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“I hate 2020”

nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future

Chris McCandless, aka Alexander Supertramp

I am thinking (or trying to think) about what COVID-19 is doing to us. To me.

I think COVID-19 might be the definition of the wild wilderness of the planet. And insofar as it is that, it’s a timely and terrific message from the universe(s).

COVID-19 is the wildness of the planet because it demonstrates a truth already well-worn for some of us: Nothing is guaranteed to us. We are owed nothing. We learn to sustain ourselves by sustaining ourselves, no matter what.

And ‘self-sustaining’ is, incidentally, the connotation of the word for ‘wild’ in Chinese. Which means, that life — that it even exists, that we are even alive at all — is, in the end, kind of ‘wild.’

And COVID-19 is also the wilderness of the planet because the wilderness is, according to Jon Krakauer who wrote INTO THE WILD that which sustains our spirit to survive. Because, as McCandless wrote to a friend, ‘nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future,’ a dictum whereby of course he lived and died as describe in Jon Krakauer’s book about him (INTO THE WILD).

Among friends we talk now about how, because of COVID-19, the future seems indefinitely uncertain (one of them said to me, ‘I hate 2020’). We talk about how we can make no plans, with nothing called certainty.

We are to be forgiven for wanting to make plans. For wanting a secure future. But maybe in the age of COVID-19 we are also forced to at least pause to think about McCandless’ words: ‘nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future.’

Maybe we are to be forgiven for forgetting that believing that the future is secure no matter what we do to the wild and the wilderness, that we are owed everything we demand, that life is a given and not a creation, that accident and randomness with a purpose are the operative truths of our existence, is responsible for COVID and the other spectres that stalk the planet and our so-called assured myths of progress.

But maybe we cannot be forgiven if we don’t, at last, admit that we forgot. And if we don’t, at last, remember that life is a wild wilderness, and every other else is hokum and koolaid. And maybe we can, after hating 2020, thank COVID-19 a little for jolting us out of our complacency. And for giving us a well-deserved kick in the pants in the direction of the wildness of the wilderness, where, to survive, we must learn to be sustainable while not taking this grand planet and its self-sustaining but sensitive ecosystem for granted.

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The Topeka School

Ben Lerner’s The Tople School makes you despair a little about parenting. You wonder if anyone can ever get it quite right, if you can ever satisfiedly pat yourself on the back and say, “Well done, old gal!” The answer is NO because — according to The Topeka School at least, I think — because you CAN’T get it right. Why?

Because Daddy. Yes, I get that very strongly from this novel about “the lost boys of privilege” — as most of the younger characters and one protagonist in the novel are called — are criss-crossed, hardwired and haunted by the fantastic presence of impossible Great Fathers and the Janus-faced Law of that Father. In the lower ranks, down the lines of generations of fathers and sons, there is of course constant ongoing insurgency by sons — especially psychologists — who push their faces into their fathers’ and then become versions of those fathers.

Very nice. Very Freudian. Mothers are there too, but no similar distant ancient matriarchal lineage extending back to history’s vanishing point. Though there are disturbing allusions to the Great Father intruding upon the innermost, verboten recesses of the novel’s women characters as well.

Still, in spite of Daddy, if there is any comfort in a book about how generations of always slightly betrayed men and women try and try and try and only barely break through to understanding their children, leave alone helping or rescuing them, it is in the undergirding theme that while some things do go very wrong — and usually in these cases the real reasons are damaged cross-wiring of class, race, mental health, etc., as well — mostly kids do figure it out, do keep working things through, despite some concussions and lots of scars. As my best friend likes to put it, in the end “nobody dies.”

As the single mother of an eighteen-year-old American boy, I’m going with that.

Go read Ben Lerner’s The Topeka School about pschyanalsysts and parents re-framing and re-staging their own catharses in their young ones. For its magical use of language as a code to decrypt the true nature of power and negotiation in a Hobbesian patriarchy where life threatens always to be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short” but for the equally disturbing, always looming shadow of the Great Father; for its delicious snaps at history and politics and the history of politics; for its recognition that the remembrance of times past is also the sociology of memory; for its insane insight into the hurbis and good intentions of Lacanian psychology trying to overthrow the tyranny of the Great Father Freud;and for its compassion for “lost boys” and their lost parents.

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Love’s Garden — Nearly There!

Dear Friends, sharing the latest news about my debut novel

Love’s Garden, a novel by Nandini Bhattacharya https://www.aubadepublishing.com/books/loves-garden/

I am happy to say that any day, any hour, any second now, Love’s Garden will turn from an e-document into a paperback book! So yes, folks, printing and distribution are imminent! Soon Love’s Garden will be available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and elsewhere. I’ll make sure and share updates with you. It’s been a wait, but it’s the marathon that counts, not the sprint….

MEANWHILE, IT IS AVAILABLE TO PRE-ORDER AT AUBADE PUBLISHING, WITH FREE SHIPPING IF YOU USE THE CODE ‘PREMLATA’

https://www.aubadepublishing.com/books/loves-garden/

AND here’s a little excerpt for your entertainment:

“In the year 1898, in a corner of Britain’s far-flung empire where the imperial sun is still rampant, a train snakes through a vast plain checkered by bronze, green and ochre fields of wheat, corn and millet. A woman stumbles through the train, passing compartments, peering into some, trying to reach the engine at the front. Her name is Saroj and she wants to stop the train. Stop the train. Get off.

How can this be happening? Why hasn’t Munia come? She promised she would come, without fail. Munia knows the stakes. She swore on her honor and her love.

People are sleeping — seated, slumped, stretched out — some with their entire bodies and heads covered with makeshift sheets, others in ugly positions that bring no shame only to the utterly oblivious. The train is completely dark. Here and there Saroj hears a moan, a whimper, even a low droning. Is that an infant crying, though? Saroj freezes for a long second. No, it’s a little girl who has fallen off a bunk. She is lying sprawled on the dirty floor, sobbing, as if getting up without her mother’s remorseful help is out of the question. Saroj can’t wait, can’t stop, can’t step into the compartment and help her up. No time to lose. Saroj lurches on, forward.

The engine shrieks — again and again — as it shreds the night. Saroj begins to think she will not be able to reach that engine compartment where the driver and the stoker are busy urging on the machine like a trained beast. Her legs are giving way. The spirit billows out of her, like smoke from an extinguished fire. All is burning. All has burned.

She should have burned too. It was her fate. But she erred. She sinned. Had she sinned? Had she erred? The old agony of that dilemma stops her as if someone has just punched her in the gut. She doesn’t even try to break her fall to the floor.

On the gritty floor of the snaking train taking her away from everything she has ever known or loved, Saroj dies that night, inside.”

By the way, here’s a little interview I recently gave my friend Scott Coon

The Little Creative Interview
With Dr. Nandini Bhattacharya
 
Author, teacher, mother, tree-hugger, rooming with two humans and two marmalade cats 
http://www.scottcoonscifi.com/LCI.html

And Check out Scott’s new book

Lost Helix


 

 

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Autobiography of Political Blackness

Today I start a new series of posts: An Autobiography of Political Blackness. This series will be about my connection as a South Asian-American to Political Blackness, a term now in use to describe solidarity across races. Once this was called the Rainbow Coalition. Never mind. These are darker times.

WHENCE my political blackness? What is my history? I grew up female in India seeing fairer-skinned girl cousins favored and showcased; fairer-skinned girls put forth and praised; fair skin fetching higher values in marriage marts; no dark-skinned actors or actresses in the most powerful dream machine called movies; gods and goddesses in bazaar calendars and framed pictures at home glowing with the hot ghee tint; and of course the ubiquitous “FAIR AND LOVELY” skin-lightening cream, the brown girl’s nightmare and nemesis now proven to contain toxic ingredients.

Untouchability equated with dark sin. Poverty equated with dark skin. Insignificance and degeneration associated with dark skin. Africans? Though India’s direct contact with African peoples goes as far back as the 6th century AD at least, Africans in our cities seen as monsters, sub-humans, idiots and barbaric. Called “Habshi Khojas” (for “Abyssinian Eunuch,” a distortion of the name for a tiny demographic in pre-modern Islamic courts with defined and respected social functions). African students in India bullied, lynched, spat on.

