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Title: The Last Cherry Blossom

Author: Kathleen Burkinshaw

Publisher: Sky Pony Press, 2016

 

 

Sumiyo placed her chopsticks on her hashioki and said, “I do, too, Yuriko-chan. I believe it is time for us to return home to Hiroshima.”

I turned from looking out the window and exclaimed, “We can go home to Papa? Really?”

“Hooray!” Even Genji had finally lost interest in day after day of cows in the pasture.

“I can’t wait to see Machiko, too! I have to hear all about her work at the plane factory,” I said. I got up and began to bring the empty dishes to the sink.

“Well, it definitely is too quiet around here,” Aunt Kimiko agreed.

Sumiyo stood up from the table and said, “Good. Then the decision has been made, and we will leave tomorrow morn­ing. We will arrive in time to surprise your papa when he gets home from the office.”

Book Review by Mitali Chakravarty

 

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Title: The Last Cherry Blossom

Author: Kathleen Burkinshaw

Publisher: Sky Pony Press, 2016

“Cherry blossoms are like life itself—so beautiful, yet so fragile that they bloom for only a short time.”

These lines, ethereal and poetic in intent, sum up in spirit the story of the young adult book, The Last Cherry Blossom. This book, authored by Kathleen Burkinshaw, seems to be impacting the world with its peacekeeping efforts as it is now a United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs Resource for Teachers and Students. Burkinshaw has recently spoken at the United Nations in New York City.

The Last Cherry Blossom has received much acclaim. It has been nominated for the NC School Library Media Association YA book award and 2019-2020 VSBA, 2018 & 2016 Scholastic WNDB Reading Club selection, and Finalist for NC Sir Walter Raleigh Fiction Award, 2018 Sakura Medal, Japan, and SCBWI Crystal Kite Award (southeast region).

The narrative recreates a beautiful world that was ruined by the nuclear bomb blast in Hiroshima on August 6th 1945. Burkinshaw herself is the daughter of a survivor — a hibakusha. The Last Cherry Blossom brings home to the readers the loss, the pain and the suffering that a nuclear war generates through generations. Kathleen Burkinshaw herself suffers a neurological disorder due to her mother’s exposure to the atom bomb. 

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Title: Never at Home: An Autobiography

Author: Dom Moraes

Publisher: Speaking Tiger Books, 2020

 

 

 

I arrived in Bombay towards the end of the monsoon. This had always been one of my favourite seasons as an adolescent, but I now found myself looking at it in a different way. It made a mess of the roads, and the city seemed to founder under it. I realized with a certain wonder that I was seeing it as a foreigner; that I was seeing it as a foreign city, though it was less than five years since I had lived there. My encounters with people I had previously known had a certain dreamlike quality: their personalities, familiar before, now seemed seen through a kind of mist. I was treated with some awe, because I had won the Hawthornden. I assumed a posture of arrogance, and secretly felt a little ashamed. The newspapers spoke of the book I had come to write.

Actually, I hadn’t planned this book at all; the thought of starting on it slightly terrified me. I didn’t know where or how to start: I had never tried anything like this before. In these circumstances, as often in the past, I consulted my father. He said, ‘I imagine you want to write this book as an outsider looking in. I couldn’t do that myself, about India. The only way I can help is by imagining that you are an outsider.’ There was a slight double edge to this remark, untypical of him. But then he was entitled to it.

Book Review by Namrata

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Name: The Merman and the Book of Power- A Qissa

Author: Musharraf Ali Farooqi

Publisher: Aleph Book Company, 2019

The Merman and the Book of Power is the retelling of a qissa, a classic storytelling form in Urdu. This epic novel combines myth with history to give us a glimpse of the evolution of civilisation.

Author Musharraf Ali Farooqi works have been critically acclaimed and have been a finalist for both, Man Asia Literary Prize 2012 and DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2008 apart from being longlisted for IMPAC/Dublin Literary Prize. Along with being a writer, he is also an editor, translator and founder of the Storykit Program.

As Farooqi says in the Author’s Note, “This book merges the parallel histories, myths and multiple personas for Apollonius of Tyana, Hermes Trismegistus and Alexander the Great in the Western and Eastern literary canon, and the various religious, occult and apocalyptic traditions associated with them.”

