Mainstream Lit

Books

Perennial, 2017.  Perennial is a combination of breast cancer memoir and garden romance, a sweet little chapbook of about 14,000 words of fiction and a dozen autobiographical poems.  The first printing will be a limited edition of 100 signed and numbered copies; e-book versions are also available.  Coming in March 2017 (or sooner) from Serendib Press.

“Can I help you?” The woman in the front section of Devan McLeod’s garden shop had been wandering aimlessly about the store for a full twenty minutes. Usually he tried not to pester the customers; after eleven years in America, he still hadn’t dropped all of his more reserved habits; his Scottish father had been the strong, silent type. But his Indian mother came from shopkeeper roots, and he could just hear her scolding him now. Take care of your customers, son, and they’ll take care of you. He really ought to Skype them; it’d been too long.”

Bodies in Motion, 2009.
“Like the sweet heat of a Bodies in Motion (1972)palate-pleasing curry or the brilliant radiance of bougainvillea, the short stories in Mary Anne Mohanraj’s Bodies in Motion will delight the senses and sensibilities. Her tales follow two generations of two families living on the cusp of disparate worlds, America and Sri Lanka — their lives and ties shaped, strengthened, devastated, and altered by the emigrant-immigrant ebb and flow. Through stunning, effervescent prose, intimate moments are beautifully distilled, revealing the tug-of-war between generations and gender in stories sensual and honest, chronicling love, ambition, and the spiritual and sexual quests of mothers and daughters, fathers and sons.”

The Poet’s Journey, 200861OyCoiiD-L
“In a far away land under the coconut palms, there was a quiet little house by the sea. It had old boards that creaked when the wind whistled through them. It had small rooms that filled with sunshine on sunny days and moonlight on cloudless nights. Sometimes the roof leaked a little rain. And it had a young poet…” This charming tale, written by Amirthi Mohanraj and illustrated by Kat Beyer, is the story of a young poet who sets out on a journey to find poetry. With the guidance of two ravens, the help of a few magical creatures, and a strong dose of determination, the young poet adventures in the wide world, finding more than she ever expected.”

Taste of Serendib, 2003serendibfront.t
“Serendib: one of the many names for Sri Lanka, Ceylon, Taprobane — an island nation south of India, rich in tea and spices, vegetables, fruit and fish, possessing a complex multicultural cuisine. A Taste of Serendib is a collection of unexpected, delightful, fortunate flavors, forty-five recipes to tantalize your tastebuds and satisfy your stomach.”

 

Silence and the Word, 2010
“A collection drawing from the many areas silencebigof Mary Anne Mohanraj’s work, Silence and the Word includes everything from enticing erotica to Sri Lankan-American immigrant tales, from romantic poetry to provocative essays, like “Esthely Blue” (a magical-realist semi-autobiographical story of sex, work, and disappearing body parts), “At the Gates of the City” (a Mormon ghost story), and the award-winning story “A Gentle Man” (an affecting tale of an immigrant father’s attempt to reconcile his own yearning for home with his children’s individual needs and desires).
Mohanraj boldly explores sexuality, ethnicity, and their interactions with the human heart.”

Kathryn in the City, 2003
“Readers call the shots in these titillating original bkathryn in the cityooks, written by premier erotica  authors, which allow you to live out your most uninhibited erotic fantasies. Kathryn in the City follows “you,” as Kathryn, from a small Indiana town to San Francisco, where you decide whether to pursue a relationship with a sexy post-doctoral student, have a dalliance with a lesbian stripper, or shag your gay roommate’s boyfriend, to name just a few of the possible fantasies you can choose from along your narrative journey. But always beware of the perils of big-city life that might leave you imprisoned in a dark dungeon with nary a Prince Charming in sight.”

The Classics  Professor, 2003
“Readers call the shots in these titillating original professorbooks, written by premier erotica authors, which allow you to live out your most uninhibited erotic fantasies. The Classics Professor is a beautiful woman at a prestigious New York university whose cold professional façade masks a powerful eroticism. Dr. Wendy Lake wants to seduce you, and a disastrous relationship has left you vulnerable to her advances. You’re fascinated and intimidated. When the affair becomes dangerously intense, you’ll have to decide whether you will submit to all her perversions, such as attending pan-sexual orgies in midtown; escape the pressure through a fling with a nubile university co-ed; or drop out of graduate school altogether.”

Aqua Erotica, 2000
“Imagine a hot tub party where a married couple tests thaquabige boundaries of fidelity. A model who finds herself unaccountably aroused as she poses for a watercolor artist. A pool of water on a desert road and two lovers who know how to make the most of it. This is Aqua Erotica, a sensuous tasting of desire’s liquid, ecstatic other worlds. Aqua Erotica is a siren’s song, a book so unforgettably sexy that you will want to take it with you to the bath, the sauna, the night-lit pool. What’s amazing is that you can. The first-ever waterproof book for adults. The most seductive collection of original literary erotica ever gathered under one cover. Aqua Erotica is a book that quite literally goes places you never imagined books could go. Featuring today’s boldest erotic voices.”

Wet, 2002
“Fast on the heels of the wildly popular Aqua Erotica, 51nYaT6DNkLWet finds a new group of writers (and some familiar favorites) exploring the depths of love, lust, and the infinite possibilities of water. An illicit flirtation between a Japanese schoolgirl and an older man leads to a most unconventional tea ceremony. An aging couple reclaim their youthful sexuality on a stormy Sunday morning. And two participants in a reality TV show discover the benefits of being stranded together on a remote desert island. Designed to withstand the elements, Wet’s sleek, sexy, waterproof pages can safely travel with you to your favorite aquatic environment, whether it be the beach, the pool, or a quiet candle-lit bath. Thoughtfully compiled by Mary Anne Mohanraj, the stories in Wet cover the spectrum of erotic tastes and inclinations and promises to tantalize those daring enough to test its waters.”