THENCE Political Blackness in my life time as a girl growing up in India, compelled to chant and try to believe palliatives like “Kaalo Jagater Alo, Shada Jagater Gaadha.” In Bengali, ‘Dark skin lights you the world, White Skin is for dumb beauty.’ Little known, sparsely used, and of small comfort.

As this panorama rolls before my mind’s eye now I try to put some of this shady history into the second novel I’m now writing, titled Homeland Blues. It’s the partly true story of a South Asian woman in the US forced to face her internalized racism when her husband’s unexplained disappearance and presumed death test her Indian-American or ‘Desi’ community’s loyalty as she begins her descent into the hell known as illegal immigrant status in the United States. She’s thereby ejected overnight from diasporic ‘model minority’ privilege and colorism into radicalized kinship with a bisexual African-American man as well as immigrants facing deportation in Trump’s America. As the story progresses, it also reveals itself as one about the atrocious, systemic inequality experienced by India’s Untouchables or ‘Dalits,’ and People of Color in America. Ultimately, it’s about multi-tentacled hatred and fear surrounding gender and racial traumas, but also about the love we must find to empathize with the stranger we’ve always been taught to fear. It is stunning, especially to me, to see how my novel about the self-evident causes of solidarity between India’s Untouchables and America’s POC — started four years ago —reads now like a script for what we are calling Political Blackness today. Wish me well with it, please.

To be continued….

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Big Bad Wolves

Power eats up the souls and bodies of the powerless and spits the gristle out one corner of its mouth. Power never apologizes. Power doesn’t stop. Power doesn’t feel shame. Power never abdicates.

More information and perspectives are gushing forth regarding the suicide of Sushant Singh Rajput, an excellent, aspiring Bollywood actor who’s said to have privately pleaded for support saying he had “no godfather” in Bollywood. That would mean the powers-that-be, the gods of Bollywood, treated him and — I think it’s fair to say this — killed hm ‘for their sport.(I want some day to write a screenplay about how no one really knows who William Shakespeare was because he was a woman.)

I return to this topic today to add a few thoughts. First, though, as a parent, I can(not) fathom the family’s grief and sincerely beg their pardon for adding to the cyber-storm about their son’s death. But my thoughts today are about mental health and its stigma in India and elsewhere. They are also about the interesting intersections of gender, class, ethnicity, power and wellbeing in India and elsewhere.

Is there something unique about this suicide? I’d say there is. A man in the public eye — young, goodlokking, talented, promising — gave into impossible odds of unequal power. Had this been a woman otherwise similarly situated, there would have been strong reaction to that as well, but the gender of the vanquished sharpens the point of a conversation that tends to be seen within “feminized” parameters. How many female Bollywood stars have been destroyed by the powers-that-be of that industry? And how many leading or otherwise influential men? The ratio is staggeringly unequal.

Which means that in part the maelstrom over Rajput’s death is not because of his gender but about his gender, a distinction with a not subtle difference. Women are generally considered weaker, more unstable, more destroyable. But when a man demonstrates such “womanly” weaknesses (and in this I’m led byt reports that people are minimizing the tragedy by calling Rajput “weak”), attention MUST fix on the fact that powers-that-be in Bollywood in his case acted so cruelly, so brazenly arrogantly and ruthlessly, that it led an unlikely candidate to the altar of self-destruction.

Will there be a film made one day about Sushant SIngh Rajput? Don’t know, but recall that stories and films abound about a comparable fate of a Parveen Babi, a Vimmy, a Sadhana (My god, Sadhana!), and others. Not to mention that actresses are figuratively ‘murdered’ or ‘commit suicide’ when they age and marry and leave their work.

Rajput’s tragic death must be seen in the context that in the fairly global fairy tale where power generally devours women and spits them out as gristle (remember Red Riding Hood’s Wolf?), a MAN has suffered that unlikely fate. A MAN has died a womanly death. Whether anyone says it out loud or not, that Rajput was a man, that he was upper-caste Hindu, that he was gorgeous, that he was talented, meant nothing because he had “no godfather.” Like women, who have only one kind, for which Rajput presumably didn’t qualify or apply. (BTW, some Hindutva loonies have swiftly recast Rajput’s story in anti-Muslim terms already; how creative people can be, and if only they. . . .!)

It’a a mad, mad mad world, and women, especially, know it. See Kangana Ranaut, who has sometimes been type-cast as that woman whom power destroyed, but not in this video: It’s in Hindi. but if you don’t understand it, you’ll catch the drfit…..

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/entertainment/hindi/bollywood/news/kangana-ranaut-slams-bollywood-with-a-fiery-psa-post-sushant-singh-rajputs-demise-reveals-she-has-been-receiving-messages-telling-her-not-to-commit-suicide/articleshow/76385817.cms

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What kind of Despair? What kind of Hope? Let’s be ANTINA.

Talented thirty-four-year-old Hindi film actor, Sushant Singh Rajput, killed himself yesterday. Despair, it is said.

GOODBYE, SUSHANT

Beautiful, talented Bollywood star, Madhuri Dixit, sang a stirring song. Have hope, have hope, she said.

THANK YOU, MADHURI

What kind of hope and what kind of despair do we see around us?

Among my own family and friends circle, someone diagnosed with terminal cancer was turned away from hospitals because cancer is now second runner-up to COVID-19 as the Emperor of Maladies

A dear family member in India cannot pay for critical medication for chronic illness because the pandemic took her small business and turned it to dust

What kind of civilization is COVID-19 making us? What kind of people must we become? What kind of nations need we be?

When COVID-19 started spreading I noticed something I then jokingly called COVID NATIONALISM. Many people, identifying with a certain nation-state, were declaiming the virtues and values of their national customs, demographics, politicians and community spirit. As already happening at every crisis, Jingoistic Nationalism and Xenophobia were shaking bloodied hands over mass slaughter.

Someone wrote on a whatsapp group board I was then a member of that because “We, Indians” — they meant Hindus — have always been such “pure” people, washing their hands frequently, rinsing their mouths after meals, washing their feet after returning home from the ‘tainted’ outside, and observing myriad other taboos about purity and danger mostly involving denigrating and demonizing “Other People,” “We, Indians” would triumph over other countries and people that didn’t rinse, sprinkle, douse, purify and yes, of course, burn enough. Another member chimed in: vegetarians and those with other HIndutva-related food habits would survive COVID-19 while “Other People” would die.

I’ve left that group.

But what I don’t leave off is that we will only defeat COVID-19 if, among other things, we leave off COVID NATIONALISM. I know the tolls by countries have well-justified epidemiological purposes.But in these days of such despair, and yet such hope, we must learn to find in our hearts a new LOVE for those we’ve always been taught to hate and fear.

WE need to stop feeling secret relief because “We” are not “Them,” “Those people.” WE need to stop feeling secure and smug because we are not like “ethnic” people who hug and laugh and cry more, and live closer together in their habitats. WE need to stop shrugging off the news that mostly “those old people” or “those sick people” are dying. WE need to stop even secretly congratulating ourselves for not being poor, black, of color, Muslim, minority, sick, LGBTQ, old or dying.

WE need to look for the love we must find to empathize with the stranger we have been taught to hate and fear.

We need to be ANTINA: COVID ANTI-NATIONALISTS.

Pandemic doesn’t know national borders. VIRUS could care less about VIRTUE. Love, ALL

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Happiness is talking about writing

Aspiring Author Bulletin Day N:
Please see an interview of me on Awesome Book:


https://awesomebookpromotion.com/?s=Nandini+Bhattacharya
Happiness is a live interview!!

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My Little Creative Interview, Courtesy of Scott Coon, Author of Lost Helix (2020)

Mesdames et Messieurs!

It is good to have good friends

Please use the link below to see the little creative interview Scott took of me

http://www.scottcoonscifi.com/LCI.html

I try to share in it my few ideas and insights about the writing life and the marketing of your writing life. It is important for today’s writers, in this changing and sometimes bewildering publishing world, to think savvy about the writing after it’s done. I hope some of my ideas will be useful.