Book Review by Kajoli Banerjee Krishnan

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Title: Boys from Good Families

Author: Usha K.R.

Publisher: Speaking Tiger, 2019

 

It was twenty-five years ago that Usha K.R. stepped into the literary world with ‘Sepia Tones’ that won the 1995 Katha Short Story Award. Her first novel Sojourn was published in 1998. Her subsequent novels The Chosen (2003), A Girl and a River (2007) and Monkey-man (2010) have been critically acclaimed.  A Girl and a River was awarded the Vodafone Crossword Prize in 2007. Amongst her other short stories are ‘Elixir’, that appeared in Boo, An Anthology of Ghost Stories and ‘The Boy to Chase the Crows Away’ that was shortlisted in the Best Asian Short Stories 2017 by Kitaab.

Usha’s fifth novel Boys from Good Families traces the story of Ashwath. Living with his parents and sister Savitri in ‘Neel Kamal’, their family home, he grows up within a conservative household in the city of Bangalore during the 1970’s and 80’s. Ashwath finds his parents rigid in their beliefs, expectations from them and his extended family dreary and claustrophobic. A romantic at heart and somewhat undecided about his future, he enjoys exploring the city and its surroundings, watching films and starts to fall in love with a remarkably capable and charming Thippy.

This phase abruptly comes to an end when his parents come to know of his affection for Thippy who lives with her family in the outhouse of ‘Neel Kamal’ and is considered a social unequal. They throw out Thippy and family.

By Mitali Chakravarty

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A versatile woman of arts and letters, acclaimed and celebrated, Aruna Chakravarti’s writing has been acknowledged by awards like Vaitalik Award, Sahitya Akademi  Award and Sarat Puraskar. Chakravarti talks of interactions with greats like writer Sunil Gangopadhyay and actress Sharmila Tagore to discuss her books and translations in festivals. Her books are often a protest against social ills which linger beyond the past. Her first novel  The Inheritors ( 2004, Penguin)  was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and her third, Jorasanko ( 2013, Harper Collins) received critical acclaim and also became a best seller. Daughters of Jorasanko ( 2016), a sequel to Jorasanko, has sold widely and received rave reviews.  Her translated works include an anthology of songs from Rabindranath Tagore’s Gitabitaan, Saratchandra Chattopadhyay’s Srikanta (which won her the Sahitya Akademi Award) and Sunil Gangopadhyay’s Those days, First Light and Primal Woman: Stories. Chakravarti was the  Principal of a prestigious women’s college of Delhi University for ten years. She is an academic, creative writer and translator with fourteen published books — three novels, one book of short stories, two academic works and eight translations.

22fa274f-4a0d-4c09-8935-35685fae7e7eChakravarti’s latest work, a novel titled Suralakshmi Villa, published by Pan Macmillan this year, will be her fifteenth book. The launch scheduled for 25th February, 2020, in Delhi’s  India International Centre will have a panel discussion on the book by eminent academics for half-an-hour followed by a multi-media presentation of an excerpt from the book created by the author herself. In this exclusive, Chakravarti talks of why and how she writes and more.

 

Since when have you been writing? What inspires you to write?

I used to write prolifically as a child. Poems and stories would pour out of me in a joyous, unthinking stream and I loved the feeling it gave me.

Things changed when, after joining the English Honours course in college, I was introduced to the academics of literature, taught the principles of criticism and how to distinguish good writing from mediocre. I became disillusioned with my work. I found it wanting on so many counts.  I felt I was useless as a writer. Self- criticism is good but, in my case, it verged to the point of negativity.

I stopped writing altogether.

There was a gap of twenty-five years before I picked up the courage to write again.

To answer the second part of your question my juvenilia reflected whatever I was reading at the time, mostly poems and stories written by English writers, and was hugely imitative. But my adult work is derived directly from living experience. It is from the world around me that I draw inspiration.

By Mitali Chakravarty

Shweta Taneja’s story named as pre-finalist in French Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire

The Best Asian Speculative Fiction (2018) is like a rebellious shout to change the world with its threat of futuristic dark stories. Many award-winning and well-known writers like Kiran Manral, Vrinda Baliga, Rochelle Potkar, Park- Chan Soon, Tunku Halim and Eldar Sattarov, have contributed to the anthology. The stories have covered different areas of the genre called speculative which the editor, Rajat Chaudhuri, an established voice in this field, calls, “our adorable, shape-shifting, slippery creature”. 

