A charity anthology in aid of The Brain Tumour Charity
It’s Pub Day!
Candy Capers officially releases today. A charity anthology by Raven & Drake Publishing, UK, the initiative was conceived by the publisher whose 27-year old cousin has been diagnosed with grade IV brain cancer (Glioblastomas).
In an endearing foreword by Natalie Paul herself, the food science graduate tells us about her passion for baking and cakes, and the irony of having to steer clear of sugar in her current condition. Determined to not be beaten, she sought to develop sugar-free alternatives to explore the sweetness in life. As a sweet treat offering, writers, poets and illustrators from around the world come together to support people battling life-threatening conditions in a COVID world. In a 450-page tome, contributors take readers on sweet-filled journeys, all in aid of The Brain Tumour Charity.
“Who can take a sunrise,
Sprinkle it with dew,
Cover it in chocolate and a miracle or two?”
– Sammy Davis Jr.
Get ready to delve into candy-filled worlds full of lollipop trees and chocolate rivers. Marshmallow marshlands and jellybean paved roads. Bubblegum trees and gingerbread houses. Prepare to battle peppermint witches, cotton candy monsters, and sugar-fuelled squirrels. A collection of enticing titles, stories, poems and illustrations.
These sugary sweet candy adventures feature my poetry and artwork. It has been an honor to have my work selected for this cause, along with some wonderful artists and authors. The stories are family friendly and can be enjoyed by children and adults alike. Candy Capers is available as paperback and e-book, and can be ordered on Amazon from anywhere in the world. All proceeds of book sales will be directed to the Brain Tumor Charity.
Last year I had read a book titled Dancing in the Family – an intergenerational memoir by Sukanya Rahman, about her mother and grandmother and the presence of dance in their lives. While seemingly a book on dance, the story was actually about three generations of women and the things that bound them together and those which drew them apart, showcasing three strong individuals in a story as one.
When I first heard about Tribhanga – written and directed by Renuka Shahane – what struck me was its title, sourced from an Odissi dance posture of the same name. Being a trained Odissi dancer myself, I was piqued about this movie that wasn’t about dance but resonated through its name. The tagline stated it was a story of three generations of women, and I was immediately reminded of Dancing in the Family – dance a character in itself, but a story with so much more to offer.
Tribhanga is a family drama about the choices we make and how they influence not just individuals but families at large. The movie begins with Nayantara Apte (Tanvi Azmi) in conversation with a writer who is recording her in order to pen her thoughts and words into an autobiography, when she collapses from a brain stroke and falls comatose. Nayan has been a much celebrated novelist in her own right, having won several literary accolades over the years, but with no familial ties. This brings us to Anuradha Apte (Kajol), Nayan’s estranged daughter who refers to her mother by name because that’s just what she is to her, not a mum at all. The trio is completed by Masha Mehta (Mithila Palkar), Anu’s daughter who’s currently at her mother’s place due to her ongoing pregnancy. The entire movie is narrated through Nayan’s coma, in the form of past recordings from the writer Milan, and surfacing memories from Nayan’s daughter and granddaughter.
As described by Anu, the three women can be represented by Odissi postures – Abhanga (Nayan, for her dual personality of being revered by some and abhorred by others), Tribhanga (Anu, for her self-proclaimed craziness and overwhelming personality), and Samabhanga (Masha, for her calm and composed disposition) – a wonderful metaphor of the many interpretations of classical dance, from stoicism and rigidity to playfulness and fluidity, dance movements conveying the emotions and feelings of a dancer in myriad ways that go beyond steps and set choreographies. Tribhanaga in Odissi refers to three bends of the body, and the movie Tribhanga represents these bends as characteristics and traits that run through a family – every individual bringing their own constitution to create the larger canvas of “family”, just as parts of the body work and move differently but still sync together in their individuality to construct the larger piece called “dance”. Jigsaw puzzle pieces being solid forms on their own, but forming a larger, clearer picture when the brokenness comes together.
