Leave a comment

Jharkhand Bans Sahitya Akademi-Winning Author’s Book for ‘Negative’ Portrayal of Santhals

HansaAuthor Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar had earlier said he was facing intense online abuse, with a group of Adivasis had taken out a protest against him, burning his effigy and books.

The Jharkhand government has banned a collection of short stories released in 2015, The Adivasi Will Not Dance, on the grounds that it portrayed the Santhal community, particularly women, in a ‘bad light’, the Telegraph reported.

Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar, the author of the book, won the Sahitya Akademi Yuva Puruskar in 2015 for his novel The Mysterious Ailment of Rupi Baskey.

Chief minister Raghubar Das on Friday (August 11) evening asked chief secretary Rajbala Verma to seize all available copies of the book and initiate legal proceeding against the author, the newspaper’s report said. The matter was brought up in parliament on Friday morning by opposition MLA Sita Soren, from the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, who said the book was derogatory to Santhal women, after which the leader of the opposition in the assembly Hemanta Soren asked that the book be banned.

Read More


Leave a comment

South Side Stories: Long list of DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2017

Past winners of the DSC Prize include HM Naqvi of Pakistan, Shehan Karunatilaka of Sri Lanka, Jeet Thayil and Cyrus Mistry from India. Jhumpa Lahiri won it in 2015 for The Lowland. Last year, the winner of the prize was Anuradha Roy for her book Sleeping on Jupiter. 

The long list for the coveted DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2017 was announced by writer, publisher and chair of the jury panel, Ritu Menon, at Delhi’s Oxford Bookstore on Thursday. The list comprises 13 novels, written by authors of four nationalities. It includes seven writers from India, three from Pakistan, two from Sri Lanka and one American writer based in India. Some of the books that have made it to the list include Aravind Adiga’s Selection Day (pictured), Karan Mahajan’s The Associations of Small Bombs, Perumal Murugan’s Pyre (pictured), Pakistani author Omar Shahid Hamid’s The Party Worker, Anuk Arudpragasam’s The Story of a Brief Marriage, Anjali Joseph’s The Living, Ashok Ferrey’s The Ceaseless Chatter of Demons (pictured), among others. The prize is worth US $25,000 and is open to authors writing about South Asia and its people. The long list for the coveted DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2017 was announced by writer, publisher and chair of the jury panel, Ritu Menon, at Delhi’s Oxford Bookstore on Thursday.

Read More


Leave a comment

An interim report on the state of New Zealand literature in 2017

A special investigation  headed by Steve Braunias asks: Has much happened this year in New Zealand writing?

Nothing much has happened this year in New Zealand writing. It’s been pretty quiet. No new sensation, like Hera Lindsay Bird in 2016; a lot of stuff from Victoria University Press, some of it readable; trash from the mainstream publishers; an exciting anthology; and quite a bit of really good, really interesting work published on the outskirts of town.

Read More


Leave a comment

Anuja Chauhan’s Baaz is a roaring and riveting love story set against the backdrop of the 1971: A Review

By Monica Arora

Baaz by Anuja Chauhan
Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Harper Collins; 1 edition (1 May 2017)
Language: English

Anuja Chauhan has emerged as one of the most reliable contemporary writers of pop-fiction in recent years, with her effervescent love stories being set against the back drop of cricket in The Zoya Factor or the great Indian election in Battle for Bittora, the third estate in Those Pricey Thakur Girls or as a middle-class drama for property in The House that BJ Built.