Zafar Anjum, the series editor of the Best Asian series and publisher, explained how the Speculative fiction anthology  came about and the editor was chosen: “It was an idea suggested by one of our authors, Anuradha Kumar, and when we got in touch with Rajat to work on an anthology of speculative fiction, he readily agreed. Rajat had done reviews for us before and we always admired his writing, so it was a natural choice.”

Chaudhuri picked Shweta Taneja’s story, ‘The Daughter That Bleeds’, for the Editor’s Choice Award. And now, it has been picked as a pre-finalist in the prestigious French Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire. This French award was first given in 1974 for science fiction and later stretched to the emerging genre of speculative. Winners include Ursula Le Guin (2008), Ken Liu (2016) and Carolyn Ives Gilman (2019). The French Ambassador to India, Emmanuel Lenain, has tweeted about this, tagging Kitaab and Chaudhuri.

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Grand Prix De L'Imaginare

Chaudhuri has remarked that Taneja’s story fits into Margaret Atwood’s formulation of this genre. In his introduction he tells us, “Atwood’s test for the speculative is on the touchstone of possibility … Marking a clear break from some of the improbabilities of science fiction, her formulation stresses on this aspect of possibility as the sine qua non of the speculative.” Shweta’s story is “about a market for fertile women who have become rare in a post-apocalyptic India”. 

by Tanima Das

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I wake up with a jolt as the bulky jeep screeches to a stop. Bhuto gestures at me to wait while he hurries out, slamming the door shut. I yawn, and try to stretch out my arms, but grimace to grab my shoulder instead. A sharp shooting pain is knotting up in my neck. Cursing Bhuto for choosing the bumpiest of all roads, I try to massage out the discomfort.

Bhuto is back soon with hot tea in a clay pot accompanied by toasted bread and questionable butter on a steel plate. He smiles at me revealing his stained buck-teeth. A stench from his unwashed mouth fills the air inside the jeep. I pass him a gum and proceed to get out.

“It’s not safe, babu,” protests Bhuto and extends his hands to block my way.

“Shut up,” I say and slap away his arms.

I sit down on a tree stub to have my breakfast while Bhuto, with his huge frame, tries to block me from view. Two men are visible at the eatery across the street but their worried faces seem to be enveloped by whatever issues fate has chosen to hurl at them. But Bhuto imagines that they might want to keep an eye on me.

The food would have tasted good actually, had it not been for the scratchy, fake moustache that Bhuto has pasted onto my upper lip. I look angrily at Bhuto. He looks back at me with devotion.

Book review by Gracy Samjetsabam

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Title: Paper Lions

Author: Sohan S. Koonar

Publisher: Speaking Tiger (2019)

 

Sohan S. Koonar is a physiotherapist by training but his love for story-telling has bagged him the Judges Choice Award in the Toronto Star Short Story Contest and the first Burlington Library Literary Excellence Award. His self-published novel Karam’s Kismet got mentioned in sixteen dailies and periodicals in the US. He is a founder of a multi-clinic company and an inventor of international patents too. Koonar has lived in four continents — Asia, Africa, Europe and North America — and spends the year in his family homes in Canada, Italy and India. Paper Lions, published by Mawenzi House in Canada and Speaking Tiger in India, is a novel that explores the rich culture and history of Punjab and its role in the coming of age of India as a nation.

Paper Lions is an epic multi-generational saga of Punjab. Koonar draws on a vast canvas to present a picture in pre- and post-independent India. The novel is a five-part story of what transpires in the inchoate state of Punjab from 1937to 1965. Raikot, located a few kilometres from Ludhiana, is the locale. While the narrative revolves around  three main characters — Brikram, Basanti and Ajit — and  their families, it also weaves a yarn of rural Punjab in those times.

The book explores a myriad of characters — some from nomadic tribes, such as the Bajigars and some are just villagers — the dairyman, the matchmaker, the astrologer, the Giyani (Sikh wise men), the politicians, the publicists, the head of the cattle yard, the bootlegger, the snake-catcher, the Brahmins, the school headmaster and more. The characters reveal the customs and mindset of the people based on caste and clan, their religion, and the trials and tribulations that time and history brought forth.