What is Suprose?

Welcome to Suprose.

Why Su-prose? "Su" in Sanskrit is a prefix for "good". This is a place where we will discuss and analyze prose (with a South Asian Connection) - that which is good, awesome, excellent, and maybe rant about prose that could be better.

Whether you love prose, are a prose expert, or want to learn more about prose, or to put it simply want to have anything to do with prose, this blog is for you.

Read, interact, enjoy and share...

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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

365 Days Of Inspiration!

Happy New Year everyone!

This year, in an effort to stay motivated to write each day, I plan to  do a daily posting. This will be called "365 Days Of Inspiration!"

This is not just for writers, but for anyone to begin their day with... An inspiring saying, quote, story or an exercise to get you going.

I would love feedback on each of these, and would love to get a conversation going. Looking forward to inspiring and staying motivated.

Happy New Year!!! It's time to believe in yourself...

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Tête-à-Tête With Indu Sundaresan

Indu Sundaresan is author of several historical works of fiction, including the Taj Trilogy surrounding the Taj Mahal and Mehrunnissa. She is a self taught writer who has also published a book of short stories. Indu is a fine storyteller and her books have been translated into about 20 different languages. Indu Sundaresan lives in Seattle, WA.

Indu Sundaresan’s sixth work of fiction, The Mountain of Light, which was released in October 2013, traces the bloody and tumultuous history of the Kohinoor diamond—in its last Indian owners, rulers of the Punjab Empire, and how it was secreted from India to England to adorn the arm of Queen Victoria.

Indu took time out of her busy schedule and talked to Suprose about her writing and books in general.

What motivates you to write and tell stories?

I haven’t analyzed this before—it’s the first time, I believe, that I’ve been asked this question! It may possibly be that most writers take a particular situation and imagine all possibilities around it—you make up stories, you think of motivations, the why, the what, the when, the how.  And then, the only way to give coherence to your thoughts is to put them down on paper.

Indu Sundaresan 
I began writing on what seems to be a whim.  I’d finished graduate school, had degrees in economics and operations research and thought it would be fun to write a novel.  So, I wrote two, and then I wrote my first published novel, The Twentieth Wife.

Are you self-taught or did you get an MFA, attend any other writing courses?

I’m self-taught, in that I think all the regular, formal education we get, right from birth, ought to be enough to be able to write a book.  We’re taught to communicate right from the beginning, and all writing’s a form of communication.

It’s much more stylized than that—but the basic tools exist in all of us.  When I began writing, my education was in other fields, but I’d always been a big reader, read widely, read a lot.  So, in some way, that was also a form of education for this particular field.

I think MFA programs are great—no doubt about that.  But, I was on a panel with the director of one of the well-regarded MFA programs in the US, and the director said what I’ve thought to be true all along.  She said (I’m paraphrasing here) that all the students of their program are accepted in because they come with novels, collections of short stories, essays, already finished.  What the MFA teaches you then is to edit, to revise, to revisit your work with a new set of tools—what works, what doesn’t, what needs to be rewritten, what kept, what thrown away.

Any training specifically for historical fiction? (in terms of classes you attended and such)

No, none.  I did take writing classes for about five years, from local community colleges in the Seattle area.  But, when I took my first class, I’d already written four novels—my first two attempts, which I discarded, and The Twentieth Wife and The Feast of Roses, my first two published novels, and the first two novels of my Taj trilogy.

The writing classes I took were general ones: plot, structure, character development.

I don’t think you need a specific historical fiction writing class, but I do think that once you’ve written your novel, it can be a splendid way to learn just how much of history to put in, how much fiction, how to meld the two.  I didn’t have access to something like this, so I made do with what I had.

You have written contemporary as well as many books of historical fiction? What are the challenges of each of these genres?

My collection of short stories, In the Convent of Little Flowers, is set in contemporary India.  All of my novels are historical fiction.  So, for me at least, the challenge was not so much about the time period but about the two fictional forms—the novel vs. the short story.

Short stories have their own style; they are limited, most obviously, by a word count, whereas in a novel you could potentially go on for a good number of pages.  In the short story, I pick an event and build a story around it—the past comes in, the future will figure in also, but it’s really about the present.  In my novel-length fiction, every time period has the opportunity to be rounded out.

Why do you do historical fiction more often than contemporary fiction? What about it appeals to you the most?

This question I have pondered upon quite a bit, and I think the most discernible reason to me, is that when I write about India’s history, I take a story and retell it.  When I do so, even though it’s a world we all know of, or understand in the whole if not in detail, I’m still building an entire new world.

This may go back to my love of reading, because one of the things I most enjoy about embarking on a new historical novel is the reading I do for my research.  I’ll stray from what I think to be the main storyline in all directions, and will find little nuggets of information that are unusual, that could well be put into my novel.  And, that’s how my books take shape, for a long while in my head, on paper in my notes, within my reading…all of this before I actually start writing the book.

What do you find most demanding about writing historical fiction?

Even after having written five historical fiction novels, I still struggle with what to put in from all I’ve read, and what to leave out.

It’s a healthy process though, because then I think deeply about the subject matter, the events, the characters and how they move around in the storyline, what affects them, how they react to it, or not.

How did “Mountain Of Light” come to be? Why this story and what fascinates you most about this story of the Kohinoor diamond?

I’ve been trying to remember the genesis of this novel and it still isn’t very clear to me.  When I write a novel, it has usually been gestating in my head for a very long while—if I were to put a timeline on it, I’d say it takes about four or five years to finish a book.  All the while, I will be reading for and writing another book.

So, for The Mountain of Light, I’m not exactly sure.  The first thought began, of course, with the Kohinoor diamond itself.  The fact that it was taken out of India in 1850 as a ‘gift’ to Queen Victoria and that India has always, in some form or the other, asked for the diamond back.

In reading for this book, I realized that the Kohinoor has this deep reach into Indian history—mythology puts it in the hands of Lord Krishna, and it resurfaces about once a century in the hands of various rulers of India from about the 13th Century or so.

The timeline was too scattered to make sense in a novel’s setting, so I started reading about the Kohinoor’s last 50 years in India—who had it last, what it meant to them, how they lost it.  And I discovered a veritable jewel of information that in turn informed the events, characters and emotions in The Mountain of Light.