And don’t forget to check out Lost Helix, available at

http://www.LostHelix.com

Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/Lost-Helix-Scott-Coon/dp/1939844681

Barnes & Noble – https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/lost-helix-scott-coon/1135144023?ean=9781939844682

Kobo – https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/lost-helix

iTunes – https://books.apple.com/ca/book/lost-helix/id1490128516

Smashwords – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/993588

Bookshop.org – https://bookshop.org/books/lost-helix/9781939844682

Powell’s – https://www.powells.com/book/-9781939844682

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/50386208-lost-helix

Dancing Lemur – http://www.dancinglemurpressllc.com/sciencefictionfantasy

See more of Scott’s writing at

June 15, Bewildering Stories, issue 860
http://www.bewilderingstories.com/
 
 

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Elizabeth Hazen’s GIRLS LIKE US: POEMS is a feat of and feast of women’s poetry

Review of Elizabeth Hazen’s girls like us: poems, Lit Pub June 11, 2020

https://www.thelitpub.com/the-trauma-of-girlhood-and-womanhood-a-review-of-elizabeth-hazens-girls-like-us

If the legacy of a timeless cri-de-coeur out of the depths by women writers has seemed to become redundant in the last twenty-odd years of post-feminism, then Elizabeth Hazen’s poetry collection titled Girls Like Usis the aesthetic equivalent of pushing the finger back into the unhealed wound: the trauma of girlhood and womanhood in this society as in most others. Her poetry brings up into view what is so often swept under the carpet: a dystopic world still uniquely a part of women’s experience because of gender ideologies hardly as moribund as many young women today would like to believe. This is poetry in its best form: ineffable interrogator, ethicist and chronicler of human history.

Hazen, whose first book Chaos Theories was also published by Alan Squire Press in 2016, explores the clot of sexual trauma often connected to the wounds of addiction and mental health issues in young women and girls. In Girls Like Us Hazen doesn’t ‘unflinchingly’ approach these topics. She very much flinches, as a poet with an experiential dimension to her writing might or  will. The pain is there on the surface ; the pain is in black and white ; the pain refuses to be swept under the carpet.

No one would doubt that Hazen came of age when women were re-launching (as women’s movements need to do again and again, there being no rest for the weary) the third wave of feminism in the face of the budding backlash that since then has become a slashing of women’s rights and freedoms.  As testament to the timeliness and resonance of what she has to say, her poetry has appeared in Best American Poetry, American Literary Review, Shenandoah, Southwest Review, The Threepenny Review, The Normal School and other journals. In girls like us, the “self” exposed by a language apparently almost bleached of vibrancy swiftly establishes itself as the opposite of “singular.”

Hazen writes in “Why I Love Zombie Women”: “because her need/ is clear, uncomplicated. . . . because she doesn’t stop/ even after the hatchet hacks clean through/ her reaching arm; because she will pursue/ her prey till they have nothing left to chop/ Because when she lies in pieces, inside out/ she will not knew regret, or shame, or doubt”. And this, to compound the fun, is composed as a classic sonnet. Refreshing as Hazen’s wry and rueful engagement with rhymed verse always is, the hardihood she displays in this collection running words around the ring of their own formal antecedents and prohibitions — sonnets are about consuming love, aren’t they? — allows her to hold up the monstrous mirror in which patriarchal representations of femininity can see themselves refracted as who they are.

Still, in the slippage and space between real and representational, Hazen hangs out miracles and wonders like the Himatsu-Bako box whose “emptiness becomes its promise, vast as a blank page”. Also, perhaps the felicitous alignment of her insights with her expressions is rather like the seventeenth-century metaphysical poets who astonished the old world with unimagined similitudes and verisimilitudes plucked out of an unfolding natural world and Natural Philosophy aka Science. Thus, Hazen writes in “Alignment”: “Planets align from time to time, and much/ is made of the effects such cosmic chance/ could have on Earth, though in fact/. . . such coincidence can’t touch/ the craft of carpenters with their dovetail joints/. . . . /And what of the body? . . . .  the problem is my lust’s incongruity with logic. . . ./ I want to rearrange my heart, to alter/the facts, selectively recall — I falter/ fall out of line, think only of his face”. While Hazen’s words do recall sexual trauma familiar to many ‘girls’ living under the ‘Law of the Father,’ it is this very incandescent precision of her language that allows Hazen to fashion with compassionate irony co-dependent worlds of desire and despair: “The moon’s pull is nothing compared to the weight/ of my body sinking into his bed again/ The acceleration of a falling object/ occurs at a constant rate, and repetition/ changes nothing unless conditions change”.

Arrangement of poems is an important thing in this volume; whereas sometimes the poems of Part 1 feel flatly accusatory — note how different is “Blackout is for girls like us/who can be rearranged” from the later poetry cited above — those later poems in Part 2 feel like meat on the bones of the longing to be whole and to heal, living outdoing the bruises of death and love, love of death, and death of love. In the 2nd Part the raw anguish of the hungover fall from grace in “Decisive. Indecisive. He decided” gives way to a wiry wisdom that finally sees that  “We’ve been called so many things that we are not/ we startle at the sound of our own names”. Finally, lines of verse step out and push one hard in the chest, obliging exclamation, pause, reckoning, refamiliarization, resumption. Readers of Elizabeth Hazen can expect long years of magic as well as precision-tool craft with words.

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Scott Coon reading from Lost Helix

Scott Coon

Hey! Don’t miss this, readers!

How lucky is it that we can watch the very talented Scott Coon reading from his amazing debut novel, Lost Helix!!!

Leave comments and Scott will see them. Buy the book itself from Amazon, Kobo, Powell’s and other sites….

Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/Lost-Helix-Scott-Coon/dp/1939844681


Barnes & Noble – https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/lost-helix-scott-coon/1135144023?ean=9781939844682


Kobo – https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/lost-helix

iTunes – https://books.apple.com/ca/book/lost-helix/id1490128516


Smashwords – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/993588

Bookshop.org – https://bookshop.org/books/lost-helix/9781939844682

Powell’s – https://www.powells.com/book/-9781939844682

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/50386208-lost-helix

Dancing Lemur – http://www.dancinglemurpressllc.com/sciencefictionfantasy

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Amitav Ghosh’s Gun Island, a gripping literary and environmental thriller

Why do I love the work of Amitav Ghosh? Why have I always loved his work? Because when I first read his book In An Antique Land, I discovered what was possible in writing stories about the South Asian subcontinent, that antique yet living land. I learned that it was possible to write about India and its neighbors without writing in the style of epic magic realism, or poverty and gender oppression critique, or bleeding political satire (though all are highly estimable and powerful styles, of course). I discovered that it was possible to write about India as a place with history, not of timelessness. Because un-ascribing history to a world is the worst of what colonial and orientalist domination does to places like India and other postcolonial countries, Africa included. They take away a land’s history, which in the western mind is tantamount to its people being barbaric, even subhuman. That, among other reasons, is why I was blown away when I first read Ghosh, and why I’m getting blown away again by Gun Island.

One reason I blog is to suggest good books. I think Ghosh’s Gun Island is one of the best. It would be impossible to go into Ghosh’s layers and layers of erudition and uncovering of the complex connections between seemingly unrelated things (and this without resorting to postmodernism) without writing several books. But if I had to zero in on two things that make this novel inimitable, like most of Ghosh’s other novels, they would be the following.

First, it would be the idea of history as a haunting. Ghosh is a historian’s novelist, thrilling and stunning us not with linguistic flourishes but with discovering how language is the flourish that gives meaning to our lives. In other words, we are the stories we tell. And what this has to do with Ghosh’s longstanding concern with the environment and ecology is the core credo of this novel: Pay attention to climate and Nature because it might not be the first time that we humans are being warned about dangers lurking beneath the seemingly normal. Thus, a character in the novel, a historian of ideas, descants about the “Little Ice Age” of the seventeenth century when cataclysmic global events occurred — storms, fire, droughts, famines, disease, mass migrations — leading many a thinker and writer to speculate on whether the Earth, Mother Nature, was speaking to humans. And Ghosh leads us gently to the realization that indeed nature does speak to humans, and it is often in the language that we call myth. Without spoiling it, I urge reading Gun Island to realize that language and myth — often as folk tales and traditions — are shared inheritances of Humanity and the Natural World. In sum, what “the Little Ice Age” once suggested may be materializing in unimaginably larger ways in our own age.