All the classical dances of India are known for their depiction of the nine rasa (sentiments and emotions), and Tribhanga runs through the gamut of shringar (love), veera (valor), karuna (sadness), hasya (humor), raudra (anger), bhayanak (fear), bibhatsa (disgust), adbhuta (surprise), and shanta (peace). From Anu and Robindo’s unshakeable bond as siblings banding together in a broken family, Anu standing up to an abusive husband to keep her daughter safe, the revelation about why Nayan is not writing her own autobiography and resorting to another writer to do so for her, Anu’s constant jibes at the writer Milan for revering the mother who doesn’t deserve to be called so, Robindo “mistakenly” referring to Nayan as “aai” (mother) which draws the ire of his sister, Masha’s childhood fears of isolation and rejection on being raised by a single mother carried into adulthood and her need to belong, Nayan finding out that her husband was abusing her daughter, Anu’s reaction on discovering her daughter underwent a gender determination test hoping for a boy in spite of being brought up by a single mother, and all three women coming to terms with past grudges they have carried to the present, silence festering relationships that could have been salvaged a long time ago.
Director-writer Renuka Shahane literally takes us through dance jargon without making it obvious, and like a dance recital flowing from mangalacharan to pallavi, abhinaya and moksha, the mudras and chalis being phenomenal performances by all the leading actresses in an all-round wonderfully created and presented movie.
Of particular interest in Tribhanga was Kajol’s potrayal of an Odissi dancer, and Renuka’s handling of the character. The connection between the title of the movie and its lead actress’s character was an innovative touch, considering Odissi as a dance form in mainstream films has not been explored much. At the same time, understanding that Kajol is an actress and not a trained dancer herself, the Odissi bits have been relegated to photographs of shows and pre-recital scenes of Anu in costume. I loved Renuka’s respect for the traditional arts by bringing one into the limelight, without creating a caricaturish performance by showing the actress actually dancing a style she has not devoted her life to learning. Huge respect to the director for her deference to classical dancers who spend years studying a dance that’s part of their lifestyle.
Tribhanga released on Netflix earlier this year, and is a treat to watch for both dancers and non-dancers alike. All images are courtesy Netflix.
PS: This article also features on Classical Claps – a magazine on Indian Classical Arts, which publishes pieces written by musicians and dancers themselves.
An analysis of a book features on this page after a long time. I have moved all writings related to literature, books, reading, author stories to my other website Tomes and Tales, to avoid flooding this site with all my bookish quirks. Thought I’d begin the new year’s write-ups with this magnificent book that’s one of its kind.
Title – Speculate
Authors – Eugen Bacon and Dominique Hecq
Genre – Speculative fiction, micro lit
I had read and loved Eugen Bacon’s ‘The Road to Woop Woop‘ last year. Her works can be described as genre defying or genre defining – whichever way you choose to look at it – crossing the fringes that encapsulate books into clear cut genres. The fact that ‘Speculate‘ is also from Meerkat Press – a publishing house that comes out with some very different but very good literature – piqued my interest in this book that Bacon co-authors with Hecq. On learning both writers are PhDs, I knew the book would offer a reading experience like no other, and I wasn’t disappointed.
‘Speculate‘ can be described as a collection of stories, essays, thoughts, opinions, rants or ramblings, prose and poetry, flash fiction and speculative narratives – a hybrid genre that has everything and nothing, a compilation of shapeshifters. You think you’re following the sequence of events and entering into the writer’s mind, but then the script gets flipped leaving you to wonder what happened – wanting more of what you just read, and at the same time pressing on with the writer duo to see what else is there to come.
The book at its core is a conversation between the pair. Divided into two parts, the first segment begins with Bacon’s writings while Hecq responds, and the roles get reversed in the second section with Hecq leading and Bacon following her cues. This interplay within the narrative is something I haven’t seen or read before, and I loved the ingenuity of the writing. One author’s text echoes a response from the other, which stirs an element in the first writer, that in turn diverges into the thoughts of the second, and so on. The conversational tone moves beyond the actual reading, and is resonant with life in general – the people we agree with, the ones whose views differ from our own, similar thoughts represented in differing words and actions, varied viewpoints causing the same result. Every chapter is conflicted with the writing styles of its authors – they might interpret the story in the exact same way, or proffer starkly different versions of the same events. And that’s the beauty of Speculate, reading one book by two writers and understanding both the similarities and differences.