Who are some of your favorite authors of historical fiction? Some must reads for those who aspire to become historical fiction writers?

There are so many.  Historical fiction has, today, if you will, turned from a genre into the mainstream—the last three Booker Prize winners wrote historical fiction books.

To me, this isn’t a revelation—I think you can write about anything, set it anywhere, in any time period, and if the book’s good, then just that, the book’s good.

How do you pick a book that you want to read? The cover, synopsis, something you might have heard about it?

It’s a little bit of everything.  It could be a great review, but most often for me, it is what the book’s about, and if it’s a writer I already know, have read before, then I’m eager for the new book.

Name 3-5 books you read recently and which ones you liked or did not like and why?

Raj: The Making and Unmaking of British India; Hilary Mantel’s Bring up the Bodies; The House on the River.

I don’t speak (in public) of what I don’t like in books—I’m in the business and being on the other side, I know what it takes for an author to write/revise/publish a book.

What are some tools/exercises that you use to break out of writers blocks?

I read a lot of books on the craft of writing.  When I’m stuck, if it is while I’m writing a novel (which is very rarely) I will usually put the manuscript away, either read other fiction, or books on writing.  I’ll do the exercises in the books.  Sometimes, I’ll write a short story to fill up the time.

It’s rare though, for me to have to put a novel away while I’m in the midst of it—I’ll usually worry out the plot/character, whatever it is that’s blocking me, in my mind until I can begin again.

The role of an author is becoming larger, we have to do more than just write, go on book tours and read from you book. What are some of your thoughts on Author as a marketer?

It is a necessary part of the book business now, as you say. So, the thing to do is to embrace the marketing aspect.  For me, personally, I find that it does take away from being engrossed in my next book.  So, I’ll jump into the publicity aspect of the novel, once it’s on the shelves (and a fair bit before, because a lot of preparation is usually required before the book’s published).  But once I’m writing a new novel, I shut off all distractions until it’s done. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Zadie Smith On Creativity...

Zadie Smith spoke at the International Festival in Rome, the theme being "I had a dream." She spoke on creativity and refusal and had a lot of interesting things to say. 
".... creativity is something more than finding the perfect audience for the perfect product. In my opinion, a true "creative" should not settle for a meet existing demand, but would have to change our idea of ​​what we want. A work of art form the vital public, creates a taste for herself. In this sense, the heart of creativity is a rejection. Why work really creative avoids always see the world as others see it, or as it is generally described. Refutes the conventional and generic: "renewed". Sometimes this change of perspective creates forced pleasure, and a Creative must consider himself very lucky if this happens. But it must also prepare for the more usual reactions: discomfort, disgust, confusion, shock, and even anger. Often what is really new creeps with ease in the existing state of things. As a minimum causes a little 'friction. Yet I find it difficult to cultivate and promote in students - especially Americans - the willingness to risk not pleasure. They are trained to follow the principle of supply and demand, the relationship between entertainer and audience. As an antidote, at the beginning of each course, check the reading of Kafka, in the hope that makes them bolder. Why Kafka was a creative whose creativity was not based on the need for approval. A man for which the creativity was in itself a form of rejection."
Read the full transcript here --

Thursday, November 21, 2013

What does a literary agent want to see when they google you?

What does a literary agent want to see when they google you?

The Write Life, a great blog talked to several agents and got inputs from many of them. Overall, a prospective client is expected to have a sharp online presence that shows off their marketing and social media savvy.

Essentially you have to prove that you have finesse as an author and you can market yourself and your book effectively once published.

Read the full blogpost at the link below --


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Tweet Chat On "Ethnic Writing"

I was invited by one of my favorite writing organizations Grubstreet to join in on a tweet chat on Ethnic Writing. I have never really liked this term very much, but I decided to join in and see what came out of it. Interestingly enough a lot of other writers of varying cultural backgrounds agree that this is a term that really needs to be hashed out. Here are some tweets that really stood out --

Q5: Be true to the story you want to tell. It's not ethnic writing. It's writing. That's all that counts.

There is a global appeal to every story that is told well and with passion. Overanalyzing the "ethnic" aspects takes the joy away

resist the fear that some better-marketed writer has already told the "great [ethnic] story."

A2. Authenticity is so often NOT just a matter of facts, and more a matter of honest attitude and mindframe.

Everything is ultimately "ethnic writing" it is the culture and the environment of a piece that defines it, right?

To read all the tweets from this vibrant interchange go here.

Ira Glass On Storytelling

I know I have posted this before but I just have to do it again.
It is so inspiring and for those of you setting goals for the new year, this should get those juices flowing.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Tête-à-Tête With Sujata Massey

Sujata Massey is very well known for her mystery novels. Her debut novel The Salaryman’s Wife, was the first of many in the Rei Shimura mystery series, which has won Agatha and Macavity awards and been nominated for the Edgar, Anthony, and Mary Higgins Clark awards. The Sleeping Dictionary is her first stand alone historical fiction.

Sujata Massey
She was born in England to parents from India and Germany and grew up mostly in St. Paul, Minnesota. Sujata holds a BA in Writing Seminars from Johns Hopkins University and started her working life as a features reporter for the Baltimore Evening Sun. After leaving the newspaper, she moved to Japan, where she studied Japanese, taught English and began writing her first novel.

In an interview Sujata gives some very sage writing advise for aspiring writers, "Do not worry about getting published until you have completely written and revised your book, shown it to five friends that you trust, and taken their comments into consideration for your rewrite. I rewrote my first book more than 50 times before I showed it to an agent. There is something to be said for not proceeding until you are as polished as you can be."

She has been very busy with her book tour for her latest book that has been hailed as, "an ambitious story of suspense, love and identity."Yet she was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions for Suprose.

You were a journalist before you became a fiction writer. Why?
How different is fiction writing as opposed to a non-fiction narrative?

