Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Reading South Asian Authors

The more I read, the more I recognize the gift of being able to peek into someone's brain -- either to get lost in a fictional story or cross that bridge that shares one's life experiences as memoir. It's always a privilege, but to read the life experiences of someone from another culture is an adventure as well -- exciting in the discoveries into the unknown that I am invited to make.

I "discovered" S. Krishna's Books when I was a judge for the Book Blogger Appreciation Week Awards. She reviews great literary fiction, with a slight emphasis on cultural literature. She's also a great person to follow on twitter.

She's hosting a South Asian Author Challenge to encourage people to read books by South Asian authors, and immediately two or three books or authors that I've been meaning to read jumped into my mind. So why not make a commitment to get to them sometime in 2010?

This is a REAL challenge, meaning she wants us to set a goal and stick to it (unlike some other more flexible challenges that I have joined up). I like accountability, so I'm good with that. There are four commitment levels -- 3, 5, 7, or 10 books read in 2010.

I wrestled with this a bit. I can think of 3 books right off the top of my head that I want to read, and oftentimes when I get into a little jag of reading a new author or about a certain culture, I want more and more. But I think I'm going to stick with 3 because it is hard for me to squeeze titles in that are just for me, and I can up it to 5, so perhaps if I meet my goal in the first half of the year, I'll try to push myself to read a couple more.

So the three books or authors that came to mind immediately were:

  • Something else by Thrity Umrigar -- Ever since I read The Weight of Heaven earlier this year (linked to my review), I've been determined to read something else by the author who wrote the book that grabbed hold of me.
  • Something by Mitali Perkins -- I've read and enjoyed three of her books (Monsoon Summer, Rickshaw Girl, First Daughter: Extreme Makeover -- each linked to my reviews or brief thoughts on the book), and have been meaning to read another, either the second First Daughter book (which probably pushes the limits of this challenge a bit, since I'm not sure how much Sameera's native culture is a plot element) or Secret Keeper. I'm thinking that I'll plan to read and review Secret Keeper to coincide with its paperback release in June.
  • The Namesake: A Novel -- A couple of years ago, I got out one morning with some girlfriends and saw this film. We felt very free and intellectual getting away from the kids and seeing a foreign film in a small independent theater. I enjoyed the movie a lot. Then I started hearing about Jhumpa Lampiri (in relation to her book Unaccustomed Earth), and discovered that she wrote the the novel that the film was based on. I'd love to read it and then rent the DVD and write it up for a Books on Screen column at 5 Minutes for Books.
That's my "3 for sure," but I think because of this challenge I'll be extra-aware of other books by South Asian authors (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka). In fact, just typing "Sri Lanka" made my typing fingers itchy to search for Sri Lankan authors or books. What do I know of Sri Lanka? Absolutely nothing, that's what.

And in searching and thinking I was reminded about Abraham Verghese. As I mentioned in my review of his first novel Cutting for Stone, I've been thinking about going back and reading his memoir, My Own Country, which sort of scares me, because in my mind it's probably on my top ten best ever list of books, but what if I don't think so after a re-read? That would be number four, so I'm thinking that I'm going to stretch myself and commit to reading 5 books by South Asian authors in 2010.

Progress Report:

February: I read One Amazing Thing last month and I'm currently listening to the White Tiger on audiobook, and I have another book on the way from amazon Vine, Chef: A Novel by Jaspreet Singh. As anticipated, my eyes are now open to all things South Asian, and I think that I will easily reach my goal.

March: Finished White Tiger and read Chef (both reviewed HERE). I am reading Half-Life now, and have Secret Daughter by Shilpi Gowda on deck, which would bring me to 5, in only 3 months! I am definitely upping my goal to 7, and I'm hoping to then up it again to 10.

April: I didn't love Half-Life by Roopa Faruki, but I did read it (and posted a review at amazon).

May: I did love Secret Daughter (linked to my review). Wow. Excellent book, and an excellent read for this challenge. I specifically love the conflict of the Indian girl, raised in America, and her quest to explore and understand her Indian culture. So, I reached my original goal of five books, but I am sticking with my upped goal of 7.

August: 6th book:  I was thrilled when The Sari Shop Widow was on the kindle free list, so I snatched it up and devoured it quickly.  I've linked it to my mini-review.


monica said...

Ok, I'm in. It's been forever since I've joined in on a book challenge; I've forgotten the community that comes with sharing the books and seeing what others are reading.

I'll tweet my post when I have my list ready. Thanks so much for letting me know about the challenge too.


Lee @ foodieplus4 said...

Good challenge. I'll join you and follow your lead on the recommended books. Do you think they are at the library? And do I have a whole year to read 5?

Jennifer, Snapshot said...

@Monica -- Yeah other than Callapidder Days' Fall and Spring Challenges, I don't usually jump in, but this seemed interesting and like something I want to do anyway.

@Lee -- you're lucky, my local friend. Any book I buy, I'll pass on to you. I do have Monsoon Summer and Children of Dust, which I just reviewed at 5M4B, which would qualify, since it's "A Memoir of Pakistan."

Non-bloggers can still sign up in the comments I think, and be eligible for some prizes for signing up and also for completion.

Shona said...

Great choices. I read Namesake. It's much much better than the movie.

Michelle said...

The Namesake is amazing. So is her first collection of stories, Interpreter or Maladies. I love Jhumpa Lahiri and I'm looking forward to reading Unaccustomed Earth for the challenge (not sure why I haven't read it yet).