A donut that doesn’t want to be eaten, a wedding, bookworm conundrums, author recommendations, relationships, beatitudes, a window’s observations, nature, science fiction – anything and everything goes in this volleyball of words in a playground of language. Having read another book by Bacon just a few weeks ago, I was assured of a spectacular read from her. It was Hecq who stunned me – the fact that Bacon could find another writer just like herself, in the sense of being so different and a magician with language. Here are some striking quotes, the likes of which fill up the book.
~Lies we tell until we hear gods laughing so hard the universe splits its sides and music falls from the stars.
~The pen moist in your fingers anticipates a pure taste of text.
~Unfinished poems cartwheel in the stars on a windless night.
~We learn the taste of blood and tears in the womb.
~It’s raining ropes. I could go up or down.
~I study the keyboard for a space between sleepers and their dreams.
~I’m glad you opted for a visor instead of a veil.
~I take a deep breath. A giant leap. I land on the moon and bump into Neil Armstrong.
~I don’t believe it. Truth came to stay when I was away.
~They sat in emphatic silence, navigating chopsticks, nibbles, tweets and texts, as they connected with the rest of the world but them.
~Together is something physical that remains an abstract.
~Blessed are they with an endless fascination for fresh turmeric, for they shall receive a floral fragrance that stains yellow.
A book that needs to be savored and absorbed, ‘Speculate’ is art in itself and embodies the magic that can be conjured up with language. A short read that feels much longer than it is because you pause and ponder and re-read and highlight the majesty of writing before you. An interesting an varied collection, a gem for readers looking to expand their reading choices.
“Food inspired by books” is an ongoing initiative of trying out dishes and experimenting with cuisine referenced in literature. The recipes might be shared by the authors themselves, it might be food that occupies a prominent role in the narrative, or an item mentioned offhandedly in relation to a specific character. There’s an unparalleled joy in experiencing books beyond reading. It’s fun exploring places and meeting people through books, and food is such a powerful part of culture.
The book in focus this week was “Stierhunger” by Linda Stift – originally a German book, with an English translation from Peirene Press available as “The Empress and the Cake“. The crux of the story is about a young woman invited by an elderly lady to share a piece of cake , as the Gugelhupf is too large to consume by oneself. Accepting a simple gesture unravels a nightmare for the protagonist, who is battling her own demons as well as the ones presented by her newfound “friend”.
Having heard of Gugelhupf for the first time through the story, I looked it up and decided to give it a try. Native to Austria, the cake is known by various names in different parts of the world – Kugelhupf in Germany, Kuglof in Hungarian, Guguluf in Romanian, Kouglof in France, Babovka in Czech, and Babka in Polish; closely related to the Pandoro in Italy and the American Bundt cake. The yeast-raisin cake is traditionally baked in a circular Bundt mold. Claims of the origin of the cake date back to Roman times, and even the Three Wise Men. It was popularized by Emperor Franz Josef in Austria and Marie Antoinette in France. Gugelhupf comes from the words “gugel” (a long, pointed hood or bonnet) and “hupf” (to hop or jump). The Grimm Brothers described the hupf as a “jumping of the dough” caused by the yeast.
While the cake is primarily a yeast dough, additional ingredients vary depending on where it is made. I used raisins, almonds and orange rind peels, but it can also contain brandy or poppy seeds, or have nothing at all and just be a plain marble cake with its characteristic angled, ridged pattern.
The recipe, for anyone interested to give it a go:
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 tablespoons warm water
1 cup whole milk
7 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups golden raisins
1 teaspoon grated orange zest (Lemon rind can be used as well)
20 whole blanched almonds
1 tablespoon confectioners sugar
~Stir the yeast and water and let them stand together for ten minutes, till the mixture gets foamy.