The second, and related, key idea is that repetitions speak in the voices of our ghosts, be they ancestors or supernatural beings. And ghosts and supernatural beings repeat because they are failing to get our attention. Remember Hamlet’s ‘Ghost’? His father? The one who says “Remember!” Again and again? Why? So Hamlet won’t forget. It’s so easy to do. And what about us, readers of Gun Island? why should we pay attention when — like Hamlet’s dead father, ghosts and the supernatural (including the divine, like Bengal’s Manasa Devi or the Snake Goddess as in the novel) — keep showing up in our daily business-as-usual oblivion and unfilial unconcern for Nature? Because we forget, and because we do so at our peril.

As Ghosh’s charismatic Italian historian Cinta says to his protagonist Deen in Gun Island, “In the seventeenth century [the century of ‘the Little Ice Age,’ recall?] no one would ever have said of something that it was ‘just a story’ as we moderns do. At that time people were able to recognize that stories could tap into dimensions that were beyond the ordinary, beyond the human even. . . . It is only through stories that the Universe can speak to us, and if we don’t learn to listen. . . .”

What then?

If the Universe is full of stories and we don’t learn to listen, then Ma Manasa and radiant and vibrant matter (the things we’ve always called gods, parents) are speaking to us in vain. Deen thinks, “How can a translator do her job if one side chooses to ignore her?” And this is what I mean by the comment that repetitions speak in supra-human voices. To us, humans. Environmental catastrophe is a message in a bottle. It’s history repeating, but each time more feebly. When sea creatures are beaching and dying, species and humans are becoming refugees, forests are burning, storms are destroying, oceans are rising, crops are failing and strange viruses are prowling, it could be because humans are still not listening to ancestors.

One Planet. Only One.

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Juneteenth in George Floyd’s America

And only last night I wrote about gender and the life-long flogging life as a woman can seem, even if you are not a person of color.

But where’s the time to stay on top of events in the United States of America? Especially when it is events related to racist hatred and murder? We’ve got a new one now. I beg your pardon; a new reported one today. Please watch.

My son’s father is black. My son doesn’t want to watch and discuss what’s happening sometimes. I used to get upset about that. It was in part a mother’s righteous upset. Don’t you want to know what can kill you for doing nothing? Don’t you want to help those who are like you, in this American nightmare that isn’t over after four centuries?

I’m beginning to understand, though. In part by connecting this to what I blogged yesterday about what a woman is thought to be for. Which is domination by anyone who calls themselves a ‘man.’ I am a woman. And if I began to hear and think about every time a woman is beaten, raped, tortured and killed, I couldn’t go out of my house any more.

Sometimes, even now, I almost can’t.

Wherever you are, and whoever you are, reading this, what are we going to do? What are we going to do when it looks like the ‘man’ who stands behind all this is probably going to get re-elected in November 2020?

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Threefer: three novels by amazing writers Leni Zumas, Lidia Yukanavitch and Jeannette Winterson

Three for one today.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

I’ve read three recent novels by women pondering the important question of science and gender. It seems the basic reason that the sociologies of gender and science intersecting matters is this: that intersection is what foregrounds the historical and contemporary controversy about what it means to have ‘life.’

Yes, Life. Yes, it’s controversial.

Leni Zumas’ Red Clocks, narrating the lives of women who are living in a society where abortion is a crime, asks, ‘What is a woman for’? Guess the answer.

Lidia Yukanavitch’s The Book of Joan asks what Joan of Arc would have fought for today were she alive? Guess the answer.

And finally Jeanette Winterson’s Frankisstein asks what Mary Shelley who published Frankenstein in 1818 would have obsessed over today. Guess?

And in your guess don’t forget that each book is written by that singular specimen of the species: the female. And what does that have to do with science, gender and life?

I’ll give one clue because I really like you, reader, and I’d really like to hear from you. Here it is: Only women can have babies. Now I wait for your guesses.

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HINDSIGHT 2020? Is this how 2020 — ANNUS MIRABILIS of COVID-19, global CLIMATE catastrophe, and Galloping toward THE SINGULARITY, the three slathering horsemen of the Apocalypse called POSTHUMANISM — will be remembered? In the indomitable true spirit of Sci-fi, Scott Coon’s debut venture Lost Helix reminds us that we should be looking back too as we move forward into an unknown future…..

Lundefinedost Helix
By Scott Coon

Lost Helix is the key…

Stuck on an asteroid mining facility, DJ dreams of writing music. His dad is a corporate hacker and his best friend Paul intends to escape to become a settler in a planet-wide land rush, but neither interests DJ.

When his dad goes missing, DJ finds a file containing evidence of a secret war of industrial sabotage, a file encrypted by his dad using DJ’s song Lost Helix. Caught in a crossfire of lies, DJ must find his father and the mother he never knew.

When the mining company sends Agent Coreman after DJ and his guitar, DJ and Paul escape the facility and make a run for civilization. Will DJ discover the truth before Coreman catches him?

Release date – June 2, 2020
$17.95, 6×9 trade paperback, 268 pages
Print ISBN 9781939844682 / EBook ISBN 9781939844699
Science Fiction – Action & Adventure(FIC028010) / Crime & Mystery(FIC028140) / YA Science Fiction(YAF056000)

Read it!!

Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/Lost-Helix-Scott-Coon/dp/1939844681
Barnes & Noble – https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/lost-helix-scott-coon/1135144023?ean=9781939844682
Kobo – https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/lost-helix

iTunes – https://books.apple.com/ca/book/lost-helix/id1490128516
Smashwords – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/993588

Bookshop.org – https://bookshop.org/books/lost-helix/9781939844682

Powell’s – https://www.powells.com/book/-9781939844682

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/50386208-lost-helix

Dancing Lemur – http://www.dancinglemurpressllc.com/sciencefictionfantasy


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The Ancients and the Moderns

Every new age thinks it has invented the world.

So I have now finished watching the Amazon Prime Video series “Modern Love.”

All 8 episodes. And I beg your pardon, there are 8 episodes, not 7 as I said in my earlier post about this series. But then I’m so fuddy-duddy, so not in the right place at the right time.

But. Besides proof positive for my inkling that according to our culture’s Olympian law-givers in New York City “modern” love ONLY happens in New York City — the modern is always deja vu all over again only there — I noticed something more disturbing.

I have been given to understand that only middle-class white liberals can experience and enjoy “modern” love.

Fieldscan.

EVERY episode of “Modern Love” is about white, middle-class protagonists rooted in New York. Are there any people of color at all in the series?

Of course.

We are not stupid, you know.

There are the requisite, regulation magic black, brown and yellow people. But they are the mise-en-scene, the backdrop, the affirmative eyeline match. The people of color are the interestingly colorful people who intensify the feelings, crises and epiphanies of the white folks. You know what that means. They tell white people what their feelings mean.

But the central consciousness is that of the white, upper middle class New Yorker. A brief reprise of the episodes is in order.

Self-made Indo-British wiz kid discovered by journalists who write for the New York Times Sunday supplement magazine.

Sad white bipolar Vassar graduate with black female life coach, her ‘one’ true friend.

Dopey cute Trust Fund heiress looking for soulful writing career and wanting to really know how the common people live.

(Probably) midwesterner white dude (Ohio? Michigan?) transplant in The City dazzled by all that Nuevo Rican cute bod pizzazz.

Silver-haired runner who finds her soulmate at seventy in a perky and endlessly emotionally providing Asian widower.

Biracial gay or white ‘creative’ Manhattanites who eat out all the time and exercise hard.

White girl overcoming deprived childhood and daddy issues by easy, forgiven lying and a black roommate as witness and absolver.

Shame on you, Amazon.

You know, in the seventeenth century, European high culture staged what was called the Battle of the Ancients versus the Moderns. Put quite simply, it was an argument about whether the ancient Hellenic and Hellenistic cultural gurus had already got it all right, or if the emergent voices of the new post-Reformation bourgeoisie got to say a couple things too. Was it Homer, Aristotle and Virgil forever, or was it okay to see go see The Beggar’s Opera, a play about prostitutes, pimps and Mac the Knife?