I  was a little more excited about  journalism than fiction during my college years. I thought writing fiction was something that I'd be better able to afford when I was older--and in those days I thought "50" was the magic age for being capable of writing a novel. After I graduated with a BA from Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, it seemed the obvious way to  earn a living writing was newspaper journalism. I was extraordinarily lucky to be hired as a features reporter at the Baltimore Evening Sun, a daily city newspaper that was delivered t in the afternoon, during the times that big cities still had enough readers and advertisers to support morning and evening papers.   I thrived on the camaraderie of working at a paper and learning from older reporter. I also benefited from learning how to meet deadlines each day. Reporting also grounded me in feeling I had to use accurate details in whatever I would come to write in the future.  The only hardest part of transitioning from reporting city news to creating fiction was the matter of emotion. As  a newspaper writer, I was never supposed to insert myself or my opinion or feelings into the writing. Our word to live by was 'objective.' Fiction, on the other hand, is supposed to make readers feel things. Characters are supposed to offer you a window into their hearts. This is why I've primarily written in the first-person voice. This reminds me that it's OK to sway the reader with a character's feelings.

Did you receive formal training to become a writer, in journalism or fiction? 

I earned an undergraduate degree in the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins. At another university, the major probably would be called "creative writing." But Hopkins had a specific scheme for their program, wherein professional published writers teach very small classes--typically 5 to 15 students--around one table, with group critique the major method of instruction. For some this might have been traumatic, but I let the competitive kids' comments roll of my back. I was intrigued by the professors and guest lecturers, who during my day, included the crime novelist Martha Grimes, and the literary authors Stephen Dixon, John Barth, and Francine Prose. The same workshop format was used to teach journalism (classes from several Washington Post writers) and poetry and science writing. I don't believe that this pleasant experience improved to the point of professionalism in writing. I think the reporting internship I did at the Baltimore Evening Sun, while in the program,  helped me. One of the advantages of the Writing Seminars made me comfortable in critique groups and also asking established writers for guidance.

Do you believe that it is important to be trained as a fiction writer in order to write fiction? Why?

It's my opinion that in general, Masters Degrees programs in fiction don't give any advantage. Yes, you have a block of months or years to write, and some guidance from a writer-teacher who might actually pat you on the back and forward your work to an agent. That would be the very best case scenario--because if there are 30 gifted writers in a program, how many will the writer-teacher decide whom to help? And how many of his students over the years did his agent accept....and actually find a publisher to publish the manuscript? I think your chances are just as good if you go ahead and have a job which gives you some experience to write about. Take two to three hours a day or night at home to do the writing--every day.  Network through professional writing organizations, conventions and contests. My guess is you might reach your goal faster than the person in the master's program--especially if you are writing commercial fiction.

Why did you choose the mystery genre? What about it appeals to you?

I started out writing mystery when I had been a few years out of university, where I'd done a lot of serous literary reading. I found mysteries exciting and fun, such a great break from the assigned reading of the school years. Also, mystery novels had fantastic plots...and most of the literary novels being praised in the late 80s and early 90s were not storyteller's books. I may not be the most profound writer in the world, but I'm a passionate storyteller.  I'm not a very complex plotter--I think the people who can do this were good at geometry, and I was abysmal. Another challenge in mystery writing is that it's very  hard for me to write violence, especially male violence against women, or anything happening to children. I hate guns. and I made a conscious decision my sleuth Rei Shimura, who figures in my Japanese mystery novels, would never use one. These boundaries I've created have kept me on what's called the "cozy" side of the mystery spectrum, but it turns out there are plenty of people who like their mysteries served with a cup of tea with lemon.  

Why did you decide to write Historical Fiction?

When I was a child,  I wished I lived in the past. I read hundreds of historical novels  set in the US and abroad, from Frances Hodgson Burnett to Laura Ingalls Wilder. I was always hunting for antique dolls and vintage clothing--really an oddball in my school! I was on hiatus from historical fiction from about the time I was 12 to 42--but when I began reading it again, I found it very satisfying.  I became specifically fascinated with the Asian historical novels of Lisa See and Amy Tan. I wanted to write the same kind of sweeping books about women and their families...but set in India, against the background of colonialism. But I'm interested in writing historicals in other places, too. There is no shortage of ideas for a writer if she turns to a historical setting. If only I could write three books a year! 

Was the switch to historical fiction an easy one? What were some challenges? 

The best part about writing a historical is you can fully concentrate on setting and events that may already have happened, so you don't even have to make them up. You don't need to craft a puzzle about someone's death and worry about clever evidence and crime-solving procedure. But for me, the toughest  thing about writing a historical--especially one set in India during the fight for Independence, World War II, famine and Partition--is there were so many deaths. It's impossible to write a historical without having some very sad sections. I had to create a character who's not real--but real enough--to play a role in the historical events. If she's a woman, she's got to be strong--but operating within boundaries of the time. People may have had sex out of wedlock then, but all within the framework of values of that society.

Why did you choose the title The Sleeping Dictionary? 

I was reading a historical account of Bengal which mentioned this old nickname, employed by the European would-be colonists for the women who taught them languages, manners, and lived with them. it's an erotic, mysterious and literary term. It also works well because the heroine's favorite book is the Oxford English Dictionary.

The role of women in Indian Independence is not one that is talked about very much. Why did you chose to address this?

So many high school and college age women were active in the freedom movement,  playing roles varying from fundraiser to political protestor to mover-of-weapons and assassin. Many Indian women, endured jail alongside their male counterparts. I think that this shared hard work during the freedom period made it easier for women to reach such heights in Indian government early after independence. Many South Asians know how bravely India's women worked for freedom: that Gandhiji's wife Kasturba died in prison and that many young women enlisted as soldiers for Subhas Chandra Bose's Indian National Army. These stories aren't well-known outside of South Asia, though. It worked very well from a storyteller's viewpoint to give my heroine Pom (now calling herself Kamala) a way to find herself within the freedom fighting movement.

Tell me about Pom your fascinating protagonist. How did she come to be?

I had been casting about trying to write a novel about Indian-Americans for years, but everything felt flat and cliched. I thought about what really counted, and one thing was my love of Calcutta, my father's hometown. I didn't grow up in Calcutta, but I traveled there in childhood and young adulthood. To my sorrow, it seemed that  the old buildings and streets I admired were transforming into sterile modernity as the years passed.  In an effort to preserve what I loved, I set the novel toward the end of the British period.   I decided to bring in a character to who was something of an outsider. Pom is Bengali, but she's from deep countryside and grew up without servants, books, and the other things that most of the Calcuttans she meet have. As she grows up and moves from working at a girls' boarding school to finally the city, she learns a lot about the British and how they work. But she's not part of the bhadralok: the Bengali intellectual bourgeoise. She doesn't live under the thumb of her parents.. She can be a single working woman, living in an Indian Civil Service officer's house. Pom can get away with the almost the same kinds of capers as a modern heroine.