~Heat milk with sugar and 6 tablespoons of the butter on low heat, till the butter melts and the sugar dissolves.
~Sift the flour and salt, add in the yeast mixture and warm milk mixture, followed by the eggs, raisins and zest, all the while beating continuously till the dough turns smooth and elastic. The consistency will be very sticky.
~Line a bundt mold with the remaining 1 tabespoon of butter. Put in almonds at the bottom in any decorative pattern, and place the dough over it, pressed into an even shape. Cover the mold with an oiled plastic wrap and a cloth napkin, and leave in a warm place for two hours for the dough to rise.
~After pre-heating the oven, remove the towel and peel off the plastic layer. Bake for fifteen minutes. Loosely cover the mold with foil (so that the cake doesn’t rise uncontrollably), and continue to bake for another twenty minutes. A needle poked in the center should come out clean and the surface should be golden. After cooling, invert the cake onto a rack or plate. Let it cool and then dust with confectioner’s sugar. (It’s important that it cools completely, or the dusted sugar will just melt on the surface.)
A fun recipe to try out in the Christmas season – there’s nothing like the warm aromas of freshly baked bread. The Gugelhupf can be enjoyed over breakfast, brunch, or a tea-time snack like I did, depending on how it is made. My version wasn’t very sweet, as the sweetness of the raisins was balanced by the tanginess of the orange.
Some time ago I had an interview with Reese Witherspoon’s production company, “Hello Sunshine” , that works towards adapting books into movies and series, in keeping with their motto of giving life to women’s stories. The multi media initiative aims at bringing attention to women writers and books with female protagonists, with female actors and directors helming these stories on screen. Reese also aims at connecting readers and writers, bringing into the limelight books by well known as well as upcoming authors, and helping bibliophiles discuss their favorite books far and wide through her book club that focuses on tales about and by women, with strong female characters.
As one of the few readers from around the world selected for a thirty-minute one-on-one video call, I had spoken at length about my life with books and love for reading with the research teams at Hello Sunshine and Reese’s Book Club, who were looking to ascertain reading habits and book experiences among select readers. I had to share my journey with books through the years, how I select books, genres and languages read, experience with translated literature, author interactions and reading experiences that go beyond the book – cooking/baking/craft/artwork based on books. It was a delight to be able to talk about books read in the past, current reads, the TBR shelf, and also recommend books and authors I would want people to know about.
As a “Thank You note” for the interview, a hamper arrived this morning. It’s always a pleasure to talk about books and reading, and the present was such a surprise. The tote bag from Hello Sunshine, the buttons, pins, coffee mug, bookmark from Reese’s Book Club, and of course, her November book pick – Group by Christie Tate, along with scented book-themed wrapping paper and a personalized card. How lovely it has all been! With a birthday coinciding with Children’s Day and Diwali, this gesture brought light to my day, making me feel like a child with all these goodies. Gratitude for the warmth and kindness extended across the globe.
It’s always a delight when the reading experience goes beyond finishing a book. I had the pleasure of hearing the story behind the story by Peace Adzo Medie, talking about her book, ‘His Only Wife‘. The name of the author and the vibrant cover caught my attention when I first came across this novel. On checking the synopsis, I was led into a world of arranged marriages, which made for an interesting read in the cultural context – the story being set in Ghana, with a seamstress protagonist.
Medie’s unassuming but illuminating writing was one of the few goosebump-inducing books I’ve read in a while. The language is simple – like someone telling you a story instead of a literary read. The premise is as vibrant as the cover – fashion and food of Ghana for a complete cultural experience. Such brilliance in the descriptions of clothes and cuisine, you can almost picture yourself wearing a stunning bead and lace creation of Afi’s, or relishing traditional stews. A peculiar theme that could have swung the narrative from either quirky and breezy to seriously heavy reading, but Medie finds that right spot of perfection in absolutely everything for a novel – cover, characters, themes, reader resonance, language.
