Kitaab’s fiction editor Monideepa Sahu interviews Ru Freeman, a Sri Lankan–American writer and activist (author of On Sal Mal Lane and A Disobedient Girl)

Ru Freeman
Ru Freeman

Ru Freeman is a Sri Lankan–American writer and activist. Her debut novel, A Disobedient Girl, was longlisted for the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature and translated into seven languages. She has been a fellow of the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Yaddo, and the VirginiaCenter for the Creative Arts. She blogs for the Huffington Post on literature and politics and is a contributing editorial board member of the Asian American Literary Review. She calls both Sri Lanka and America home and writes about the people and countries underneath her skin.

Her first novel, A Disobedient Girl, is the story of Latha and Biso, two Sri Lankan girls working as domestic helpers, who strive for a better life. Her latest work, On Sal Mal Lane, is a sad yet hopeful tale of children growing up in times of civil strife and impending civil war in Sri Lanka. This beautifully written novel has also been longlisted for the DSC Prize. Sal Mal Lane, a dead end street in Colombo, presents a microcosm of Sri Lankan Society. The well to do Heraths are kind and generous Sinhalese Buddhists who celebrate all religions, from singing Christmas carols to sharing Diwali sweets with their neighbours. The other neighbours are Sinhalese Catholics, Burghers, Tamil Catholics, Tamil Hindus and the reticent yet gracious Muslim Bin Ahmed family. The novel explores through the eyes of the children, the effects of increasing communal tensions. Riots, death and destruction visit this happy and peaceful community, and battle lines get drawn. The children realize that what is lost forever cannot be regained. They try to come to terms with this loss in their own ways.

WeneednewnamesPaul Theroux, in his disturbing recent Africa-based novel,The Lower River, portrayed gangs of feral children, American aid wor­kers insulated from their supposed beneficiaries by walls of sun-glasses and air-conditioning, and a dystopian society collapsing under the combined weight of failed government and the aids virus. If Theroux’s is an outside-in view of Africa, Zimbabwe-born NoViolet Bulawayo presents an alternative, inside-out view.

TheLowlandMan Booker Prize 2013 shortlist announced: Jim Crace leads the six authors with his swan song Harvest, reports The Independent

Three Asian writers, Indian-American Jhumpa Lahiri, New Zealander Eleanor Catton and Japanese-American Ruth Ozeki have made it to the Man Booker Prize 2013 shortlist, which was announced today.

Other contenders on the list are Colm Tóibín, NoViolet Bulawayo and Jim Crace. Jim Crace, with Harvest, is already being touted as the “marginal favourite” to take the top literary prize, The Independent said.