Jury’s still split. Like that road above. (That’s the jury’s job; they’re like the bewildered chorus, all emotional and confused). Some think the ancient world with all its patrician certainties about power, privilege class, race, gender and culture was baloney. But “Modern Love,” whomever it represents, is all about status quo, about the dead old white guys. All the moderns are white and complicated and all their enabling friends are black, Asian, hispanic and nice.

But some of us are skeptical.

Last but not least, the concluding montage invokes the trendy literary genre of ‘linked stories.’ Linked stories are, I sometimes feel, great off the cuff rainbow nets flung by talented writers feeling too lazy and uninspired to write a whole novel. But in “Modern Love,” the final copout of the final montage sequence only cinches the lurking suspicion we’ve been having for a while. No spoiler here, though.

That, to be modern, to be worth talking about, to have relationships worth talking about, you gotta live in a West End high-rise with a doorman guarding the gate to the only world worth living in, with other white, liberal, well-groomed, articulate and affluent New Yorkers.

It’s Deja Vu all over again.

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Stupid Cupid?

The cupid in question: The New York Times

The artifact in question: Amazon Prime’s ‘Modern Love’ series based on the New York Times’ ‘Modern Love’ column

I love NYC.

Who doesn’t? It’s a requirement of American coolness. If you don’t, you might be taken for a swamp thing or from another planet. Right? Tell me?

BUT.

I just finished watching the 5th episode of ‘Amazon’s ‘Modern Love’ series, as I was saying. And guess what? EVERY story is set in New York City. Every character, every mojo, every affect, every quirk — all NYC. Without exception.

Granted, maybe episodes 6 and 7 will be set in Oxford, Mississippi and Makati City, the Phillippines (the world capital of selfie-taking for those of y’all ignorant New Yorkers who didn’t know, all y’all). But secretly, I doubt that. Because why? Because — newsflash, you ignoran’ chillun — the only place in the world that matters (if you ask the New York Times and New Yorkers) is …… you guessed it.

So you see, the rest of us who don’t read our New York Times where Spiderman does are loving disgustingly, primitively, uselessly. I mean, are we even awake? Evolving? Modern? Alive?

I mean, let’s get real here: it’s not clear people who live in Minnesota or South Carolina even have love lives or (in Prairie home companion land) sex at all. (Sorry, you are from NYC and you don’t know what those names mean? Sure, honey, those are two other STATES, of the United States of America. You know? You ever hear about that place, the ‘United StateS’? Honeybaby?)

Heck, in Wilmington and Juneau they’re probably still clubbing their women with legs of elk when dinner is late. And of course, the women in Chicago and Grand Rapids probably can’t run away fast enough because they always dress in bulky sweats and don’t spin.

Other countries? Don’t even talk to me.

How can they have Modern Love? They haven’t even given the world a reality-Tv host and realtor-in-chief who thinks the kidney is in the heart. I’m sure there’s a lot of modern loving going on in his man cave, though.

So, New York. Hey there, buddy. All I can say is, I’m so glad you’re so modern and loving so good. But it’s time to get a little less provincial, wouldn’t you say?

Come on! Live dangerously! Make the next story be about a couple — any race, gender, or species — in Lusaka, or Cleveland! (Okay, look those up yourself, I’m not doing it for you this time!

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The Daily Path, by my friend Debjani Roysarkar-Gupta, a true hidden talent

These are the days of arid pauses and stricken silence. In these days, my talented girlhood friend Debjani — physician, painter, poet, mother, wife and voyager — has come forth with a truly meditative philosophical fable about where our place is, with or without CORONA. I wanted to share it with my readers and friends who are also, perhaps, struggling to find an aesthetic for mutation, muteness and mutability….without despair.

Photo by Nicolas Veithen on Pexels.com

THE DAILY PATH

A ticket for a round trip please.
Where to?
To a gentler caring world, at least for today.

The Conductor smiled at the naive request,
A word of caution…
Co passengers happy and sad , quiet and brash,
Would travel alongside part of your way.
Make room for them you must while looking after your space
As you travel the tracks till the end of the road .

Make your choice well where you alight for the day,
The desired and perceived may be at variance with the real.
The terrain can be slippery and rocky,
No green pastures promised.
The weather turbulent and stormy,
No mellow sunshine promised.
A helping hand with kind words would be good fortune,
When searching for ways amidst the swirling deafening crowd .

But step down you must to brave the elements,
And travel the daily path with the changing tracks.
With a reassuring thought…
It is a time bound round trip at the end of the day….
The good the bad the ugly, all have their predetermined entrances and exits .

So somewhere alongside the fury of the raging storm,
There lies comforting sunshine.
So somewhere alongside numbing despair
There lies hope, faith and belief .

Debjani Gupta

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My sauce is Dopest

Y’all. I’m so happy, but humbled. My short story written as an Ode — yes, like good old John Keats’ “to the [no duh oblivious] Nightingale,”

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and flashing the ludicras cool of blue-haired old lady mojo ‘I don’t give a ffffing ffff’ —

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just came out in OyeDrum, this dope literary magazine.

https://oyedrum.com/ode-to-the-younguns-whose-readings-i-attend/

Love you Amarantha and Oye Drum. And not just obsequiously.

Though isn’t all love just a little . . . .

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Eat Chillies, Destroy Everything

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Did I ever think a novel could be about eating chillies?

A futuristic novel?

A dystopic feminist novel? (Though at about that point the concept starts becoming more familiar, concrete: fiery, feminist foods and readings!)

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No I didn’t. Food literature is plentiful, but this is not that.

Read Johanna Sinisalo’s novel The Core of the Sun.

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In a breathtakingly paced and suspenseful narrative about sisters who love each other in a world where women are taught to commodify and despise themselves and each other and where men are either predators, oppressors or executioners, Vanna and Mina’s lives grow increasingly surreal in a Finland of the imagination where all pleasure and freedom are banned, identities are cloned, and a rebel subculture of fiery chillie-eaters is growing and spreading right under the radar of a near totally panoptical state. There is betrayal, horror, tragedy and redemption, but thisis not the real Finland, of course. In Finland, I am told, women’s rights are taken very seriously and protected fiercely.

Like the right to eat the hottest, most painful chillies as a substitute for other pleasures and flavors taken away from people in a cold, totalitarian, and feminicidal society.

How can the right to consume inordinately tissue-scarring hot chillies be tantamount to rebellion and freedom? Well, why not?

Occasionally the horticultural detail about growing things — and contraband chillies, especially — flags a bit. But Sinisalo’s achievement is in bringing back to life nature, communities, and human relationships as all intextricably interwoven in the pursuit of happiness through this unlikely and cheeky fable about a world where brain-damaging spice is the only antidote against desensitization and oblivion.

Who WINS, in the end? The state or the people? Men or women? The pursuers or the pursued? Read to find out. . . . .

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This thing that makes me happy

Love’s Garden in the time of Corona

These are tough times. We feel trapped. We feel alone. We miss the people we took for granted. We miss things we took for granted. We look back on our hopes and dreams. We wonder. We choose. We reflect.

And maybe we read.

Love’s Garden, is now available for pre-order from Aubade Publishing at

https://aubadepublishing.com/books/loves-garden

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Love’s Garden, or, the secret I kept for fifteen years

https://i.send2press.com/meog5

That’s right. It took me fifteen years to write about thirty versions of my debut novel Love’w Garden, until editors and readers thought I’d got it right. So, to begin with, writers take heart. The only thing you mustn’t do is stop writing. It will take the time it takes but patience is the sweetest sauce.

I want to share with my dear readers, family and friends, near and far the press release for Love’s Garden. Do browse, and think of eight very happy writers. You’ll see the cover of Love’s Garden on the top right.

PRESS RELEASE PERMALINK:

https://www.send2press.com/wire/aubade-publishing-achieves-publishing-goal-one-year-early-releases-eight-titles-in-2020/

“Love’s Garden” (ISBN: 978-1-951547-08-0), historical fiction by Nandini Bhattacharya (October 27, 2020)

The book is available for pre-order directly from the publisher’s website at: https://aubadepublishing.com.

OH BY THE WAY! If you have responses to the current cover design of Love’s Garden I’d LOVE to hear from you. The current image is not final, and if you would like to suggest changes I would be more than delighted. Thanks, all! You can comment directly at the link on this post.