What did you find most challenging about writing this book?

Writing about village life was initially quite stumping for someone whose time in India was mostly urban.  I traveled out to the Midnapore district and stayed with distant relatives. The gawking reactions I got, from local residents made me wonder how many years it had been since someone from outside Bengal had passed through! Another challenging section was writing about prostitution during the Raj years, because I wanted to avoid creating anything exploitative...and I freeze when things get too graphic. Hopefully I hit an OK medium. I'm not going to say happy medium, because I was not feeling happy during this section of the story.

How and where did the research happen?

Through surprising circumstances, I moved from my East Coast base to Minnesota for six years. This meant I was living close to my parents. My father was born in 1936 and has many memories of wartime Bengal. He was my consultant during the whole process of writing this book. I researched by talking with him and asking him to translate Bengali books for me on occasion.  I studied Hindi at the University of Minnesota and took advantage of rare old books in their magnificent Ames Library of South Asia. I also traveled to Calcutta, walking through old neighborhoods and reading old newspapers at the National Library of India's archive in the Esplanade. To get a look at the British police/intelligence reports on Bengal during this time, I went to London and researched at the British Library, which holds the old India Office archive. The best part about going to the British Library was reading recently declassified papers from a secret spy unit that operated within the Indian Civil Service from the 20s through 40s, with a lot of energy spent on its archenemy, Subhas Chandra Bose.

Is it fair to say that ethnic writers face some challenges when writing for a mainstream American audience? What are they?

My novelist friend AX Ahmad jokes that if a South Asian author writes a book, there must be a sari border on the cover. Our books may literally be branded in this way--but at least we aren't isolated in our own section of the bookstore, like African-American authors often are. The biggest challenge, if you have an Indian name, may be that agents and editors expect you are only qualified to write about that ancestral place. No matter whether you were born outside of India, or have spent years away. This stereotyping made me crazy when I was young and is probably what drove me to write a ten-book series set in Japan before looking toward India.

What are some of your favorite books?

I greatly admire the writing of Khaled Hosseini, who explores the recent history of Afghanistan through families who've shifted from one world to another. You will cry but always feel better for reading one of these books. As I mentioned earlier, Lisa See and Amy Tan both write brilliantly about Chinese women, teaching me so much with each novel. South Asian writers I especially enjoy are Asra Nomani (nonfiction) Amitav Ghosh, Sadat Hassan Manto and Santha Rama Rao. Rao is virtually unknown but she was a successful internationally known Indian author in the 1950s. Her novels skip you straight into the lives of educated women of that era. Keeper of the House is a crazy cross between Germaine Greer's famous book The Feminine Mystique, and Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love.

What books do you have on your bedside that you want to get to soon?

Really? There's quite a lot.  Rumer Godden's 1953 novel about an English family in Kashmir, Kingfishers Catch Fire, as well as her earlier novel The River, set in 1940s Bengal. Susana MacNeal's historical thriller, Mr. Churchill's Secretary is another read-in-progress. As far as the nonfiction: Insightful Parenting by Dr. Steve Kahn and  The Seven Secrets of Prolific Writers by Hillary Rettig, an e-book designed to help writers produce. I picked up a few good tips there! Also on my e-reader is Jhumpa Lahiri's latest novel, The Lowlands. My desi bookclub -- five fun women from the diaspora now living in Baltimore -- chose it as our current read. I'm hosting the meeting next month and trying to figure out the perfect menu to go with this tale.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

"In the end stories become universal" - Jhumpa Lahiri

The key is to understand what are the elements that are failing and move to the next draft," says Jhumpa Lahiri, whose book Lowland launches today.

In this New Yorker video, that gives you a view of her beautiful workspace, Lahiri talks about her writing process and why it is important to learn from your mistakes.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Tête-à-Tête With Naheed Hassan Of Indireads

Can Fiction Fix Conflicts?

Really? What do you think? Can fiction be the tool that ends conflicts, whatever size they may be - conflicts between two people, or conflicts between two families, or a conflict between two nations?

Well, Naheed Hassan seems to think so. She is the publisher of an online publishing company called Indireads that has recently compiled an anthology of stories by Indian and Pakistani writers, those which focus on present day Indians and Pakistanis and instances of building connections and relationships between them. 

Suprose interviewed Naheed Hassan recently and she has graciously shared her thoughts with us. Suprose readers can download this book, Love Across Borders, as well. Please leave your questions for Naheed in the comments section below, and she will answer them for you.

Why did you decide to do this Anthology? 

Let me give you the rationale for it, as well as the inspiration. The rationale is that most narratives about Indo-Pak relations today seem to revolve around the partition and subsequent wars between the two countries; these stories primarily deal with loss, displacement and anger. While such narratives are historically important, the pain associated with them holds the two nations back.

The motivation for this came from my conversations with one of the writers whose books we have published as Indireads. As a South Asia focused publisher, we work with contributors from both sides of the border. One of my Indian authors commented one day about how surprised she was about the ease at which she interacted with Pakistanis, and how she had never thought she would have Pakistanis on her Facebook friends list. That got me thinking about how for many people across the sub-continent ‘the other’ is still a mystery. I wanted to remove that mystery and show people on both sides of the border that all said and done, there are ordinary people – with emotions, fears, hopes and real lives – on both sides of the border.

Why do you think that a book of fiction, and especially an anthology, which is really hard to market will help change the way Pakistan and India feel about each other?

I think we are realistic that Love Across Borders is one initiative, amongst many, that will be needed to help bring about the kind of change that we envision. Governments, business, policymakers and even militaries will need to engage with each other, talk and find mutual meeting points. What we did strongly feel though was that even with all of that, real peace can happen only when people across both side of the border begin to view each other as human beings – with emotions, pains, hopes and joy. Love across Borders is an attempt to highlight that humanity that exists on both sides of the border. These stories of connection, relationship and even love will hopefully give people on both sides of the border a glimpse of what exists on the other side, and hopefully remove some of the mistrust.

Can fiction really help change perceptions?

