

Lavanya and Deepika is written by Shveta Thakrar. It is about the two titular princesses living in a fairy tale kingdom, with their mother, Gulabi.

Their kingdom is attacked and the two princesses must fight to save it. They join forces and their strength: Deepika’s skills with archery and embroidery and Lavanya’s with her spears.

Analysis

The story, like many of Shveta’s other YA writing, has a fairy tale atmosphere. But it has an Indian touch rather than a Grimms’ fairy tale touch.

The story also rejects all kinds of fairy tale conventions such as the damsel in distress trope, beauty as being fair or women characters being witches. It shows sisterly love and bonding between the two protagonists unlike conventional fairy tales that depict the female characters as only scheming against each other. The story portrays that femininity and strength can go together like Deepika’s two skills of embroidery and archery. It also shows a Rani or queen, Gulabi, at the helm of her kingdom managing it with great skill and efficiency, with no need for a king whatsoever.
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The Reading Spree: Kashmir Highlighted

May was a slow and steady month in all aspects: work, the lock down, and even my reading pace. Perhaps it was the stifling heat that brought about this lethargy in all spheres of life.

But I am glad in a way. It is good to slow down. After a long time, I read a book slowly. It had its own magic. I have been reading at least 4 books a month consistently since last August. But this May, I only read two. It was beautiful to do that. I could read 10 pages in a day and still feel like I have learnt so much about the protagonists. I really felt I immersed in the words, stopped and paused to take in a beautiful phrase or to simply enjoy the vivid descriptions (of which were many in the second book I read).

This slow immersion in these two books is what made me glad that I did not be too unrealistic in my reading goals or the Goodreads Reading Challenge. Last year, my goal was to finish 50! Because I had the time and luxury to read endlessly especially in the second half of the year, I could actually complete the goal. But 2020 brought in busier times and so I kept my Goodreads Reading Challenge at first to 25 books and now increased it to 30 books.

These challenges are great to keep and help you to focus on your reading but if you become too ambitious then reading a book can become a chore rather than a pleasure because you become fixated with only numbers rather than the reading experience.

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The Lowland

Spoiler Alert!

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri revolves around love, relationships of loss and political deaths and like her previous novels, is also about cultural amalgamations.

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The novel begins in the 1970s in the flooded lowland of Tollygunge, Calcutta where two brothers, Udayan and Subhash grow up. Udayan is influenced by the Naxalite Movement in his college while Subhash goes on to pursue his studies at Rhode Island in the US.

Things take a drastic turn when the police gun down Udayan mercilessly for his involvement in Naxal activities. His parents then ostracise his wife, Gauri. Pitying Gauri, Subhash takes her back to Rhode Island. In the US, to distract herself from her grief and her pregnancy, Gauri immerses herself in university life, exercising her intelligence to the fullest.

Despite trying to bring a sense of normalcy in their lives by raising a family, and Gauri eventually even pursuing her doctorate with the encouragement of her professor; Udayan’s death is a spectre that still haunts the couple. Their relationship was always one of convenience rather than one of love. The truth of Bela’s (their daughter) parentage is a Damocles sword that particularly unnerves Subhash.

Its climactic revelation opens up a Pandora’s Box in all their lives, shattering any illusions of normalcy the couple might have harboured.

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Poem of The Month: Rabindranath Tagore

Welcome to the seventh poem of the month!

Earlier this month, on May 7th, Rabindranath Tagore’s 159th birth anniversary was celebrated. While I, like many other Indians, would instantly recall Tagore’s story of The Kabulliwallah, I have personally not read many of his poems. But there is one that I have read perhaps in school and still remember. It is called, “Where the Mind is Without Fear.”

The poem was written more than a 100 years ago to speak about a different context, about a new India. But such is the power of words that it still rings true today.

It is titled, “Chitto Jetha Bhoyshunno” in Bengali. Tagore himself translated it in English and the translated version was included in the Nobel winning anthology, Geetanjali.

Where the mind is without fear
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

Source: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/45668/gitanjali-35

Originally written to usher in a new dawn and a way of thinking unshackled by the colonial ruler, the poem still speaks to me today.

British rule of India was not the only dark period that India has gone through. Independence brought in its own challenges. Now, in 2020, as we will celebrate 73 years of Independence, we still struggle with our shackles of narrow mindedness, religious bigotry, sexism and casteism.