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Who Fears Death? Not Nnedi Okorafor’s heroine!

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Nnedi Okorafor has stolen an irreducible march in the Best Title Ever contest. Who can beat “Who Fears Death” as a title? But more than that, much more, is that Okorafor has shown the way to write fantasy/dystopia that is more than ever a reminder that Truth is way, way stranger than Fiction. If the dystopic Africa of Who Fears Death seems to anyone to be just an imagined, overheated, disjointed, violent and unbalanced society (haha count those modifiers), try reading Emily Wax’s Washington Post article about Sudan and the weaponization of rape. From 2004 on, when we were sitting in our homes and decrying world apathy toward the Sudanese genocide, thousands and thousands of women suffered fates in Sudan equal to if not worse than EVERY scenario of rape and torture that Okorafor evokes in Who Fears Death — I would say creates but then, again, truth is stranger than fiction — in her unforgettable novel Who Fears Death. Onyesonwu, the eponymous protagonist, doesn’t fear death because who fears death after what life shows to be possible in the everyday?

Okorafor was impelled to write this novel after she read that article, but here’s not a case of art imitating life either. The overall effect of the writing transcends its supposed origin story because Okorafor foregrounds the realization that the fictional recounting of horrific gender violence on the scale of atrocities that are globally common enough to seem banal is terrifying at least to a large extent because representation demonstrates the impossibility of itself. Language fails before the scale of the violence and the atrocity so that the witness must shapeshift in order to make sense of a reality that is truly protean in its torments and terrors. The novel was long and at times too richly worked to not become confusing, but that was my failure as a reader. I expected linearity and accessibility in a world that is a minefield of mortal danger for women.

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Tommy Orange and his linked stories in There There

Tommy Orange is a truly talented and revolutionary writer. The concept behind There, There — borrowing and dismantling Gertrude Stein’s comment on Oakland, CA that “There was no there there” — overturns the entire episteme of western culture and consciousness. Yes, there is a there there, Gertrude Stein. You just couldn’t see it. Because your there is not their there.

 

pexels-photo-612949
Photo by Quintin Gellar on Pexels.com

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The Girl in the Road by Monica Byrne

Book Review


While admittedly — even undeniably — wicked clever and inventive, Monica Byrne’s dystopic novel lacks even a single shelf for a reader to store their emotions. While I understand that this is the condition and peculiarity of postmodernity, the constant shifts in perspective and the fungibility of characters for one another produce mostly a sense of pastiche and not critique (I’m assuming critique was part of authorial intention, if one might for a second be allowed to revive that moribund concept). With the dense semiotic of the elements of the novel being almost impossible to untangle, ultimately making it impossible to identify with anyone or anything, The Girl in the Road obviously a satisfying artifact of postmodernity but affectively draining and cognitively wearying for the reader. The world that Byrne has created is intensely brittle, manipulated, multidimensional and polymorphous, but less focus on the possibilities of pastiche and paranormality and a little more on the meaning and yield even of shifting positions and subjectivities in a compressed time-space would have made the novel more readable and enjoyable.



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Sally Rooney’s Normal People

Brava, Sally Rooney!

I’m taken by how actions are not acted out by the ends of sentences. And by how past and present co-exist easily within ten to fifteen words (though what does that mean for subjectivity anyway?). But there is also a quality of unabashed sentimentality, love-story-like elements. Probably to propel the plot forward? I’m expecting this wry, off-kilter statement about modern — or even ancient — love out of joint, and then the telling veers back into a “love story” timbre. At first the story oscillates between both lovers’ fears of unrequitedness, but later it crescendoes in a poignant parting spawned by the kind of time that is wasted in fears of being unloved and unlovable. A theme subtle and persistent at the same time. Which the narrative voice persistently dangles and withdraws. Just like life itself. I ask myself: what AM I reading? What is this genre? It is generically unfaithful, Sally Rooney’s Normal People. Just like love?

And then, about mid-point, everything seems to become about class. Not the class hasn’t been lurking behind the drop scene all along. I refer here to mid-book, around p. 128 in my edition. I mean, are we actually getting a sophisticated, more wistful version of the West Side Story or Romeo and Juliet here? Final confession: sometimes I felt I was reading a Bollywood romance script where the lovers keep missing each other — a prolonged and tragic When Harry met Sally also — which is not necessarily a bad thing. But maybe the indecisive Man Booker Prize judges should check out Salaam Namaste or practically any Hritik Roshan movie. Subtlety and multifacetedness seem to skirt these parts entirely, like when Connell Waldron thinks of how new girlfriend Helen makes him feel “better”; don’t we just know that this means he’s going to dump her, since untormented love is never script-worthy. Is it Friend Zone all over again, then? The details are tantalizing, ambiguous, and their sums sometimes so banal.

But all this said, the very wonderful things here are the objective correlative for emotions: ‘dry yellows and greens, the orange slant of a tiled roof, a window cut flat by the sun and flashing’ (p. 164), as the cinemascope of debilitating despair. And then an almost Chandleresque evocation of the bad smell of filthy lucre: “That’s money, the substance that makes the world real. There’s something so corrupt and sexy about it.” (166).

Indeed.

Check out my new author website for what else I’m reading and writing 

https://www.nandinibhattacharyawrites.com/

 

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How to live through tax season and tell of it

Taxes.

We’ve understood how it goes. Some of us report it. Some of us don’t. Some of us pay it. Some of us don’t.

How do you live through tax season and tell of it?

There’s only one way. Go vote out those who don’t pay their taxes despite occupying highest office in the USA.

Then return, and tell of it, smiling.

Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com
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How to write a science fiction novel and even get wonderfully published!

Hi people, I want to introduce you to my friend Scott Coon, whose excellent sci-fi/futuristic novel Lost Helix is going to be available for purchase on May 18, 2020.

Here’s the story:

Stuck on an asteroid mining facility, DJ dreams of writing music. His dad is a corporate hacker and his best friend Paul prepares to escape to become a settler in a planet-wide land rush, but neither interests DJ.

When his dad goes missing, DJ finds a file containing evidence of a secret war of industrial sabotage, a file encrypted by his dad using DJ’s song Lost Helix. Caught in a crossfire of lies, DJ must find his father and the mother he never knew.

When the mining company sends Agent Coreman after DJ and his guitar, DJ and Paul escape the facility and make a run for civilization. Will DJ discover the truth before Coreman catches him?

So do check out Lost Helix and support Scott and sci-fi writing! It’s available for pre-order on Amazon, Barnes &Noble, i-tunes and kobo! Write a review, if you like, on Goodreads.com.

Till next time….

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Review of Jeffery Colvin’s Africaville

Africaville by Jeffrey Colvin


Africaville is, to put it briefly, stunning. It took me some time to grasp the reasons for the diffuseness of the book’s events, characters, and topography. Frankly, names and places seemed to be jostling, crowding one another too closely, sending things out of focus.

After reading more, though, and noting the peripatetic lives of so many characters in the community — living or dead — I began to realize that the mode is the matter. The diffuseness of the telling gestures at the displacement and movements of the African diaspora, with corners and nooks of the world of Africaville and its residents left in gray shadows such as those an incomplete and un-sutured people’s history and memory create. How else does one talk about what happened to the African diaspora, and what continues to happen today in penitentiaries and purgatories in North America? Last but not least, the delineation of women characters in the book was outstanding, and Zera Platt was someone I got to know and like as if she were a foremother I hope I’ve had.



View all my reviews

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MODEL MINORITY

Frank Chin, playwright, said in 1974 something that might still apply today: “Whites love us because we’re not black.”

There’s only one way to confront the term “Model Minority” in the United States, generally applied to Asians, including South Asians. That way is to understand it as the intentional and painstaking act of ‘modeling’ a minority in the image of the majority. That, Chin was saying, was what some Asians do or feel they must: stay as far away from blacks and hispanics as possible because then the white majority won’t get “spooked” by them. By the way, since the 1940s the word “spook” which originally meant difficult to see, has been used derogatorily toward black people.

Honestly, this is sort of like the terrible, very bad race and color problem in William Blake’s 1789 poem “The Little Black Boy.” There, the African boy twists himself into quite a knot trying to tackle and somehow conciliate the violent mysteries of race and color. He says, poor boy, of his English counterpart:

I’ll shade him from the heat till he can bear, 

To lean in joy upon our father’s knee. 