We chose the medium of story and fiction because, we feel that sometimes, issues as politically-charged, political and personal can be better addressed through an impersonal fictional account, even if based on true facts. A philosophical, preacher-like approach towards peace just leads young people away, which is an opportunity lost, so we decided to implement a much more subtle approach. With fiction you sometimes get the benefit of distance – and you can say things that would be difficult to express otherwise. The objective with this collection is not to deny long-established facts, but highlight the many positive stories that surround us every day.

What do you hope your anthology will achieve?

The objective is not to deny historical facts but showcase ordinary lives – full of joy, hope, love and emotions – that exist on both of sides of the border. If we can begin to see each other – across the divide - as fully functioning human beings rather than stereotypical caricatures, we may stand a better chance of beginning to understand each other.

How did you go about choosing the stories that went into this anthology?

The only guiding factor for choosing the stories that went into the anthology was that we wanted stories of hope and connection, and wanted to steer away from stories of partition, loss and separation. That said, these stories are not blind to the environment of mistrust between the two countries that they are placed in, but we encouraged stories about how the human spirit overcomes all obstacles to connect. Our stories also focus on the fact that at a very real, human level, we are all the same – in fact, we are very similar because of our shared culture and heritage.

Can you quote a couple of memorable lines from this anthology that stand out in your mind.

Yamini Vasudevan’s Seendipity is about a chance connection between two young people on a flight:

He regarded me with a steady gaze, and said, “Well, I am originally from
Pakistan—on top of being Muslim—so if you want to bring the knives out
now would be a good time.” We looked at each other for a couple of
seconds, and then burst out laughing.

Anjum by Andy Paula is a heartwarming story of conections between two newly married young women whose marriages have brought them to Bombay. One has come from Nagpur while the other has been brought across from Lahore.

I don’t see her for the next few days and decide to be more friendly when
I see her next. Which is why I venture out and say hello the next time I see
her opening her door. She is wearing a pretty rose-pink salwar-kameez.
“That’s lovely,” I find myself saying, “where did you get it from?”
She looks down and touches her top. “Yeh Lahore se hai. Aap ko aisa joda
I nod and then it hits me. Wait a minute, did she say Lahore? My head
starts spinning. She’s a Pakistani? I conceal my surprise. Ganesha, was it not
bad enough that you got me married in Bombay. But to give me Pakistani
neighbours is more than I can tolerate. I have nothing against any individual
but all those terrifying stories about the bloodshed and the gore. What were
they doing in India, I mean, was it easy for them to be here? I can’t believe
it, a Paki in my building…on my floor.

So how can a reader get a copy of this anthology?

Readers can get a copy of the anthology by going to www.loveacrossborders.org or to the Indireads website www.Indireads.com

So this book is a free download, how do you hope to make money from this, or do you? 

We are not looking to make money from this. This is a civic and literary initiative by Indireads

Tell us more about Indireads? Who are you targeting and what kinds of authors are you hoping to publish?

Indireads – the publishing venture that I started more than a year back -aims to revolutionize the popular fiction genre in South Asia. As a channel for South Asian writers to engage readers at home and abroad, we showcase vibrant narratives that describe the lives, constraints, hopes and aspirations of modern South Asian men and women and capture the ethos and essence of South Asia. Our focus is completely on contemporary writings; we want to revive an interest in reading and writing in South Asia, and believe that can happen with engaging, easy and captivating new fiction, written by younger, newer voices. 

Indireads’ books are written and customized for delivery in electronic format, and are published online on our website www.indireads.com. Given that our books are published as e-books, this means that new South Asian writers now have access to a global audience, including the South Asian diaspora worldwide. Check us out at www.Indireads.com

What makes a good author for Indireads?

Indireads is looking for writers from South Asia who have an engaging writing style, and a good story to tell. I have a strong editorial team that can guide authors, so it is a great opportunity for a new writer who has done the necessary homework. A vast majority of the authors that we have on board right now are first-time writers who relish the opportunity to write for a global audience.

We are especially looking to engage with college students and encourage them to write. We are also very interested in reaching out to second and third generation youth and have them write stories about their lives and their views and put these books in front of an audience comprised of their peers.

How many books has Indireads published so far, how many more in the works?

Indireads has published 30 books so far, with another 25 in various stages of the editing and publishing process. Our initial offering is romance, but we will soon be adding other genres such as crime, mystery, thriller and paranormal. I am excited by the very strong stories that we have in the pipeline.

You can download the full anthology here.

Sunday, June 30, 2013


Suprose will be on hiatus the months of mid June thorough mid August 2013. We will be back with plenty of erudite literary thoughts soon!

Have a wonderful summer...

Friday, June 28, 2013

Tête-à-Tête With A.X. Ahmad

A.X. Ahmad Photo By Jennifer Nash
When he walks into his reading, the room quietens and he starts reading from his book. He tells anecdotes about how his story came to be and sings the songs his characters would sing. An entertaining storyteller indeed. Amin Ahmad, ex-architect, and current fiction writer, has recently published his new thriller, set in Cape Cod, MA.

Amin Ahmad grew up in India, was educated at MIT, and worked for many years as an international architect before taking up writing full time.His short stories and essays on immigrant life have been published in The Missouri Review, The Harvard Review, The New England Review, Narrative Magazine and The Good Men Project. He’s been a finalist for Glimmertrain’s Short Story Award, and been listed in Best American Essays.

Despite being busy with his book tour he was kind enough to do a "Tête-à-Tête" with Suprose.

Why do you write?
I come from a family of storytellers. No one in my family has ever had an ordinary day: they burst through the door saying, “You won’t believe what happened to me…” So it’s natural for me to tell stories, and I’ve been writing since I was a child. But being a good immigrant son, I followed my parent’s dictates, and became a professional and spent many years working as an architect. But after the birth of my own son, in 2000, something changed. I realized that I couldn’t really be a role model for him if I wasn’t doing the thing I loved; so I took the leap and started writing again.
Writing has always been a way for me of processing reality. I write to integrate my experiences, and the two worlds I always live in- the ‘there’ of the India I left behind, the ‘here’ of life in America.

Please talk about your journey from an aspiring fiction writer to one who just published their debut novel…
It was a long process. The crucial step was thinking of myself as a writer, as opposed to just an architect who writes from 5 AM to 7:30 AM. Who anoints us as writers? Who gives us the permission to write, to devote years on writing a book that may or may not be published? We make that decision ourselves, and with it comes a seriousness, and a commitment.