The latest to emerge from the keys of her laptop is Baaz, a roaring and riveting love story set against the backdrop of the 1971 war when India helped the Mukti Vahini in East Pakistan (Bangladesh at present) in their war for independence. India joined the war on 3 December 1971, after Pakistan launched preemptive air strikes on North India. The formidable Indian Air Force took control of the eastern theatre of war and eventually the Allied Forces of Bangladesh and India left Pakistan with no choice but to surrender in Dacca on 16 December 1971. The pro-Pak bias of the then US President Richard Nixon and his Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was revealed when recently de-classified papers of the 1971 war describe how the American aircraft carrier USS Enterprise had orders to target Indian Army facilities. Baaz draws its climax by citing an episode of the Cold War and makes it a delightful mix of patriotism, romance, drama, cold-blooded action and much comic relief amidst the gritty setting. Continue reading


Leave a comment

Book Review: The Tree with a Thousand Apples by Sanchit Gupta

The Tree with a Thousand Apples

The Tree with a Thousand Apples

By Manisha Lakhe

The Tree with a Thousand Apples

Author: Sanchit Gupta

Publisher: Niyogi Books

Pages: 284

Price: Rs 350

Order your copy here 

You’d pick up The Tree with a Thousand Apples by Sanchit Gupta simply because of the stunning cover art by Misha Oberoi. It helps that the cover has a sticker that announces that the script based on the book is longlisted at the Sundance International Screenwriters’ Lab 2017. But also, you can’t wait to get embroiled in Kashmir. There are too many displaced Kashmiri poets in town and you want to know more about a book that talks about the tormented land.

For the first sixty pages or so, you will be impatient. The introduction to the characters, Bilal, Deewan and Safeena goes on and on. You get no feel for the colours of the Chinars, you don’t shiver from the cold breezes, you don’t picture the wooden homes, their creaking stairs. You only understand that the Bhats and the Maliks are neighbours, you understand how Deewan can fight for Bilal, and that Safeena is beautiful and that her tears are like diamonds and emeralds. The story takes its own sweet time to take shape, and that could be a negative for the book.

But then the action begins and the Bhats have to hide in their neighbour’s home from the burning and the pillaging. It is here that you begin to worry, to care for the characters. You realise how young they are and how the innocence of the city is systematically torn apart. Continue reading


Leave a comment

Children’s Books Missed These Immigrant Stories. So Students Wrote Them.

Greatness surrounds Melissa Cabrera when she attends classes at Bronx Community College. That should not be surprising, because the campus is home to the Hall of Fame for Great Americans, where busts of scientists, scholars and statesmen, among others, line a grand colonnade that wraps around Gould Memorial Library, an architectural treasure designed by Stanford White.

Classical tributes are fine, but the greatness of which Ms. Cabrera speaks was found sitting alongside her in a children’s literature class she took at night, when her fellow students came straight from work, still dressed in the uniforms of nurses, fast-food workers or security guards. A few brought their children, because money for child care was scarce. English was often their second language, and most were the first in their immigrant family to go to college.

Read More


Leave a comment

My mother ran a brothel in Singapore: Interview with ’17A Keong Saik Road’ author Charmaine Leung

Charmaine Leung, memoir writer

Charmaine Leung, memoir writer

“17A Keong Saik Road is a memoir of my childhood growing up in the red-light district, Keong Saik Road, in Singapore, where my mother ran a brothel. I wrote this as an attempt to come to terms with my ignoble identity of being the daughter of a brothel operator—I wanted to be rid of the shame that I had felt growing up, and embrace the past that made me the person I am today.”

by Aminah Sheikh

Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?

Writing is first and foremost a form of expression for me. I started journaling when I was a teenager—it was my way of airing the rumbling thoughts in my mind. As I grew up, the daily journals became monthly journals, and they eventually dwindled down to annual entries. Now, I just put down interesting thoughts as and when they come into my mind, it has become a lot easier with technology and easy access to apps for me to store these thoughts quickly. I’ve come to realise the spontaneous thoughts of the moment would become lost if I waited for a dedicated time to put them down, and I don’t want to lose them.

I write also because I have stories to tell. In addition to having an unusual childhood growing up in a red-light district in Chinatown in Singapore, and being surrounded by people who had interesting life experiences, I am a curious observer who enjoys putting down my observations in words. I believe everyone has a unique story.

Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?

I have just published my first book, a creative non-fiction work titled 17A Keong Saik Road. It is a memoir of my childhood growing up in the red-light district, Keong Saik Road, in Singapore, where my mother ran a brothel. I wrote this as an attempt to come to terms with my ignoble identity of being the daughter of a brothel operator—I wanted to be rid of the shame that I had felt growing up, and embrace the past that made me the person I am today.

