Speaking Of

 

It was an honor to deliver the 2018 Vassar College Convocation Address on September 12. A preview was offered here. I love in particular the beautiful and historic chapel on campus. Photos by Karl Rabe.

In other news, the audio reading I did of Immigrant, Montana has received a wonderful review here:

IMMIGRANT, MONTANA Amitava Kumar, Read by Amitava Kumar • Unabridged • SEPTEMBER 2018 Random House Audio • Trade Ed. Books on Tape • Library Ed. Author Amitava Kumar narrates this exploration of Kailash’s early years in the United States. Part memoir, part novel, Kailash’s story is told with tongue-in-cheek humor. Kumar recounts the hilarious, sex-obsessed inner monologues of a 20-something Indian man who lands in the country of his dreams. Listeners are privy to the awkward, silly, and painful moments of a stranger in a strange land. From Kailash’s first date to his girlfriend’s abortion, we have a front row seat on his induction into American life, told in the lilting rhythm of Kumar’s narration. His delivery is steady, precise, and deliberate as he takes us on his search to make a home thousands of miles away from everyone he has ever known. Part melancholic and part ironic, this audiobook is full of feeling. M.R. © AudioFile 2018, Portland, Maine

Prized Possession

For Canada’s Sharp Magazine, I wrote a little piece about my most prized possession: my mother’s prayer beads.

My father opened my mother’s closet and laid out all its contents on the bed: beautiful silk saris, a couple of woollen coats, sweaters, small pieces of jewellery, a few gold coins. This was just hours after we had cremated her on the banks of the Ganges, near Patna in eastern India.

My sisters were to divide the saris among themselves and close relatives. That is what my father proposed. He mentioned the names of our aunts and a cousin who was sitting in the next room. The idea was a good one, but our grief was too raw, and my sisters protested by bursting into tears.

The previous night, I had arrived from New York — a 15-hour direct flight to Delhi and then another, just over an hour long, to Patna. I watched in silence as my father turned his attention to the smaller items, the objects that, unlike the saris, didn’t carry the smell of the perfume my mother used.

The grandchildren were to share the gold coins. I took two for my kids, whom I had left behind in Poughkeepsie. There were a couple of silver coins on the bed. One of them had the words “Edward VII King & Emperor” embossed around the head of the bald, bearded sovereign. Had an old woman in my father’s village given this coin to my mother when she had arrived as a bride?

I accepted unquestioningly the fine-looking sari that my father chose for my wife. Did I want anything from the items of jewellery? I shook my head to say no, but then I picked up a necklace of prayer beads that I had seen my mother wearing. This crystal necklace didn’t look expensive and was light enough not to add to the burden of my sorrow. Take it, take it, my father said.

More

“This is the Author” Interview for the Audio Version

<Writer’s voice> I did the audio version of my novel. Here’s a brief, four-minute interview for Penguin Random House Audio about the experience. Who would be my dream narrator? (I chose writers, not actors.) Which word from my novel was I unable to pronounce? (It was an adjective, describing a woman’s smile.) What did the whole exercise feel like? Please give it a listen if you like audio books.

To listen to an audio-clip from the novel, click on this link. Or click here to buy the audio version, which, of course, is the right thing to do.

He’s Gotta Have It

In the pages of the latest New Yorker, Joanna Biggs has a lovely, absorbing review of Immigrant, Montana.

The new book falls between genres. Its aim is not to tell a story, exactly, but to create a portrait of a mind moving uneasily between a new, chosen culture and the one left behind. Kailash’s journey toward sexual integration in the West is cast (to quote the author’s note) as “a work of fiction as well as nonfiction, an in-between novel by an in-between writer,” complete with multiple epigraphs, pictures, footnotes academic and digressive, and both pop-cultural and literary-theoretical references.

More.