In my case, while I was working, I published essays and short stories in literary magazines. They are incredibly competitive to get into, and just the act of finishing a story and sending it out was transformative. And then when it was accepted, there was an editing process, a back and forth discussion about the story, and revisions. To realize that someone—a complete stranger—took my work so seriously helped me to change my perception of myself.
So it was only when I had these publications that I had the courage to quit architecture and start writing full time. To this day, I have a shelf of magazines I have published (I’ve added my novel to the shelf) and on the days when I doubt myself, I open the closet door and look at my publications and think,  “OK, so I am really a writer.”

Why did you change your name? Please explain the choice…
When I wrote for literary magazines, under my own name, agents often read my literary work and were interested in it, but when I told them I was working on a suspense novel, they seemed to quickly lose all interest! I came to realize that there was a huge split between the literary world and the genre world. So when I sent out my suspense novel, I chose to call myself ‘A.X. Ahmad’. I figured that way, readers wouldn’t get the two genres confused. And in the future, if I write something literary, I can use ‘Amin Ahmad’. It can be an open secret, but the name on the book can signal to readers what they’re getting. ( My model here is the literary writer John Banville who writes amazing mysteries under the pen name Benjamin Black.)

What motivates you, makes you want to write?
I simply love writing. When I’m writing, time stops. Five hours can feel like fifteen minutes. I am not here when I’m writing, I’m somewhere else,  lost in the terrain of my book. The only other time I’ve experienced this pleasure is was when I was designing a building at architecture school at MIT, and was deep into the design: I could stay up all night. Writing is not hard for me. What is hard is the self doubt that creeps in when you’ve quit your job to write, when you’re broke, when agents and publishers are turning you down. What’s hard is all the other stuff you have to do to get published.

What are the tools you use to inspire yourself? As in writing excercises, music and such…
Routine is key for me. I take the bus each morning at the same time to the same coffee shop in downtown Washington DC. They know me, and when they see me coming, they make me my tea and breakfast. I sit at a table and write long hand in my notebook (no internet, no distractions), and something about being amongst people, amongst the ebb and flow of conversations, lets my mind wander, and enter the fictional world. The ‘white noise’ really helps get into the work. I can’t write in my apartment: it’s too quiet, and makes me too anxious, and I start to think about the dirty dishes in the sink and the laundry that needs to be done…

Did you go to school, study to become a writer? Please talk about your mentors, teachers and what the driving force was…
I started writing in Boston at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education, and then was part of the first ‘Master Novel’ class at Grub Street.  Without Grub Street, I would never have been a writer. Jenna Blum, a published author, took a whole lot of us under her wing and nurtured us and taught us not only about writing, but about the professional world of publishing. Then I studied suspense writing at The New School in New York, and Katia Lief there, a published mystery writer, encouraged my work. I also have incredible writer friends in writing groups, in NY and Washington, who read my work and kindly but firmly tell me what needs fixing. This community has been crucial to my survival as a writer.

What kind of a writer do you consider yourself to be?
I consider myself to be a storyteller, first and foremost. I love beautiful writing, and read a ton of literary fiction, but language for language’s sake does not interest me. The writer has to tell me a story, and carry me into their world.  I’m also very interested in plot and structure: being trained as a designer, the architecture of a novel fascinates me: I like to take them apart, like taking apart a clock, and see how they work. One of my favorite novels is ‘Tinkers’ by Paul Harding: it’s a jewel box of a novel: gorgeous prose, and incredibly artfully constructed.

How does it feel, to be a successful published writer of whom expectations are different, versus a writer who just wrote just because?
Being a published writer and being successful aren’t synonymous, I’m afraid. This is a common misconception: once you publish a book, you’ve somehow walked through the gates into the promised land. I think with writing, there is no arriving at a place of security and safety. Because writing (and of course publishing) is an inherently risky, speculative process. I know writers who sell a ton of books, but who approach their next project with fear. What does happen is that you discover a writing process that works for you: so on bad writing days, you can still work, still have confidence in the process. You just learn how to handle yourself and your fears better.

Do you believe creativity is stifled when prose is categorized and clubbed into genres?
I think that good writing often works on many levels at once. Look at kid’s books that are deceptively simple, but that can mean something to the adult who is reading it to their child. Good writing is always larger than its category. But do I think genre conventions stifle good writing? No. Sometimes constraint can be a good thing; a lot of beautiful poetry was written within traditional forms. I’ve found writing in the thriller/mystery genre to be incredibly liberating: using the mechanism of plot allows me to explore so many different worlds. As an ‘immigrant’ writer, I can move beyond the usual tales of cultural assimilation and arranged marriages and explore a larger landscape. What is dull and boring for me is when genre constraints become reduced to formulaic writing.

Many writers tend to be solitary animals, not savvy sales or marketing folks. For them toughest part is the sell. How did you navigate through this?
I’m grateful for my training as an architect. I used to manage multi-million dollar construction projects, so I’m used to working within a large creative team, and managing people and getting them to do things. Architecture toughened me up: I had to work for clients, I had to sell my services, I had to go back and revise and change designs. So when faced with getting an agent or publicizing my book, I put on my project manager hat, and get to work. That’s not to say that I like it- I don’t. If I could hand it off to someone else, I would, and just spend my days writing. But writers don’t have that luxury any more: we have to do a lot to sell our books.

What do you read – for pleasure and for motivation?
When I’m working on a novel, I’m exhausted at the end of the day, and I don’t necessarily want to deal with words. Plus I find myself unconsciously analyzing the text, seeing how it works, editing it. So its hard for me to read new books, but I do like to read short stories by masters like Alice Munro and Sam Shephard and, most lately, Daniyal Mueenuddin, whose collection ‘In Other Rooms, Other Wonders’ is amazing : it’s set on his farm in North West Pakistan. And of course there is the “New Yorker” which is so well written that it needs no mental effort on my part: the writers are professionals, and draw me in to reading about the most unlikely subjects.

What is a favorite book you recently read and what did you like most about it?
13. ‘The American’ by the British writer, Martin Booth. The main character is a man who makes guns for assassins, and he settles down for a few months in an Italian hill town, where he befriends the local priest. Nothing much happens in the book, but the language is sensual and shot through with tension and sadness and the description of the little sleepy town is stunning.