The fact that the writer has a PhD and is a university professor of gender rights and international politics, wrote the novel on weekends while managing academia work, and can still narrate socially relevant issues with simplicity and subtle humor, leaves you in awe of having the pleasure to not only read this book, but interact and discuss it with the author herself. It was interesting to hear about Medie’s decision to write this novel – her debut work of fiction; she is already a published writer of non-fiction and academia. Her descriptions of choosing a setting, creating everyday characters in a cultural context, highlighting food and fashion as a cultural accompaniment to reading, her take on patriarchy and feminism and how they flow into the narrative, her distinctive style of blending humor with serious topics, the books she is currently reading as well as the books she would recommend readers to pick up, made this an insightful extension of reading the story.
“We are all going to be one with the earth someday.
You can either choose to be eased into a six feet deep hole,
or be a meteor – Burn bright in the skies, and form your own crater.”
The unique title of this collection and the elegance of its cover caught my attention. I was looking for some poetry to intersperse between all the prose, and “Obolus” stood out for its rave reviews. Varghese defines his writing as a refined version of abnormal musings on death, dreams, existence, life and myriad topics that he writes on, opting for poetry as a more cryptic form of writing to save his journal entries from prying eyes.
Obol was a form of ancient Greek currency, while Obolus is a modern Greek unit of weight equivalent to one tenth of a gram. I interpreted this collection as a series of seemingly simple musings – light in weight like the obolus, but filled with insight that leaves you pondering upon each poem after you read it. As a reader, I look for books that are different, showcasing the writer’s prowess in expressing art through the written word. Varghese’s poetry serves as a summary of his experiences as well as metaphors for life, taking you through a divine journey of birth, death, love, envy, religion; a wide range of circumstances and emotions, thoughts and feelings, while striking a chord that resonates with the reader – as if a poem has been dedicated to you, or written about you, or your own thoughts find themselves in front of you. The poems are short but beautifully written, his command over the language on full display through witty word play and even one-line poems. The themes are random, with varying lengths and styles, differing viewpoints, intimate as well as imagined, somehow bringing coherence to this poetic universe despite the lack of relation between each poem.
As a book, Obolus is a quick read, but it’s the writer’s skill in his craft that makes you linger on his writing, even revisiting his words after finishing the book. In the author’s note, Varghese mentions music and metaphors as things he holds dear, which is very apparent in his lyrical poetry – prose, poetry and music woven together, like reading a song or watching a painting with its plethora of colors. Some of my favorites are Paracosm, Vesper, Moon’s Grief, Wasteland, The Only Ally, Poker Face, The Sheep Goes Baa, Skirmish, Enemy. I am sharing a few quotes here, but the collection is filled with beautiful lines. Read this if you like poetry as a genre, or if you’re looking to be enticed with words in a simple but engrossing read.
~To live with the innocence of one’s first breath, and the desperation of one’s last.
~Look at yourself… You are a mirrorful of miracles.
~Heaven and hell are two places in your mind. Two worlds cease to be two… In You, they unite.
~You hide behind a colossal wall of words, yet confront me with silence.
~The only thread of truth in the fabric of lies.
~I escaped without knowing how it ended – the battle between me and myself.
~I saw a face in the mirror… Hold on, which one was I again?
This is Jax. He’s one among a pair of kittens we had taken in two years ago, who were abandoned soon after birth. They were completely hand-reared. While the sibling sadly did not make it, our little survivor turned two last Friday. Jax has made himself at home, adapting in his own feline way. Having been brought up by humans has made him one of a kind, displaying un-catlike behavior of playing with water, enjoying the rains, befriending crows, babysitting the young of all species – including plant saplings and kittens of other cats. But he’s as curious as cats can be – moving around the bookshelves, inspecting new workout equipment, and royally ignoring us when he chooses to. Whether early morning runs or late night reading, nocturnal pets are the best buddies. We’re so proud of our little fellow for pulling through and making it this far.
“Several times, I’ve woken before sunrise, convinced that something has changed in the middle of the night. As though some god has reached down, and, with a colossal finger, nudged the earth, and now everything is sitting two degrees off-kilter. I scan above for the subtle movement of the clouds, to assure myself that the sky is not a two-dimensional poster glued onto a false backdrop.”
