This summer careened by, dizzy from travel (Ohio three times; Mexico; Washington, D.C.; Rhode Island; Pittsburgh) and some enormous changes. My beloved grandmother passed on July 31. Her absence is palpable, and I am still trying to adjust to the fact that she is not here—that I can’t eat dinner next to her, help feed her (after the stroke), and braid her hair for her (as she used to do for me when I was young); or bring her a jasmine flower from my plant (she loved the fragrance and would lift the tiny blossom to her face, lose her eyes, breathe in, and smile); or just sit with her and talk and laugh. I used to stop over to see her most days. She made me feel better when I was sad. My parents’ house feels empty now; my grandmother had presence.
I wrote a poem about her when I was sixteen, first published in my high school literary magazine, then in Hanging Loose magazine, and finally reprinted in the Hanging Loose Press anthology, Bullseye: Outstanding High School Writers. R. posted this photo of my poem on Instagram.
Now, R and I are packing up to move from our first apartment to our first home. We bought a house—I’ll finally have room (I hope) for all of my books.
In between house hunting and later-stage hospice, I taught a seven-week creative nonfiction class, which included reading and writing in response to Eula Biss’ Notes from No Man’s Land: American Essays. It feels important to be writing about race, place, responsibility, privilege, ambivalence, what we love, what we struggle with, what we hope will change about our country, and how we are part of all of it. If you haven’t read this book yet, please do.
Next on my list to read, re-read, and teach: essays by James Baldwin and Audre Lorde. What are you reading to help you get through this particular time? Please comment and let me know.
Here’s my writing-related news update—
My story-essay, “Skeleton, Rock, Shell,” will be published in Conjunctions 69: Being Bodies (Fall / Nov 2017). R took the screenshot of the table of contents (in-progress) above. Yes—that’s Rick Moody and Anne Waldman in the same issue (!!!). I love Conjunctions, and have been published by them online, but this will be my first time in their print journal.
My story collection, How to Make Your Mother Cry, was selected by Paul Yoon as a finalist for the 2017 Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction from Sarabande Books. Sarabande will publish the winner of the prize, Tiny Heroes, Tiny Villains, by Robert Yune.
My essay collection, Things People Say, was named a finalist for the 2017 Cleveland State University Poetry Center’s Essay Collection Competition, selected by Renee Gladman. More info in the link.
Readings, Festivals, & NYFA:
Some of the audience saying hey. Those are the other fellows smiling at me in the first row.
In June, I was a Peter Taylor Fellow at the Kenyon Review Writers’ Workshops. Here’s a photo from the fellows’ reading, where I shared my essay about a former teacher, the poet Agha Shahid Ali. When I remember to, I like to take photos of the audience. This was a great one.
Reading at The Library of Congress, July 29, 2017 (photo credit: Kundiman)
July: I also read the essay (published this past April in Mad Heart Be Brave: Essays on the Poetry of Agha Shahid Ali, edited by Kazim Ali, University of Michigan Press) at the Library of Congress, for the Smithsonian Asian American Literature Festival, with Karen Tei Yamashita and Kundiman Fellows Vt Hung and Mark Keats.
It felt significant to read in our nation’s capital at the Library of Congress, as an Asian American writer myself in front of an audience of mostly other Asian American writers, scholars, poets, and readers. Several people came up to me afterward or emailed me to say that they were moved by the essay and reading. I felt that way about the events I attended, too.
To buy a copy (and/or ask your library to buy a copy) of Mad Heart Be Brave, head over here.
In August, I took part in the NYFA (the New York Foundation for the Arts) 2017 Artist-as-Entrepreneur Bootcamp. Lots to learn about as I gear up to begin offering private writing workshops and mentoring in 2018. If you are a writer or artist in New York State, I recommend applying to this program, which is offered several times a year around the state—the next one is in Albany.
Thanks to Brooklyn-based writer Roohi Choudhri, who told me about the bootcamp. She teaches privately and has a terrific set of in-person and online offerings for writers. Check out her website here.
Other Nice Stuff:
Every once in a while I Google my name to see what the internet rolls back at me. I found this mention on a website library discussion board called LibraryThing. Here is what one user posted about writers of South Asian origin:
6 cindydavid4: Though I’m a big reader of Indian-American writers (or, more broadly, American writers of South Asian origin), and I’ve read some [Chitra Banerjee] Divakaruni, I’m not a fan of her work. I can’t pinpoint why exactly because I haven’t spent enough time thinking it through. I only know that, after forcing myself to get to the end of her collection of stories Arranged Marriage: Stories, I have not picked up another of her books.
These days, the most interesting writing by Indian-American (or writers of South Asian origin) women writers I am liking are: Nina McConigley, Tanwi Nandini Islam, Tahmima Anam, Mira Jacob, Sejal Shah, Tania James, Jade Sharma, and more.
With male writers of South Asian origin, these are most interesting to me these days: Amitava Ghosh, Akhil Sharma, Vikram Chandra — whose Sacred Games is going to be a Netflix series, Kanishk Tharoor, Karan Mahajan, Anuk Arudpragasam, Sunil Yapa, et al.
I’m flattered to be in such company. The other folks have books. I’m working on it.