If I were to look through your bedside reading pile what would I find?
My friend Lisa Brackmann’s latest thriller, set in China, ‘The Hour of the Rat’, Haruki Murakami’s ‘’IQ84,  Henning Mankel’s ‘The Dogs of Riga’, Graywolf Press’s ‘The Art of Time in Fiction,’ Gish Jen’s ‘Tiger Writing’.

What is your next project? What are you working on?
I just finished writing the second book in the Ranjit Singh trilogy, ‘Bollywood Taxi’, and that exhausted me: two books in three and a half years is a lot. I’m taking a break before launching in to the final book of the trilogy, ‘Gandhi Motel’. So right now I’m working of some short stories that have been kicking around for 10 years or so. Time to take out these orphans, re-write them, send them out into the world and hope they find a good home.  Gotta keep writing, stay sharp, keep sending out.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Tête-à-Tête With Soniah Kamal

Soniah Kamal, recently guest edited issue #43 of Sugar Mule, an online literary magazine, the theme of which is "No Place Like Home."

Born in Pakistan and raised in England and Saudi Arabia, she came to the U.S. for her undergraduate degree and earned a B.A. in Philosophy with Honors  from St. John’s College Annapolis, MD. Soniah’s undergraduate thesis, an analysis of individual against society as seen in love and arranged marriages, was the recipient of the Susan B Irene Award.  Soniah will be starting her MFA  from Georgia State University in August 2013 and has been awarded the Paul Bowles Fellowship in Fiction.

Soniah is co-Vice President of Programming for the Atlanta Writers Club, a 100 year-old organization with 800 + members. She is also literary correspondent for ArtsATL, Atlanta’s premiere online destination for the arts, and is also published in many other literary journals.

Soniah provides valuable insight into the life of a writer, an editor, and an MFA candidate. Suprose thanks Soniah Kamal for taking the time to answer questions for our Tête-à-Tête despite her busy schedule.

Why did you choose to become a writer?
Photo Credit: Soniah Kamal
The Polite Answer: I think writing chose me in so far that, as far back as I can remember, I was always telling stories to myself and others. Novels, essays, reporting, op-ed: growing up we all read (or at least schools force us to) and so writing is all powerful in shaping who we become.  
The Answer Under the Polite Answer: I wanted to act; my parents didn’t think acting was a respectable profession and so forbade me. Since I’d always been writing, I continued. For a while though I had a very contentious relationship with writing: traditionally women have been ‘allowed’ to write because they could do so from behind ‘purdah’ as well as publish under a male pseudonym. In effect they would have a voice and yet be voiceless. I was disappointed that I had, despite living in the late 20th century, allowed myself to be relegated to a purdah of sorts. Thankfully I got over that.

Who/what did you read growing up?
For a long time I attended an International School in Saudi Arabia where the library was chockfull of both British as well as American classics and contemporary works. Along with Blyton,  Blume, S.E. Hinton, Shirley Jackson, L.M. Montgomery, Edith Nesbit and Dorothy Parker, I also borrowed from friends stories of Baba Yagah and Arabian Nights and comics like Amar Chitra Katha and myths from Nigeria, Norway, Japan, Greece, as well as Anne Frank, The Silver Sword and A Town Called Alice.  Once I returned to Pakistan it was all Austen, Hardy, Shakespeare, Donne, Keats etc with as many Urdu stories translated into English as I could find back then: in fact my most favorite was a collection of 13 short stories by assorted writers such as Krishan Chander, Rajinder Singh Bedi and Ghulam Abbas. Those 13 stories changed my world! I read Tolstoy, Fitzgerald, Steinbeck, Langston Hughes and also Harold Robbins, Jacqueline Susan, Barbara Cartland, Georgette Heyer, a lot of Philosophy Books which I didn’t understand– In Lahore the bookstores were treasure troves of used books and I’d fill my arms and bring them all home! There was no such thing as ‘highbrow-lowbrow’ in my vocabulary and that remains true to this day.

You recently edited the South Asian themed issue of the literary e-zine Sugar Mule. What did you find most challenging?
My guest edited issue ‘No Place Like Home: Borders, Boundaries and Identity in South Asia and Diaspora’ was an interesting challenge on many levels but by far having to read each of the 47 contributions (including my own) 12 to 15 times was tough.  I have since a new found respect for editors of novels and other 300 plus page tomes: to read a book multiple times with fresh eyes definitely requires a certain stamina!   

What were some of your parameters in choosing works by South Asian writers?
Often journals/editors putting together special issues concentrate on one region i.e. for instance recently Granta had a Pakistan Issue and World Literature Today had a Bangladesh Issue. I wanted to include India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in the same space on the same page. Also when most South Asians hear ‘partition’, they tend to automatically think of 1947 and the division of a land into India and Pakistan. I wanted to stretch  ‘partitions’ to include other divisions and so there are pieces on the 1971 war between then East and West Pakistan, as well as the split between an Indian Bengal and Bangladesh, and an Indian Punjab and Pakistani Punjab. But I also very much wanted to explore the borders and boundaries we experience internally be it from conflicts arising from estrangements, deaths, loves, friendships, betrayals, sexuality, immigration—conflicts as well as reconciliations— so I accepted submissions that would showcase these experiences. All the pieces had to ultimately speak to me and with the memoir instead of adhering to a strict ‘follow the story’ trajectory I opted to let the contributors ‘follow the memory’, literally have the pieces serve as memory-keepers.   

What stood out for you in all the submissions you received?
 The great variety of topics and also how forthcoming and brave the contributors are in sharing their stories, memoirs and poetry about living in refugee camps, racism and sexism, coming of age sexually and/or religiously, ethnic tensions, and dealing with deaths of loved ones, of nationalisms, of ideals. The settings were also so varied from small villages to urban sprawls in U.S., England, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Being a writer means embracing the courage to dig deep within yourself and then share with others what you found within and all the contributions have done exactly that.     

You are a writer and an editor. How does one compliment the other?
 Sometimes it doesn’t. It is symbiotic however in so far that as a writer I am aware of what I may think is missing in someone else’s piece and then the editor hat kicks in because I can voice exactly what I think is missing and make suggestions although ultimately I always tell the writers I edit that they have to go with what feels right to them even if it’s not the ‘popular’ or ‘conventional’ choice. For instance recently I was editing the first fifty pages of a client’s novel. He had a prologue and wanted to keep it because he likes reading prologues. The editor in me told him that he could do without it, or if he kept it, it had to be really relevant to the whole. However the writer in me told him that he had to be true to himself, that it didn’t matter whether he’d read that ‘prologues are out’ or that editors and agents are not fond of them: nothing is written in stone and if you are a good writer you can make even the out-of-vogue work.

