By Mariyam Haider

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Title: Becoming

Author: Michelle Obama

Publishers: Crown Publishing Group, Viking Press

Michelle Obama’s memoir, Becoming, is powerful, personal and fulfilling. Her writing takes us with her on her journey, from growing up in Euclid Avenue on the South Side of Chicago to calling White House her home. In the course of this larger-than-life story, Michelle Obama offers her readers an insight into how a strong value-based system allowed her to take risks, commit mistakes and learn from them, address failure as a mentor, be honest to herself and develop authenticity as her crusading feature.

The book is divided into three segments: Becoming Me, Becoming Us and Becoming More. She sets the theme of the book in the preface by writing, “I think it’s one of the most useless questions an adult can ask a child — What do you want to be when you grow up? As if growing up is finite. As if at some point you become something and that’s the end.” The title of the book is thus the threadline of how each one of us is in a constant flux of evolution and rediscovery, embracing the unknown and resonating with the deeper voice that commands us to remain true to ourselves.

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By Pervin Saket

Siddharth Dasgupta
Siddharth Dasgupta

Siddharth Dasgupta is an Indian poet, novelist, and travel journalist. His words have appeared in global literary journals such as Litro, Entropy, Cha, Punch, The Bombay Literary Review, Coldnoon, and Burning House, included. He also undertakes cultural immersions with the likes of Travel + Leisure, National Geographic Traveller, and Harper’s Bazaar. He has three books to his name thus far; the short-story collection The Sacred Sorrow of Sparrows and the poetry collection The Wanderlust Conspiracy emerged in 2017. Siddharth is currently looking to secure an adequately courageous publisher for his next literary release – a new collection of poetry. He writes at https://citizenbliss.squarespace.com | @citizen.bliss

 

Pervin: You’ve worked with the long-form and the short-form of fiction, as well as with various kinds of verses. What are your reflections on the processes behind all of these? In what ways are all three distinctly demanding and fulfilling?

Siddharth: The most compelling thrill for me in all of this is not knowing what comes next, and not knowing how exactly to control or demarcate ‘the process’ once it finally does arrive. In that sense, I treat each form the same – as an arrival with whom a courtship needs to be formed over time. Whether this leads to a relationship that is thrillingly brief or a drawn-out epic, sometimes manifesting itself over years, the frame of mind doesn’t actually alter itself all that much. You simply go in with the knowledge that with some journeys you’re going to have to buckle in for the long ride, while with some it’s more of a ‘wham-bam-Amsterdam’ time frame. Novels and stories will test time, patience, friendships, and perceived ideas of sanity. Poetry will test line lengths, dance forms, the heart, and an almirah of desires. The sense of fulfilment from both is proportionate, and dare I say it, contagious.

Pervin: Your work is very firmly anchored in various geographies, whether remembered or imagined or explored, and yet, there is rootlessness, a wandering, a yearning that characterizes your narratives. Where does this absorption with nostalgia and voyaging come from? And do you use place to actually talk about time?

Siddharth: I find this shared habitat between lastingness and rootlessness to be an entirely natural one. It speaks to our human existence as a motley crew of nomads, refugees, and wanderers. A sense of movement has always been integral to my life; it’s only natural that this state of being would extend to my life as a writer as well. It’s often been second nature to find myself at home, or at least something resembling home, at different places in the world. Concurrently though, I’ve found that you can very well be in a specific place at a specific point in time, and yet find yourself longing for it. You’re right: I think nostalgia lies at the heart of it. Some of us were assembled in that manner, I suppose, with a deep ache for another time and other horizons resident as permanent companion in our lives, nestled peacefully beside this to-and-fro between finding home in different longitudinal addresses and fleeing. In my literature, place is often the strongest indicator of time, even more so than character. A place doesn’t have to speak or gesticulate or enter into lengthy monologues; a place simply conveys.

The shortlist for the 2017 AFCC Asian Children’s Book Award by Genting Singapore (ACBA) was announced on Tuesday by the National Book Development Council of Singapore (the Book Council) at the Makan & Mingle event. ACBA is a joint initiative between the Book Council and Genting Singapore, a Singapore-based regional leisure, hospitality and integrated resorts development specialist.

This is a new award presented to an outstanding published picture book with distinct Asian themes by a writer, illustrator, and translator team of Asian descent living in Asia. The writer, illustrator, and translator of the winning book will each receive a $10,000 cash prize. In the case of the winning title not being officially translated, the $10,000 translator prize will instead be used as grant for the publisher of the winning work to commission and publish a translation of the book.

Ms Claire Chiang, Chairperson of the NBDCS Executive Committee said, “Translation is very important to the Book Council. Asia is such a wide and diverse place with varied people and myriad languages, and reading each other’s stories is the first step in understanding each other. We are happy to have Genting Singapore as our partner for this award, and are delighted that recognizing great Asian picture books is important to them as well.”

There were a total of 245 entries from all over Asia, the most for any Book Council award in its awards programme history, including Bangladesh, Singapore, the Philippines, Lebanon, China, Thailand, Russia, India, Syria, and Malaysia. The judges have selected six titles for the shortlist.

Mr Nury Vittachi, Hong Kong-based author of numerous children’s books, and Chief Judge of the 2017 ACBA, says, “The entries were excellent and we judges had a tough job trying to choose only six titles for the shortlist. In the past, books for young readers in this region tended to be folk tale collections with art in dated styles. But this year, the competition has drawn beautiful books with stunning artwork and original, imaginative stories which really transport the reader to new worlds.”

His fellow judges on the panel are: Mr James Mayhew, award-winning author and illustrator from the United Kingdom; Mr Lee Kow Fong, Singaporean author and illustrator; Ms Petra Nagyová Džerengová, author and publisher from Slovakia; and Ms Nanami Kasasaki, Senior Vice President, Genting Singapore Corporate Planning.

The winner of the 2017 ACBA will be announced during Indonesia Night of the Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC) on 19 May, and will be presented by the evening’s Guest-of-Honour, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan.

The Shortlist:

 

Name Title Country
J.H. Low Night in the Gardens Singapore
Hsin-Yu Sun Home Taiwan
 

Adeline Foo and Beth Parrocha

 

Tiny Feet, Tiny Shoes

Singapore/ Philippines
Chiki Kikuchi Chikibam Meow Japan
 

Eve Aw and Tan Yun Ru

Grandma and Things that Stay the Same  

Singapore

Nari Hong Don’t Be Sorry, Dad! South Korea