We are far from free in these regards and it feels like we have taken 10 steps back into a void where we remain slaves to political spewing, refusing to think and understand on our own. Social media and Whatsapp forwards have limited our ways of thinking, manipulating us into being mere puppets. So, yes, I still dream like in the poem, a world where we regain our sense of reasoning and act upon our ever widening thoughts.

I still dream that the country will awake into a world where it does not fear expressing a different point of view or giving out constructive criticism, where knowledge is not limited or linked to only a few political pandits.

May we all overcome this inexplicable darkness that has overtaken our country today.


Do you have a favourite poem you absolutely love? Share them with The Book Cafe as part of the Poem of the Month! Click here to know more.

Guest Post: Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo 

Guest Post by Rajitha S

Rajitha is a 29 -year-old from Hyderabad. After working here and there, and tiring out, she is currently relaxing while waiting for inspiration to do something exciting. 


Disclaimer: 

If your masculinity is fragile, this review might make you feel like a victim. You are going to read it as a personal attack on your existence as a male. It could make you restless. You will feel hurt and may express anger and irritation. Please know that this is not about you. It is about the way of life of more than half of the global population and the system of patriarchy that led you to think the way you do, while dictating the lives of every human. It’s not your fault. There is no intended sarcasm either. Really.  

The Life of Every Woman

When you have lived your life as a woman there are some things, many things in fact, which can be added into the manual – ‘What to Expect When You Are a Woman.’ Most of the things included in this manual will hold true to women irrespective of where they were born, raised, their work place or the family they marry into. There are of course, numerous, (I really mean uncountable) extraordinary circumstances that women are forced into, which could only be a bonus in the manual. The book Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 is something like that.  

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When you read this book as a woman, there will be at least one situation you have likely been in with small differences here and there. It applies to modern, ancient, rural, urban, privileged, entitled, poor, rich of women– whichever category you wish to put yourself in. It creates a everywoman character. 
Like when young Jiyoung was followed by an unknown boy while on her way home, I remembered the time when a group of boys followed me for several days. I was scared, blamed myself but finally told my mother about it. I didn’t know the boys but some people (at that point I believed that they mattered to me) said I must have done something, because why would or how would boys from another school decide to follow me, among all the girls in my school.  Mine was a girls’ convent school. I was also told, ‘Ohh, you have been doing these things also these days?” and I kept thinking, but what did I do? Later, I just changed the narrative in my head to believe these people. Of course I provoked them, or why would they come after me? 
Just like Jiyoung’s father asked her why she had to attend a class so far away and which ends so late. Also, that she needs to stop wearing skirts so short, and stop smiling at people. 

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Dasuram’s Script: New Writing from Odisha

This is a collection of 16 short stories written in Odia and translated into English by Mona Lisa Jena. All of the stories vividly bring out varied aspects of society. They merge the modern with traditional, the mystical with scientific, folklore with technology. The titular story is about a Kui folk singer, Dasuram, who sings of freedom from the shackles of poverty and oppression. He gets arrested on charges of being a Naxal and while in prison, invents a script for the Kui language.

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The Goddess of Kara Dongri is about how Sudhansu is caught up in the fight about naming a temple in a village that he visited as a child during his vacation. He remembers a mountain made of white flint but cannot find it when he returns. He sees that the village has transformed from an idyllic haven into a busy one. Yet the folklore remains intact. The mountain of white flint may have been sacrificed to modernization but the stories of a deity residing there still float around, and to appease that goddess, a temple was built by the villagers themselves. The story succinctly captures the tenuous flux many places in India are caught between because of relentlessly moving towards modernization at the cost of environment and culture.

That House is a simple, almost fable like story about the follies of coveting perfection. Aruna and her husband scrape through and struggle to build a modest house in Brundabanur colony. Close by was a house that was never completed because the owner was a mistress who wanted to create a dream house which was not fulfilled because the house was empty and not occupied by a husband and a child. The story reiterates quite a lot of stereotypes associated with motherhood and role of a woman in a society especially the idea that a woman can attain happiness only when she marries and has a legitimate family. In the story, the woman is a mistress and hence is devoid of any true love which is the reason given to explain her imperfect house which though grand and complex, can never give her true happiness.