Why did you choose to go to school for an MFA, many get published without this degree?
I know there is always controversy between doing or not doing an MFA, between whether writers turn into robots writing a certain MFA style story, whether it’s all a scam. I’ve been writing for years by my lonesome and I think had I joined an MFA program back then I would have perhaps learned aspects of craft it took me years to learn through trial and error— cooks go to cooking school, actors go to acting school, musicians go the music school— I don’t see what the big deal is if writers go to learn to write. Talent is good but training, discipline and commitment is also very good and I feel an MFA with its deadlines and workshops and critiques supplies the latter as well as a community i.e. you are not alone in believing that storytelling is an important and relevant act.  
As for getting published I can attest that it’s absolutely not a requirement since without an MFA I’ve published short stories and memoirs pieces in many anthologies and journals.

What advice would you give to aspiring MFA candidates?
Advice I’d give all writers: take all the odd jobs you can—the more you live, the more you will have to write about. Know that early success, if success comes at all, comes to very few. Define what success means to you. Write a story you are proud of. Not every book is going to be turned into a film. And if it is then not every film is going to win the Oscar. Remind yourself that you write because something about the process keeps you riveted. You write because you don’t like the way the world is and so you turn it into a fair and just world on the page. You write because you believe that reading feeds the hungry soul and so you are a chef of words. Know that there is so much rejection in this field that you may as well take a sandpaper to your fingertips and then sandpaper your bloody fingers again and then go on typing. Rejections hurts but rejection is not the end of the world. It is not. It is just one agent/editor/judge’s opinion. That said have the humility to recognize good craft advice when given. Learn to walk the line between hubris and humility: I’m a decent writer/There is always something to learn. Do not let petty people get you down. If someone takes the trouble to inform you that ‘you are never going to amount to anything’ smile and thank them for their opinion. If someone take the trouble to inform you that ‘you are the best writer ever’ smile and thank them for their opinion. Do not get dejected. The internet has opened myriad opportunities to be heard so do not be dejected. Unless it is your choice do not let the beast called social media devour you. It might be true that those who market themselves best win the race, or it might not—but there is no way you can even really enter unless you spend time writing your novel, memoir, short story collection, poetry chapbook- not just one but the next one and then the next one. Blogging is not a waste of time just don’t let it take up all of your time. Spend time twittering, facebooking, linking-in and google-plusing and every other ‘Look At Me!!!! I’m Here Too!!!’ that’s out there but do look at yourself from time to time and ask: is the writing getting done?  Remember your only competition is yourself—not your friend who writes, not your enemy who writes, not your fellow countryperson on yet another awards list, not the books already on the shelves—but only yourself—can you outdo the last thing you wrote?
Write for publication because it makes you happy to share the voices in your soul otherwise just keep a journal.  

How would you recommend they prepare for the application process?
Send in your best writing samples. Of course. Write a personal statement that says why you want to write and why you think writing is important. For recommendations, ask those who can attest to your being a hard worker and a good team player. If they are not familiar with your writing, send them your samples so that can also say how much they like your writing!

What are your dreams and goals on the writing front?
To find time to write all the novels and stories that live within me. To be able to impart the thrilling adventure that is reading to everyone I come across.

Who are some of your favorite writers, contemporary and classic? Why?
I don’t necessarily have favorite writers rather favorite books which have stayed me for various reasons—tone, style, a masterful structure or storytelling. In classics- The Return of the Native by Hardy, Emma by Austen, The Grapes of Wrath by Steinbeck, Reena and Other Stories by Paule Marshall, Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys. Flannery O’ Conner’s short stories—Good Country People is a favorite, Bernice Gets a bob by Fitzgerald and The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin- also great favorites. The Lottery by Shirley Jackson. Myriad short stories by Urdu writers but in particular Mahalakshmi Ka Pul by Krishan Chander and Anandi by Ghulam Abbas.  
As for contemporary—too many but certainly Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible, Helen Simonson’s Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, Sadie Jone’s The Outcast, Rohinton Mistry’s  A Fine Balance, M.G, Vassanji’s The In-Between World of Vikram Lall, Julian Fellowe’s Snobs, I love the following short stories:  A Spoiled Man and In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin, A Piece of Cake by Talat Abbasi,  Broken Transformers by Bi Shumin, Fairy Tale by Robert Olen Butler and Nipple Jesus by Nick Hornby.

What are some books that you read recently that you would highly recommend? Any new authors, any unusual books, ones that you found inspiring, both South Asian and otherwise.
I do have a perennial favorite by Cheryl Benard called ‘Murder in Peshawar’ (formerly published as Moghul Buffet). Originally published in 1998 when there was barely anything South Asian let alone Pakistani on the shelves, it’s a smart and funny murder mystery.
I’ve recently finished are Unterzakhan my Leela Corman and Habibi by Craig Thomson. I’m so in awe of graphic novelists (especially once I read Michael Chabon’s ridiculously inspiring novel ‘The Amazing Adventures of Kavelier and Clay)—and I can’t help but think of the original story tellers drawing their bisons and spears on caves. How I wish I could draw!
I also love Moni Mohsin’s laugh out loud, wry but yet so true satire ‘Diary of  a Social Butterfly’ and its sequel ‘Tender Hooks.’ I have to say I loved Nadeem Aslam’s Maps for Lost Lovers, Kamila Shamsie’s Burnt Shadows.

What would I find on your to-read pile right now?
Too much because I want to read everything I set my eyes on but at the moment ‘A Woman of Substance: the memoirs of Begum Khurshid Mirza edited and compiled by Lubna Kazim’. ‘While We Were Watching Downton Abbey by Wendy Wax’. ‘Green Darkness by Anya Seton’. “Nisei Daughter by Monica Sone.’ ‘The Newly Weds by Nell Freudenberger’. ‘Native Land by Nadja Tesich’. ‘The Decline and Fall of the Ottoman Empire by Alan Palmer’.  The Arrogant Years by Lucette Lagnado’. Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes & Black Women in America by Melissa V. Harris-Perry.