And then I’ll stand and stroke his silver hair,

And be like him and he will then love me.

Yeah. Right on. BE LIKE HIM AND THEN HE WILL LOVE ME.

But how can this one little black boy reconcile the problems of inside and outside, black and white? It’s difficult, he admits.

My mother bore me in the southern wild,

And I am black, but O! my soul is white;

White as an angel is the English child: 

But I am black as if bereav’d of light

I’m black, I’m white. Now black, now white, now black outside, now white inside. It’s a maze. And a chiasmus. (And I’m fairly sure that Blake, one of the smartest men in history, meant us to feel a-mazed)

That’s what we’re still doing as “model minorities,” twisting ourselves inside and outside into shapes of the right color and phenotype so that we’re not mistaken as black or Hispanics. In 1923, in The United States vs. Bhagat Singh, Bhagat Singh Thind demanded naturalization from  the US Supreme Court because as an Indian man, he said, he was a “high-caste Aryan.’ Indians were Aryans, so almost white.

Listen, I once had a colleague comfort me during some form-filling bonanza — where of course I filled every demographic category as ‘other’ — that I was really Caucasian. Being Indo-Aryan. It was unfortunate the institution didn’t take that point of view, but she herself fully endorsed my racial superiority as racial distance from blacks or hispanics and proximity to the Caucasus. I think she meant well. Because she didn’t know what she meant meant. I didn’t want to be Caucasian, like her, so that she’d love me. I didn’t want to be liked by her because I wasn’t black. I wasn’t going to emerge from that form-filling room schizophrenic like Blake’s poor little black boy. Sorry Michael Jackson, it still do matter if you’re black or white.

For more on the ‘model minority’ see

Also, in my novel in the works, Homeland Blues, a good bit of this issue forms the core of the story. Wish me luck, folks.

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Reader, she married him…

“Reader, I married him.”

Sorry, no prizes for guessing, but that’s Jane Eyre in the novel of the same name published in 1847 by ‘Currer Bell,’ aka Charlotte Bronte, and one of the best-loved novels in English Literature.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

I can visualize Miss Bronte, the lonely parson’s daughter — few offers of marriage, almost none of work except as underpaid teacher or governess — gazing out over the bleak, frozen Yorkshire Moors out her frosted, weepy window

and exulting when her heroine says “Reader, I married him” in that Neverland where Plain Jane governesses marry handsome dark horse playboys and live happily ever after.

But who’s crying in the attic there?

Why, the handsome, dark horse playboy’s old wife, Bertha Mason, a Caribbean plantation heiress who’s White But Not Quite. And why’s she crying? Oh, because she’s mad and her husband Mr. Rochester has locked her up for life in the attic and left her there except when he goes in to beat her for being out of her mind.

Don’t get me wrong. I fell in love with Jane Eyre at eleven. Until almost a decade later I wanted to BE Jane. What ugly duckling doesn’t feel like Jane at eleven? Oh, it was good to know my sheer wondrous character and heart would earn me another Rochester without even trying. Simply because I was so scrumptiously small, plain but good. And not at all like that heavy-set, dusky-skinned Bertha whose money all went to Rochester when they married, and then he forced her to leave her native tropical island for cold, friendless England where she rebelled, broke down, and he had her lock up for her own good. He had to.

And a little bit his.

But then, about a decade later I realized that I, a woman of color from India, would only be allowed to play Bertha, never Jane, in any remake of Jane Eyre. And that once upon a time many women from my country were Berthas, until their Rochesters got tired of them and decided they needed to save their souls by mating with pure-hearted and spirited Englishwomen.



And then, to tell you the truth, I felt rather angry, and also saw that in COLONIALISM, A TRUE LOVE STORY, the Global South has always been Bertha and the Global North always Jane, and Rochester now flies First Class to find the foreign wife whose resources he WILL steal to decorate his new church, the United Evangelical Ministries of the Neoliberal World Order.

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In praise of regional cuisine

In my next novel in progress, Homeland Blues, there’s a lot about food. Specifically Indian food. Exile from it. Diaspora marriages and communities built on it. Craving for it. Craving for regional soul food. For the pungency of flavors that make you temporarily stop breathing as they exact your love. And about perhaps nativist disdain among South Asians for the popular Indian restaurant brand “curry” foods palatable to Americans, and I’d say especially Americans, who tend to be adamant about the sanctity and primacy of American tastes (sorry Ameri ca but you can be tyrannical even outside politics). One of my characters in Homeland Blues talsk about “the local Indian restaurant of the twelve dollar all-you-can-eat-buffet-of-universally-creamed-dishes variety.”

It’s important for us Indians to educate the world about our FOODS. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, there’s nothing called INDIAN FOOD. There’s this vast culinary continent called the FOODs of India. As a little tribute to my region, Bengal, here’s wishing you a happy Maachher Jhol (fish curry).

And then I find this.

Why It’s Hard to Open Indian Restaurants in America

https://www.thejuggernaut.com/article?id=5DCllPXXS7elXpNDsrYjH9&s=ck561f9bc002s0797gtz0my9s

Priya Krishna writes this awesome piece in Juggernaut, a South Asia focused newsletter about politics, culture and food that you should try out, maybe, for a TASTE of South Asia-related journalism

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Blue Yonder

 

Don’t know why but I’ve been writing and editing pieces of work and my head has suddenly filled with an image poem. Something I saw. Something I loved. Something I took a photograph so I can go back there any time.

Vancouver, Coal Harbor, on a crystalline January evening.

And wanting to share my joy in that image I created a dress and a skirt on redbubble from my memories. Holler if you like them!

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Where’s My Coffee???

I mostly write, but sometimes I make other things because making things is joyful!

My kitty, it turns out, makes a great cushion!

My kitty looked up at me this morning and said, “Isn’t coffee wonderful?” I had to agree. And then make her this cushion.

You can find it at redbubble.com https://www.redbubble.com/people/gayatris2/works/43682933-wheres-my-coffee?p=throw-pillow&asc=u&fbclid=IwAR2xV31hhBZbr-_t2htJBOq5X8SfPH5ES_suOQW1CBhiZGaPNu0vYZJ3W4Q

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The Bad News

The Very Bad News….

That the land of my birth is now a killing field where death’s ambassadors clad in colors of light scavenge every night for the remains of democracy, law and order, truth and justice,

because of the BJP, the Modi dictatorship, the RSS, and Hindutva zombies.

That all over this beautiful suffering world, the miasma of evil is spreading in the form of leadership that seems to be from an empire of evil. That Palpatine in The Rise of Skywalker has NOTHING, absolutely nothing, on what Modi, Trump and his ilk are doing to our beautiful world and its people.

That India has a new law that “amends” citizenship unconstitutionally to exclude, target and eliminate Muslims. That America builds a wall against the hands and muscles that have built it, always, without exception, for five hundred years now.

No, it wasn’t the Pilgrim Fathers, guess again.

That women are burned and impaled in India for presuming the right to exist.

This is all very bad news.

I end with an anonymous poet’s marvelous song against injustice that you should hear even if you don’t understand Hindi/Urdu. Friends, give him your ears….

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The Good News

“We are back to saying plastic bags are okay, until we find other ways to get rid of them….” Dr. Tazim Jamal

No, that’s not the good news. The good news is that my dear, dear friend Tazim Jamal, or Dr. Tazim Jamal, Professor of the Department of Recreation, Parks and Tourism Sciences at Texas A&M University in College Station, TX, deep in the heart of Bush country, sounds the call to battle against environmental arsonists wherever she goes, as below.

Think of that Starbucks latte you bought and felt so zen. undefined

Or that tall, thick plastic cup of ice-cold beverage you just got at the fast-food window, with that bright, warm smile from someone working there for $10/hour and no benefits.

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Or those luscious, bendy straws for your Daiquiri. Or that organic meal or soup that makes you feel so wholesome, so right, except you can’t recycle the container. Or your favorite restaurant’s take-out containers that go straight into the garbage, time after time. And so much, much more. You consume and the planet takes it in the gut.