These words could not have rung truer than in the present scenario, with everything seeming to go wrong this year. Tales of Unquiet Women is a befitting subtitle for this collection of short stories, written by women from Southeast Asian backgrounds. I came across this book on a horror literature forum, and was pleasantly surprised to see that the writings cover a plethora of genres – including science fiction, fantasy, humor, mythology, folklore and legend, subtly merging with horror rather than an out-an-out spook fest. The team of contributors come from Japan, China, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, and even Asian immigrants to the US and New Zealand, as an embrace as well as rejection of traditional concepts related to femininity and what it means to be a woman – in times gone by, present day, and in years to come. The collection features fourteen stories – including contributions by the editors themselves and a wonderful foreword from Alma Katsu – all different from each other, but similar in their women characters striving to make a place for themselves in their worlds. From spirit foxes taking human form, and ghost babies created from unfulfilled dreams and ambitions, to military women fighting for their place in a male-dominated post-apocalyptic world, and individuals cloned to fabricate the perfect person. There is humor in a spirit expressing discomfort in a human body due to the constrictive lotus feet, and a woman believing her husband is an alien due to an emotional distance after years of marriage; satire in the obsession over fair skin, blond hair and blue eyes, and the “perfect” attributes of grace, obedience and not speaking ones mind; the frustration of being perfect, but not perfect enough; horrors of betrayal, the warmth of a monster protecting a child, and peculiar tales featuring shelter animals, and monsters and motherhood. The genres and themes cover such a wide range, there is something here for everyone.
The writing is sheer brilliance – quite commendable in an anthology where authors of equal credibility need to be sourced. I’m sharing some of my favorite quotes from the book, without revealing the specific writer or story. Note how wonderful they are in their own way.
~In the abandon of your fury, you had cut yourself on its spiteful blade.
~You stormed from room to room, spewing your hurt and your hate, so it dribbled down the wallpaper and seeped through the cracks in the floorboards.
~Alongside a dragon, a butterfly flutters.
~You stitched a life from scraps left in the laundry.
~Some things you knew already. Some things you knew before you were born; they were revealed to you in the rhythm of your mother’s heartbeat and in the echoes of her sighs.
~Memory is an ocean wave: once it has attained enough momentum, it can’t be stopped. It must rise, swell, peak, crash, and be endured.
~A double-punch to the gut – the first blow rendering me immobile for the second, the second intensifying the first. The ripping of a half-dried scab to expose a festering wound.
~Family matter. I’ve heard that excuse many times. Abuse wrapped up in a pretty little bow so no one admits it happens.
~Her eyes were patchwork – flecks of blue and black pooled into warring factions that expressed the conflict inside the girl.
~You live in a monster’s empire. You’re only upset because you’re not the biggest monster anymore.
~She speaks in a language I don’t recognize, but somehow an understanding sinks into my skin. She speaks of buried dreams, and choked-back words, and old fury knotted into a lump as cold and dense as a black dwarf star.
~Women can be scientists, warriors, princesses, soldiers, caretakers, spirits. We can be many things. The only thing we can’t be is defeated.
A powerful anthology that serves as a reflection of Asian societies – the role of societal expectations, familial obligations, the oppressiveness, submissiveness, and the need for self identity. The element of horror so smoothly weaves itself into the warp and weft of the lyrical and haunting prose, you don’t realize what you’re getting at until you get there. I wish I could review each story individually. I can’t pick a favorite from the lot because they are all so good. The title lends its own significance to the stories within – cranes being associated with grace and fragility, versus the darkness within that finds its way out when suppressed for too long. And that gorgeous cover – a pop of color in the black and grey; a metaphor for beating the darkness and bursting forth with our true selves. This is dark, reflective fiction at its best.
A summary of books read in August – a mix of historical fiction, science fiction, horror, memoir, short stories, literature in translation, and non-fiction.