I also wanted to share a part of Singapore history that is not commonly known, and give a voice to the things, and the people, who may have long been forgotten, or left unknown in the past. Continue reading


Leave a comment

Hindi literature: For Premchand, Good Literature Was About Truth and Humanity

The great Hindi writer remains as relevant today as he was more than a century ago.

Born 137 years ago on July 31 in Lamhi, a village near Varanasi, Premchand (1880-1936) wrote about things that have always existed but had hitherto been considered beyond the pale of literature – exploitation and submission, greed and corruption, the straightjacket of poverty and an unyielding caste system. Son of a post office clerk, he was named Dhanpat Rai (literally meaning the ‘master of wealth’), yet he waged a lifelong battle against unremitting genteel poverty. Reading and writing, always the stock in trade of a good kayastha boy, coupled with acute social consciousness and an unerring eye for detail turned him – with a literary career spanning three decades which included 14 novels, 300 short stories, several translations from English classics, innumerable essays and editorial pieces – into a qalam ka sipahi, a ‘soldier with the pen’.

Read More


Leave a comment

Love in the Time of Numbness; or, Doctor Chekhov, Writer, by Siddhartha Mukherjee

When my mother’s mother began to die of a mysterious, undiagnosable neurological illness, the first thing she lost was her sense of taste. For most families, perhaps, this would be a rather inconsequential loss, but this had severe repercussions for us. As the matriarch of our heaving, multi-generational family, she had always helmed the kitchen with an efficient, if somewhat despotic, hand. Because all the food in that household was cooked by her—years earlier, an attempted takeover by one of the uncle’s wives had been swiftly and tyrannically rebuffed—my grandmother was, in fact, the ultimate arbiter of taste. For decades, this had been a relatively stable and blissful arrangement: she was an acutely talented cook. But as her taste buds numbed, week by week, the food turned from mild to well-seasoned to intolerably spicy. It was, perhaps, a kind of neural compensation for her—the way people with early hearing loss often begin to speak more loudly—but the fish curry now went off on the palate like a thermonuclear bomb. The lentils exfoliated the tongue. The fried spinach was an incinerating terror; the okra, an endurance sport. When even the white rice, the final refuge of the Asian tongue, began to arrive at the table with halved Thai bird peppers on top, the seeds squinting above it, we squirmed in terror. But we steeled ourselves and kept eating: numbness begetting numbness.

Read More at The New Yorker


Leave a comment

Lounge Chair Interview: 10 Questions with Irwin Allan Sealy (without capital letters)

By Aminah Sheikh

Each of the authors interviewed for Kitaab’s Lounge Chair have been unique, and this email interview with Irwin Allan Sealy was no different. Along with his responses he sent us a note which we’ve decided to retain as part of his interview. You’ll see why…

His note:

i sense a distinct persona here but a reluctance to lower the mask. i’m not sure you can use “let’s” and at the same time absent yourself but i’ll take your questions seriously; there’ll be some loss if you automatically adapt my answers to your house style. for example i prefer not to use the capital i for me, or for that matter capitals of any kind, but fight a losing battle with autocorrect. it’s your call!

Yours ias

(Editor’s note: We decided to publish the interview without editing the manuscript for capital letters).    

Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?

i write to sort out impressions accumulated in my body and ideas formed in my head over a lifetime; the two camps are perpetually at war. i write to ward off that madness, but equally for the pleasure of making something out of nothing. i write for the delight certain patterns yield. i write to make sense of an apparently barbarous world. i write to explain the persistence of goodness. i write for a living. i write to escape my fate, to step out of myself. i write to rescue the past, to examine alternative worlds. i write to explore an assigned topic (like this), to assess my motives, to plan a course of action, to understand last night’s dream (there was a marsh), to scrutinize loose notions, to reach out to persons far away in space and time, and because i detest the telephone. Continue reading