Please consider the impact of your everyday pleasures and journeys, Dr. Jamal says. After all, a coffee, a coke, a meal or a daiquiri will last for a one-time thrill, but the planet’s gotta last a bit longer than that, no?

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From my novel Love’s Garden, forthcoming September 2020!

Dear Future Readers, I can’t wait to share the whole novel with you, but here’s a tidbit

Chapter 3:

Love is an enigma, but marriage is serious business. Girls can only leave home when they marry. This is well known. Any girl or young woman who does otherwise is, of course, ruined.

Before marriage girls have to wait somewhere between bliss and hell. All girls. Prem and the raggedy girl who once loved her included.

There hadn’t been many cozy spots for Prem between hell and bliss in the village in 1914, in the days before all the marrying started, except in the love and the loving of that raggedy girl. This girl’s name was Kanan. Prem and Kanan would meet and day-dream as often as possible by the placid, stagnant pond behind Manohar Mishra’s farmhouse. Though this was a community pond, it only came alive at mid-day for about two hours when women came to wash and bathe. The last bathers left only an echo in the air and a ripple at water’s edge. The rest of the time the pond was quiet, shaded by the spreading and interweaving branches of banyan, mango and saal trees.

One afternoon — all bathing and washing ended for the day — Prem and Kanan set their heist of stolen fruit on the pond’s crumbly edge. Beetles and ants hurried away in frenzy. No one would see, so the girls loosened their saris around the waist, to ease the bruising from the petticoat cord, and hitched up the hems. The saris, which they had to wear tucked into petticoats tied tightly at the waist and covering the legs entirely, made them sweat and itch. Boys could just run around and shimmy up trees anywhere, anytime, clothed or bare-bodied.

They didn’t really know any boys. Something called a Great War, they heard, was taking some village boys to faraway places, but generally boys were as much a part of their daily lives as enchanted forests and flying horses. Aimlessly, they rooted up tufts of grass. They soaked their feet, shivering and squealing lightly with pleasure as inch by inch they lowered them into the chill water. The water was like cool, green limeade. Their pale feet unhitched from them under water. Prem fiercely bit into a whole mango — they never let her do that at home — and juice streamed down her face, chin, neck. It was bliss, that lawless afternoon, Kanan with her, by the pond.

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Oolala! in swedish!

https://www.annvoyage.com/products/stockholm-lips-earrings?_pos=1&_sid=94cf48967&_ss=r&ref=xjuahikekwh

Like something else? Use NANDINIBHATTACH for a sweet little discount. Click on

https://www.annvoyage.com/discount/NANDINIBHATTACH

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Ghost forests on ghost planet?

The trees, says Kirwan, tell a story.

https://time.com/5694648/ghost-forests-climate-change/?utm_source=pocket-newtab

They will come to us one day, our descendants, and ask WHY. And thir lips will move but their voices will be whispers of agony and disbelief. WHY did you take away our planet before you left, mother, father, grandmother, grandfather?

What will we say?

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And these Granada earrings from annvoyageshop! Can’t you just see Europe and Africa mingling!

Granada Earrings

https://www.annvoyage.com/collections/new-arrivals/products/granada-flower-earrings?ref=xjuahikekwh

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Century of the Young

“You must do the Impossible.” Greta Thunberg.

https://www.sfgate.com/news/science/article/Q-A-Climate-activist-Greta-Thunberg-on-global-14456831.php

This will be the century of the young. It has to be. Otherwise we are all toast. Literally.

The stars are watching us.

I don’t usually get so anthropocentric. But hey man, if claiming “essential” humanity saves us, sign me up for essentialism.

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Climate Strike Day!!

A garden of love in New York City today!

Greta Thunberg, the Lady Godiva of Climate activism

https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/watch-live-greta-thunberg-leads-the-nyc-climate-change-protest

Yesterday I announced that my novel #Love’s #Garden will be out in September 2020. Thanks to all the wonderful people who wrote back and expressed interest and enthusiasm. But I’m SO SO SO humbled today. Because love’s garden is already blooming. In #New York City. In my small town. #Climate Strikers are the lovers and gardeners of our planet. Treat them as heroes, bring them water, flowers and love.

Love your #garden, this #planet called #Earth.

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Jonathan Franzen — alarmist or prophet?

Scary smart?

“Making New York City a green utopia will not avail if Texans keep pumping oil and driving pickup trucks.”

Jonathan Franzen, The New Yorker

I just read Jonathan Franzen’s fascinating essay on climate change in the New Yorker. For the first time, I’m actually scared. Franzen argues compellingly and mercilessly that climate change is INEVITABLE and what we need to do is not pretend we can avert it, but only prepare for it.

Read this now

https://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/what-if-we-stopped-pretending?source=EDT_NYR_EDIT_NEWSLETTER_0_imagenewsletter_Daily_ZZ&utm_campaign=aud-dev&utm_source=nl&utm_brand=tny&utm_mailing=TNY_Daily_090819&utm_medium=email&bxid=5d4d7d14639ec8690b14704d&cndid=&esrc=&mbid=&utm_term=TNY_Daily

I think Franzen is both clever and cautious. Clever in his tone and cautious in his pessimism. Of course this is a perspective that we should at least entertain. As to the line of good hope, are we there yet, or did we already pass it? Climate is changing, and because so many polluting countries have NO INTENTION of stopping emissions, we need to be pragmatic. Sure; but have we already failed? is there no hope of turning back the hands of the clock?

I’m not sure. I think we need to think about the issue harder. Maybe preparation, and diverting resources to that can be the first step, and then we can roll up our sleeves again and get down tot he business of preventing further catastrophic change.

What do you think?

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#Toys for Big Boys

There is only one way I can see the refusal to regulate gun sales in America.
You see, guns are toys. For Big Boys.
Now, really would you take toys away from babies?

They might cry!!! They might go to the NRA and say, “Daddy, Daddy, someone took my gun away!”

#Toys #Boys #Guns

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United States or United Hates of #America?

Dear America, I have loved you so long. So much. Loved, you see, not Hated.

America

But now I am beginning to wonder. Are you the United States of America or the United Hates of America? Because not a day goes by that a fellow American somewhere doesn’t hate someone, kill someone, harm someone, abuse someone, and everything else hate does.

Hate

Dear America, are we doomed to be this way? Or does that famed, amazing American spirit still have wind beneath its wings to soar above such horror and such ignorance?

History

I really want to know. I really need to know.

#UnitedStatesofAmerica #Hate #

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#journey

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Grieving

Today I’m having to look at grieving again. It’s my mother’s birthday and one other thing. How do we know when to let go and when to hold on? I talk to my #mother inside my head sometimes. But I can’t hear what she’s saying so I have to make it up.

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EXTRA! EXTRA!

“I’m a little angry about someone having all that weaponry and all that firepower, but we’ll get to that another day.” PHILDELPHIA MAYOR JIM KENNY after shootout in city last night, August 14th.

Oh wow! The mayor of Philadelphia was ‘a little angry’ that the gunman had all that firepower. So he’ll get to that another time. Fair enough, no?

https://www.yahoo.com/news/philadelphia-gunman-custody-hourslong-standoff-041418782.html

And what did The Dude say? ‘the gunman “should never have been allowed to be on the streets.” Yeah, because guns don’t kill people, people kill people right? And especially those ‘bad hombres,’ Mexicans and South Americans and all people of color from ‘shithole’ countries.

And in other news, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar were banned from entry by Israel. Who knows, maybe Israel thinks they are ‘bad hombres’?

SO many bad hombres out there, but are they the ones you think they are?

Would love to know, people.

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Right not to be shot fatally in public

Give Life a Chance?

The other day a well-meaning person told me not to go to #Walmart.

It was a day after another mindless, ghastly shooting in #ElPaso.

Here’s where I would say we can’t go.

We can’t go to schools.

We can’t go to colleges.

We can’t go to church or mosque or temple or synagogue.

We can’t go to airports.

We can’t go to bus stations.

We can’t go to grocery stores.

We can’t go to government offices.

In truth, we can’t go anywhere. We might get shot anywhere we go. Because the #NRA will not let #guncontrol happen.

Which brings us to the #FirstAmendment: #Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

So because of the #Second Amendment we no longer have our #First Amendment Rights.

Make Sense?