Author Archives: Admin

On Hua Hsu’s ‘A Floating Chinaman: Fantasy and Failure Across the Pacific’

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WHAT DOES IT MEAN to be “serious”? This is a question I often think about because I happen to be an academic who studies Asian-American literature and culture. For a long time, I had to defend the seriousness of what I studied. Even now, when I tell other academics in a different discipline (say political science or education) that this is my area of specialty, they give me a funny look. Some will respond, “Do you mean you study US-Asian relations?” Or, “Asia is big.” Or, “Oh, Amy Tan.”

Fortunately, such responses are becoming rarer. There are enough prominent American writers of Asian descent that the idea of an “Asian-American literature” doesn’t seem strange. Just as important, there is an impressive body of scholarship devoted to this subject that makes it more difficult to be dismissive.Read more

A study in causal nexus: Review of ‘The Association of Small Bombs’ by Karan Mahajan

by Rabeea Saleem

book-coverThe Association of Small Bombs’ by Karan Mahajan

Hardcover: 288 pages

Publisher: Viking (March 22, 2016)

Language: English

“The Khuranas, in the past few years, had started taking a morbid interest in blasts in all parts of the country, especially Delhi – they were excited by these bombings in a way that only victims of esoteric, infrequent tragedies are motivated by horrors.”

Karan Mahajan’s latest book begins with a 1996 bombing in Delhi, India at a crowded marketplace, Lajpat Nagar. In the violence-riddled world of South Asia, the significance of a calamity is only as big as its magnitude. Every tragedy is relative to its body count and so in the grander scheme of things, this bombing is referred to as “a bomb of small consequences”. It still kills hundreds but because of the low profile site, it doesn’t get as much traction from media as say, the Boston bombing, which, because of its location alone supersedes dozens of small bombs that go off in third world countries at a frighteningly high frequency.

This bombing results in the death of Tushar and Nakul, the only children of the Khuranas. They had gone with their best friend, Mansoor, who is significantly a Muslim, to collect an old television from the repair shop. This detail is something which later the Khuranas are compelled to lie about to maintain their middle-class status because admitting this act of scrimping to their upper caste friends would indulge their sympathies in a way they didn’t want. Mahajan homes in on how important it is to maintain the ego-driven financial status in middle-class society, even when faced with such a potent grief.

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Book lovers converge on Boulder for second annual Jaipur Literature Festival

Area book lovers came to Boulder this weekend to learn from more than 80 global authors at the second annual Jaipur Literature Festival at the Boulder Public Library.

The festival even hosted royalty, with Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck, queen mother of the tiny, remote Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan and a children’s author, participating.

The weekend festival, which wrapped up Sunday, brings in published authors to “examine the human experience.”

“It’s a festival of ideas and conversations and stories,” said Suraj Dhingra, executive producer. “We have a wide range of topics.”

This year’s panels and author conversations included “Democracy and the Game of Thrones,” “Antifragile: The Economics and Politics of the Random” and “Those Immigrants!”

Dozens of local authors were invited, including novelist Margaret Coel, author of the New York Times-bestselling Wind River mystery series, and Nicholas Carr, a technology and culture writer.

Carr, during a session Sunday titled “Brave New World: The Digital Future,” said social media has turned people into “compulsive gobblers of little bits of information.”

“What we’ve created is an incredible distraction machine … What we lose is the contemplative mind,” he said.

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Throwing out actors, hating an entire people is small and reductionist: Saba Naqvi

saba-naqvi

I was invited in February 2013 to the Karachi literature festival with my book on India’s popular religion and syncretistic practices. I was surprised and touched to see that the opening ceremony of the festival included a dance-drama called “Tagore”. Gurudev’s poem “Where the Mind is Without Fear” was recited to a dance, included in which was a rendition of Gandhiji’s favourite bhajan, Raghupati Raghav Rajaram, patita paavana Sitaram, Ishwar Allah tero naam …

I later overheard some important citizens of Pakistan grumbling about the kind of projection being given to Indian visitors and the theme of the opening. But no matter: what that little event symbolised is people’s search for compassion even as doctrines of hate jolt their worlds. By the time the festival ended there was curfew in Karachi after a massacre in Quetta claiming over 80 lives. Many international visitors had to leave with security escort.

In the worst of times and places people always look for ideas that separate their sanity from their circumstances. Indian political thinkers, writers and poets have been evoked across the world for the sheer breadth and scale of the grand humanitarian visions they posited. Let’s not diminish ourselves because we have a consistent and real problem with our neighbouring country.

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Syed Shamsul Haq leaves behind a huge corpus of unfinished writing

Acclaimed poet,author and playwright Syed Shamsul Haq, who died Tuesday, was nowhere near his swansong, Culture Affairs Minister Asaduzzaman Noor says.

“Syed Haq was a busy and regular writer even to his last day as he used to say he has a lot left to write,” the minister said. “It was hard to believe that his zest for life was interrupted so abruptly.”

The minister rushed to United Hospital at the news of the demise of the maverick.

Holding back tears while interacting with journalists at the hospital in the evening, Noor said, “We had never thought we’d lose him so soon.”

“The life expectancy in Bangladesh has increased now, and for a man as disciplined as he was …it (his death) is quite unexpected,” he said with tears in his eyes.

Bangladesh’s premier writer was diagnosed with lung cancer in London in April this year. After three months of treatment he returned home on Sep 1.

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