Posts Tagged ‘Nayomi Munaweera’

It’s been a rough start to 2015, hasn’t it? I hope that wherever you are, in whatever corner of this beautiful, complex and devastating world, you are safe and well. In light of the events in Paris, the senseless violence, it feels trite to post about the other musings and reflections that caught my attention this past week. However, as always, they focus on art and writing, and while it may be difficult to believe this week that the pen is mightier than the sword, it’s important, necessary even, that we uphold this belief to be true. Because the alternative is just too terrifying.

Kathak dance

Chitresh Das

Pandit Chitresh Das. Photo by Marty Sohl.

On Sunday, January 4th, Pandit Chitresh Das, guru (in the true meaning of the word) to my own kathak dance teacher, passed away suddenly. He represented an increasingly rare combination of talent, dedication, vision and energy. That he should pass away with such suddenness, like a flame snuffed out, is a shock to all, and yet, somehow, the only fitting way, just much, much too soon. He would not have abided by a drawn-out farewell. And now, that flame burns on in the hundreds of students he has taught, in his own disciples, amazing artists in their own right, in whom he cultivated the strength and vision to continue his legacy.

Here is a collection of clips of him and of his incredible dance company performing and practicing. Do take a look, you’ll be enriched. For a brief glimpse into his history, read this lovely remembrance. Dancers from my own dance organization, Chhandika, closely affiliated with Pandit Das’ school in California, share their reactions here. And writer Sandip Roy pulls together a good audio clip here.

Indian literature: the Murty Classical Library

Harvard University Press sets about to make the vast and diverse classical literature of India accessible to the general reader. This means some 500 books over the course of the next century (imagine starting a 100-year project!) in over a dozen languages. The series “debunks the myth of a Hindu orthodoxy as being the only classicism we have,” said Arshia Sattar, an independent scholar and translator in Bangalore. (Thanks to Michael Warres for bringing this to my attention.)

Meanwhile, Columbia professor John H. McWhorter predicts that in a hundred years, “it is possible that only 600 languages will be left on the planet as opposed to today’s 6,000.”

Literary podcasts

Friend and fellow author Nayomi Munaweera, whose book, Island of a Thousand Mirrors, is a beautiful, devastating and necessary read, recently put out a call for literary podcast suggestions. The answers came pouring in, and I look forward to exploring them. They included:

OtherPpl with Brad Listi (via Neelanjana Banerjee)
Bookworm (also via Neelanjana)
A Tiny Sense of Accomplishment with Sherman Alexie and Jess Walter (via Andrea Gutierrez @AndreaGtrrz)
Rachel Cruz’s The Blood-Jet Radio (via Melissa Rae Sipin-Gabon)
New Yorker Fiction (via Miriam Leah Medow)
Selected Shorts (also via Miriam)

To which I add the BookRiot podcast, The Readers, and Books On the Nightstand. Now if only I had a little commute during which to listen to such things.

Writing and women: Why do Women Have to Abandon Their Lives to Find Themselves? In defense of civilized self-discovery.

Freelance writer Elissa Strauss wrote about her ambivalence about “Wild,” the book by Cheryl Strayed that was recently made into a movie starring Reese Witherspoon. It’s a thought provoking read, and the comment string on the Facebook page of a group to which I belong was long, respectful, engaged, analytical and well written. The type of online discussion that rekindles my faith in humanity. It raised issues of “finding oneself,” of the privilege of trying to do so, of women feeling they need to leave everything behind, of groundedness in nature versus “civilization,” of whether women should or do expect to find their reflections in the stories of others, of finding one’s way “through” versus “out,” and more.

 

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#WeNeedDiverseBooksIt’s been a while since I’ve done a Friday round-up, but I’m eager to restart, and this week has been one of plentiful material on the various topics I tend to follow. And I like to share.

Books:
All lists are subjective and incomplete, and often omit entries one feels should be included, but here’s a list of books to add to your To Be Read pile, from the Washington Post’s list of “top 50 books for 2014.”

The cyber-waves were all a flutter over the past couple of days, for good reason, about Daniel Handler’s (a.k.a Lemony Snicket) racist gaffe in his speech at the National Book Award ceremony, wherein he made a crack about Jaqueline Woodson, author of Brown Girl Dreaming, being allergic to watermelons. (Yoinks! Who says such things? I guess we know who.) To his credit, Handler apologized for his comment (which of course he says he meant as a joke) in a very real way: not just words, but a pledge to contribute $10,000 to the We Need Diverse Books campaign, and to match donations for 24 hours up to $100,000. That, folks, is a meaningful apology, although of course it does not erase or excuse the shameful behavior. I hurried over to make a donation.

On the topic of racism, Toni Morrison (swoon) says it like it is, with her trademark perceptiveness and gentle tone, on the Stephen Colbert show. If you don’t already love the woman and her writing, this will convert you. Makes me want to read Beloved all over again. (Thanks to Anjali Enjeti for calling this to my attention. The world should have more Anjalis, methinks.)

And in other Fabulous Author news, Ursula K. Le Guin makes a moving tribute to “writers of the imagination” and to books as art. Do take a look/listen.

Meantime, I just finished Nayomi Munaweera’s Island of a Thousand Mirrors, a very powerful book set during the decades long war between Tamils and Sinhalese in Sri Lanka. Raw and devastating, it is also sweet and loving. A slim volume, an engrossing read.

Kids’ book club:

The fact that I run a children’s book club has garnered more attention than I ever anticipated. Attention was never what I was seeking. However, I’m glad to have been featured a few months ago in the Boston Globe, to have a piece on Parenting.com on the dos and don’ts of kids’ book clubs, and just today I had fun being interviewed by Barbara Dooley of the Barbara Dooley Show based out of Athens, GA. She wanted to know all about my motivation to start the club, and any advice I have for those wanting to do the same. This month, we are reading Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor, which is proving to be a somewhat wacky, incredibly creative and altogether enjoyable read set in Nigeria. How can this urban planner not love a young adult book that mentions, on the first page, the Lagos electricity company?

Urban planning:

Take a peek at Le Corbusier’s legacy in India via this series of photos by Paris-based photographer Manuel Bougot in Chandigarh. A different side of India.

Indian dance:

Here is a heart-warming and powerful story about a young woman with Down Syndrome who put in years of focused study to achieve what is a rite of passage for may Indian girls: the bharatanatyam “arangetram,” a solo performance. “Her father tells the crowd that [Hema] Ramaswamy’s arangetram was more than a dance graduation; it was the day she became, in the eyes of the world, a full individual.” This young woman’s strength and determination are inspiring. Additional photography by Preston Merchant.

Parenting:

This article needs very little description. It’s a spot on, non-blaming, humorously written description of what it means to be the “default” parent—the one who knows the kids’ shoe sizes, the dates of friends’ birthday parties, the location of the favorite barrette (on the floor of the living room behind the arm chair, mental note made at some point in anticipation a getting-ready-for-school meltdown). If you are the default parent, every single line will resonate with you. If you are not, you’ll gain new appreciation for the one who is.

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