~Orphaned by S.L. Bhyrappa – A Kannada-English translation of a book originally written in the 1960s, with its English version only having come out last year. Set around an old Kannada folk song about a cow and a tiger, the story narrates the significance of the cow in Indian culture through old world traditions versus modern lifestyles, morals and values, ethics and science, cross cultural and cross generational beliefs and conflicts. A thought-provoking book that has no right or wrong, but requires the reader to reflect and bring ones own meaning and interpretation to the forefront. A powerful story that hasn’t lost its relevance over time, brilliantly translated in spite of its heavy blend of Sanskrit within Kannada. 5/5
~Dancing in the Family by Sukanya Rahman – An inter-generational memoir that showcases the changing backdrop of Indian classical dance through history. The author takes us along on a journey with her grandmother, mother and herself – all eminent dancers in their chosen styles. Bharatnatyam, Odissi, Kathakali, Mohiniattam, Ballet, Modern Dance – the book is a historical wonder of dancers and a bond forged through dance that was thicker than blood. Truly a gem of literature in the classical arts, replete with wonderful archival photographs dating from the 1800s though the years, with each remarkable woman representing her generation. 5/5
~Girl with a Pearl earring by Tracy Chevalier – A historical fiction, speculative biography of the 17th century Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer, and his most famous work – The Girl with the Pearl Earring. Vermeer was known to be a recluse, with barely 35 paintings to his credit, and was one of the greatest enigmas of the art world in the 1600s. His work reflected themes of domestic life, subtlety and simplicity with an emphasis on light and texture. The author attempts to recreate the story behind the anonymous muse of the titular art – and the narrator of the book herself – taking us into Vermeer’s closeted world of color. A stunning story, simple in narration but rich in color, just like its inspiration. 5/5
~Everything Inside by Edwidge Danticat – A collection of short stories about Haitian people, all dealing with themes of immigration, displacement, family, community, diasporic experiences, relationships that bind as well as those that break people apart. Short stories can be impactful because brevity lends them power. They can offer serenity, be warm, upsetting, joyful, moving, illuminating, educative, hopeful – each story powerful in its own way, Danticat truly a magician with the written word as she works the reader’s emotions just like her characters. 5/5
~The Humans by Matt Haig – A mathematics professor gets abducted by aliens, who send one of their own to impersonate him and document life on Earth. Body-snatching and numbers have never been so funny and entertaining while being philosophical and moving. Haig’s originality and humor are commendable, teaching us about ourselves through an outsider’s perspective. A science fiction delight of a book that will keep you laughing all the way through, with its subtle insights and contemplation. 4/5
~Remnants of a Separation by Aanchal Malhotra – An attempt to revisit the Partition of India through objects carried by refugees as they crossed the border on both sides. Described as material memory, the author aims to identify belongings, mementos, gifts – things that people hurriedly picked up or chanced upon or happened to inherit – that hold memories of life in undivided India, and what those memories and objects mean to them now. An alternative history of the Partition viewed as a tangible event, the book can be described as a cross between history and anthropology, wonderfully researched and presented. 5/5
~Things Not Made by Michael Sellars – A peculiar story about beings that hate readers and everything that comes with them – books, words, sentences, paragraphs, stories. They’re allergic to books, and booknerds serve as an anathema. So they’re out to eliminate anyone who loves the written word. An odd book that keeps you guessing all the way, as it takes your mind on a trip to another world, just like the story itself does. Quality writing, unsettling adventures, witty dialogue, well fleshed out characters, vocabulary that makes you pause, and above all, the significance of the title of the book, make this one adventure you want to as well as don’t want to miss out on. 5/5
~The Sweetmeat by K. Saraswathi – A Malayalam-English translation from the Amma Series, a feminist classic that addresses themes of love, marriage, relationships through the prisms of intoxication, dominance, inferiority, domestic abuse, the blurred lines of victim and victor, cause and effect, and the vicious circle of each leading to the other. The fact that the writer’s works were neglected in her own state and country due to her feminist stance, and gained popularity only after being published in American journals, shows the true strength of literature and the power of its honesty. 5/5