This Story Should not be Remembered by Manoj Kumar Panda pays homage to the timelessness of time itself through the character of Kandha Budha, who has become a living legend of his village. He has worked for two kings, Dalaganjana and Pruthwiraj; he has killed tigers with his bare hands, and had even caught the dacoit Bakharia Binjhal for the British government. The story remarks upon the continuity of time and of stories and the ironic existence of anything through these very stories.

This collection of stories often relies on motifs from folklore to create rich thematic narratives.

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The Reading Spree: Poetry

May has come in slowly and steadily and brought in its wake extended lock down of two more weeks.

I hope May is not as slow as April. Why must time be relative? Why does it feel so?

April is celebrated as the National Poetry Month by Academy of of American Poets to celebrate American poets.

So I decided to read only poetry this month.

Poems have a lovely, magical quality to them of saying so much, in so less. They convey emotions in so many myriad ways that it is breathtaking!

These are the collection of poems I had at home and I decided to read them in the month of April.

Along with poems I also reread Camus’ The Plague and boy oh boy it was an intense experience and reading it felt like I was looking at a mirror at our own world today that has been hit by the corona virus pandemic.

Read my thoughts about The Plague and the book’s similarity with today’s world on The Curious Reader. 

But apart from this novel, all my reading was poems. These are the five poetry collections I read this month:

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Short Story of the Month: The Night We All Had Grippe

Welcome to the sixth Short Story of the Month

Lock down in certain parts of India is likely to continue, given that the numbers in a few cities and states are continuing their steady ascent.

For many people, this might beckon another frustrating period of being cooped up inside the the home, having to juggle many things in almost claustrophobic conditions.

Reading Shirley Jackson’s short story, “The Night We All Had Grippe,” feels like our current cooped up situation is being reflected there.

Shirley Jackson is a well known American short story writer who is most famous for her dystopian short story, The Lottery.

What is the story about?

It is a non fiction story depicting her own struggles as a mother of three children. And on this particular day, the entire family has the grippe or the flu as it known today.

The story begins with the description of the family as one that is fond of puzzles. Then, comes the description of the house, the lie of the land so to say.

Following that is the members trying to adjust to each other being home and trying to sleep and trying to get by with the flu upon them.

Now imagine this for extended period of time? Scary right?

But there is indeed a puzzle for the reader to solve while navigating the story which is the fun aspect of the story.

Analysis

While the story does bring out the sense of suffocation one can feel by the packed descriptions in the story, one must also remember that this is also the state of mothers who are juggling work and home. Because this story was published in 1952, it depicts how in the post WWII era, and even today, women are forced to prioritise and have to find tiny spaces of time to squeeze in any other work they would want to do, like writing for instance.

Where to read it? 

The story is available at Library of America’s website. Click here to read the PDF. The PDF is only 6 pages long and is quite engaging and you get to try your hands at solving a puzzle, while reading it!


This is part of the series called, Short Story of the Month. Click here to find out more!

Guest Post: The Vegetarian’s Inexplicable Aftertaste 

Guest Post by Rajitha S

Rajitha is a 29 -year-old from Hyderabad. After working here and there, and tiring out, she is currently relaxing while waiting for inspiration to do something exciting. 


When dearie Aakanksha (:P) asked me to review The Vegetarian, (also the one who suggested this read), I first hesitated and then agreed. After that, I took a lot of time to write it. I am still not sure about how to describe this reading experience. There is an unexplainable, pleasing aftertaste.  May be, you can take this as the first reason to read the book.     

The Vegetarian by Han Kang was first published in South Korea in 2007. It was later translated into English and re-published in 2015. Here, I would like to mention that my choice of books then was limited, and also awful. Many years later, with a much-evolved taste in books (promise), I list The Vegetarian as one of my best reads of 2020. 

The aftertaste I was talking about, it lingers for a long time. I’ll tell you why, without revealing many details. 

First, the plot line. The book is set in South Korea and is the story of a woman, Yoeng- Hye who decides to become a vegetarian.

The reason, ‘I had a dream’, she says.

The book is divided into three parts, and each part is narrated from the perspective of three different people. The most interesting aspect here is the tone of narration which varies with the personality of a character. For instance, the first part of the book is from the perspective of a middle-class man, complaining about his wife’s changing lifestyle. It is written in a way that you’d feel he’s sitting across the table and moping about his pathetic life to you personally, seeking pity and approval. This changes in the second part, where the tone becomes slightly more sensitive because, well, I don’t want to give it away. Same with the third part.    

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