I had the pleasure of attending a Book Event on June 30th, a Sunday afternoon where we got to hear from four different female authors. There was Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni with her recent book “The Oleander Girl”, Saborna Roychowdhury with her book “The Distance” which is soon to have it’s US release, Sweta Srivastava Vikram with one book on fiction, and three books on poetry and Joyce Yarrow with her new mystery novel.
Chitra Divakaruni, an award-winning author, professor and Houston resident, read from “The Oleander Girl” and talked about the inspirations for her many books. It was a pleasure hearing from a great writer who also spoke so engagingly.
Sweta Srivastav Vikram, an award-winning writer based in New York City, read a passage from her novel “Perfectly Untraditional” and several poems from “Kaleidoscope: An Asian Journey of Colors”, “Beyond the Scent of Sorrow” and “Because All is Not Lost”. She also spoke about her time in the US, her life and inspiration for her work and related anecdotes, with a well-timed sense of humor; she appears to be the rarest of the rare – a funny female desi writer.
Seattle-based Joyce Yarrow, a Pushcart nominee, came next and talked about the creation of her book’s protagonist Jo Epstein (a poet/investigator) and read from her latest book “The Last Matryoshka” (Istoria Books 2012).
Saborna Roychowdhury, a Pushcart Prize nominee and Houston resident, came last and she and her husband read from her book “The Distance”. “The Distance” is being released in the US via Istoria Books, and it has a beautiful new cover with this edition. Roychowdhury read protagonist Mimi’s lines very expressively (you could see the emotion on her face), while her husband read the male voices of Mimi’s ex-lover Amitabho and husband Neel. Very interesting!
After the reading the authors took questions, and there were quite a few. When asked whether they preferred typing to handwriting while at work, most of them preferred to hand-write to facilitate the flow of writing. When asked about the schedules they set for themselves when writing, Roychowdhury said it best when she talked of forcing herself to write daily even when weighed down by other work and concerns.
I asked them what they all thought of the preponderance of “arranged marriages” in most novels by female desi authors. Vikram said that that was what she saw around her.
Yes, she said we were all liberal, but that was what was happening around. Maybe we didn’t do the clichéd stereotypical “girl-viewings” but arranged marriages were a part of life and culture and society (I’m paraphrasing here, but hopefully the essence of her reply is clear). Divakaruni’s response was calm and measured and got quickly to the heart of the matter. Indeed she spoke so beautifully, I just wanted to sit there and listen to her talk.
It was a lovely afternoon, and I truly appreciated the intimate setting where one could actually talk to the authors and hear their responses. The panel was very informal, and expertly moderated by Melissa Studdard, author of “Six Weeks to Yehidah”. I am glad to have learnt more about these authors and look forward to reading their books!