Booknotes: The Bluest Eye

With ‘The Bluest Eye’, Morrison wanted to explore racial self-contempt and how that comes about in us. In the late-60s, when the idea of different kinds of racial beauty was just beginning to be properly articulated and accepted, she wanted to show, through the life of a twelve-year-old girl, Pecola, how concepts like “ugly” become personal and how they shape personality and, therefore, life. Throughout, Morrison has also scrutinized the effects of religion, shame, classism, colonization (of the mind), gender politics, incest, child molestation, etc. To avoid dehumanizing those responsible for creating this kind of mindset in a child, Morrison has given us complex, layered characters who are, to me, almost Dickensian. I say “almost” because it is when describing the worst things that happen to or are done by some of these characters that Morrison surpasses Dickens’ pathos. Her truth is searingly honest but kind, and her kindness carefully extends to both the flaws and the virtues of these men and women. Dickens showed us who people are or can be; Morrison shows us who we are or can be. Continue reading Booknotes: The Bluest Eye

International Women’s Day 2017: #BeBoldforChange

Over the past couple of years, I’ve been highlighting an interesting, lesser-known woman on this particular day. Why? Mostly for the same reason that we mark this particular day: to celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievement of women. The 2017 theme for IWD is #BeBoldForChange. So, this year, I’d like to share the story of Noor Inayat Khan — a bold, badass woman I read about last year. She was also featured on Public Radio International earlier this year as the “Indian spy princess who died fighting the Nazis.” She was a Muslim. A refugee. A princess. A guerrilla fighter, trained in bomb-making, sabotage and secret communications. But above all, she was a war hero. Continue reading International Women’s Day 2017: #BeBoldforChange

Published: The Prize (Litro #160: Changes)

This short story is in the print version of Litro UK’s issue #160. The theme is “Changes.” As Eric Akoto, the magazine editor, reminds us in his introduction, Leo Tolstoy wrote, “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” In this story, the main character has to change himself to get what he wants. Set in India, ‘The Prize’ deals with the main conflict between moral values and material success that much of the country’s rising middle class continues to deal with. A young architect and his wife meet with a powerful customer and his wife for a business dinner, where the architect hopes to close a big deal. As the evening progresses, in trying to gain the contract, something precious is also lost. Continue reading Published: The Prize (Litro #160: Changes)

5 short stories

Top Five Short Story Reads From February 2017

Over the past month, I focused on writers from the seven countries that were/are on the US Travel Ban list. Most of them are, of course, Arabic language writers, so I am thankful to be able to find English translations free online. I got the idea from Asymptote Journal’s project to collect writing from these banned countries. Their special feature issue, with at least two stories from each, will be out in April 2017. Though the list below is rather male-centric — because we are dealing, mostly, with highly patriarchal cultures — I have searched harder to get some women writers too. So here are stories from: Goli Taraghi (Iran); Hassan Blasim (Iraq); Hisham Matar (Libya); Nuruddin Farah (Somalia); Leila Aboulela (Sudan); Zakaria Tamer (Syria); and Nadia Al-Kokabany (Yemen). Continue reading Top Five Short Story Reads From February 2017

Booknotes: Mafia Queens of Mumbai: Stories of Women from the Ganglands

In Indian culture and society, a lot of the talk/news related to Mumbai mafia and gang violence/crime is mostly about the men–the ganglords, their aides, and their henchmen. Often, the only women we read of (or see in Bollywood movie versions) tend to be the virtuous, long-suffering wives or mothers, or the glamorous arm candy or objects of desire. Though Mumbai’s mafia men, the underworld, and organized crime have all been portrayed in movies over the decades, the cultural fascination truly took hold of the collective imagination with the 1998 movie, Satya, which was about a turf war between two Mumbai ganglords. So a book about the far lesser-known mafia women is irresistible for the primary reason that the authors offer in their introduction: “They are fascinating women because they push the boundaries of our dominant moral codes.” Continue reading Booknotes: Mafia Queens of Mumbai: Stories of Women from the Ganglands