Torn Shapes of Desire, 1997513YNR2PDDL
Mary Anne Mohanraj has been publishing literary erotica on the Internet for five yeas, with more than 500,000 “hits” (visits) to her web site in one year. Her work has ap peared in a score of magazines and anthologies. Torn Shapes Of Desire contains forty of her be st short stories and poems, some of which have never been in print before. Her mix of style, g enre and setting is evocative — with stories to suit many tastes and orientations. Torn Shap es Of Desire also includes an interview with other writers of Internet erotica and essays discussing he althy sexuality and free speech on the Internet. Torn Shapes Of Desire is a benchmark publication, representing as it does, what the new media of the internet can generate for the reading public. — Midwest Book Review

CDs

Morningsong — me reading mostly stories

Esthely Blue — me reading mostly poems

Stories

Birthstones,  2013
“Suresh sat across the kitchen table from the slender woman, sharing a last evening cup of tea, surprised yet again by how lovely Priyanka had become over the years.  When he’d first met her, she’d been a scrawny gamin of a child; now his cousin Priyanka was as gorgeous as the Bollywood film stars she revered, with large, wide-set eyes, high cheekbones, perfect skin.  She could have been an actress if her parents hadn’t been dead set against it.  Throughout her childhood, they had kept her under strict lock and key, and now, everything had changed.  “I don’t know how you stand it,” he said.””

The Princess in the Forest, 2012 (Bodies in Motion)
“The princess walks for hours, her face smooth as an undisturbed pool of water, her eyes laughing, light as butterflies. New-married, full of adoration for her husband, her prince. Rama hunts in the forest; he pursues the slender hart, lays traps for cunning rabbits. But always he comes to his Sita before the sun is down, comes to their modest hut, their gentle home in exile. He smiles to see her, lays the game aside and takes her in his arms, draws her down to the forest floor, the soft grasses, and she loves him then, as the gopis loved blue Krishna, she loves him with everything she has, everything she is.”

Sanctuary, 2012
“”Kavitha eased her way out of her daughter’s room, closing the door quietly behind her. It had taken longer than usual to get her toddler down; Isai had insisted on telling her a long, incomprehensible story about Daddy and dragons. When Michael got home from the station, Kavitha would have to ask him if he’d said something to Isai. In Jokertown, it was entirely plausible that Michael had encountered real dragons in the course of his detective duties — or at least something close enough to pass for real. He was going to have to stop reading his daughter police reports; Isai was getting old enough to understand them. And even though the child appeared to be fearless, some of the things Michael dealt with on a day-to-day basis terrified even Kavitha; Isai didn’t need to hear all the gritty details of Daddy’s job. Not yet. Isai might be an ace, with fearsome shapeshifting abilities, but she was also only two-and-a-half years old. Michael was just going to have to learn how to make stories up. Appropriate stories.”

Hunting for Mangoes, 2011 (Children’s)
“In the long, lazy afternoon, under the shade of a wide-leafed coconut palm, a brother and sister were quarreling. This was nothing new; Arun and Ziya had been born in the same moment, under the same star. Their exhausted mother would tell anyone who asked that they had been fighting ever since that day.”

Sequins, 2008 (Bodies in Motion)
“Sarala blinked twice from behind her glasses, jarred from the image she’d held in her mind, the image that stubbornly refused to come out into the paint on her canvas. There was a body, she knew — a body, and wings — but more than that. Not as trite as a woman turning into a bird, seeking flight, freedom, escape. Along with the wings were powerful haunches, poised to leap, muscles tense and yearning. And claws, sharp and long; teeth, red at the tips. All caught at the moment of shifting, transformation, in that liminal space where every possibility hangs, glorious, waiting.”

Counting to Ten, 2006
“Why is it that when your own life is totally fucked up that you try to fix other peoples lives?” “I don’t know.  You’re the big sister, you’re supposed to know the answers to these things.”  “I don’t know anything.  That’s about all I know.”

Monsoon Day, 2005
She comes home, rowing the boat with strong arms over the breakwater, jumping out to drag it up onto the shore. She was once a curiosity, and beggar children gathered to laugh, to point, to stare at this strange woman in her widow’s white, this old woman who goes out alone to the sea, every day, in her battered fishing boat. But familiarity breeds comfort as well as contempt, and they have long-ago grown used to her, this strangeness, this madwoman. They have heard her story from their sisters and brothers, their parents, and now no one bothers to tell it. They leave her alone, for the most part. They let her fish.

The Marrying Kind, 2005
Leilani slipped out of bed, pulled on a thin cotton robe, left Jared sleeping. It was late, and they both had to get up early tomorrow for work. But she couldn’t sleep on a night like tonight — it was thunderstorm weather, and they were overdue. The forecasters had been predicting a storm for weeks, but there had been nothing, nothing but the crackle in the air, the build-up that never quite discharged. It was driving her slowly mad.

Lakshmi’s Diary, 2004
July 2, 1969 — My wedding day. Today I’m getting married. Raksha is a handsome man — smooth skin, nice cheekbones. He’s cheerful, generous, and owns his own business, a sari shop. Aunty Easwari has done well by me, though I thought she was going to have a heart attack when I wrote to her and asked her to find me a husband. She protested — of course my parents, both teachers, would object to my getting married instead of going to college, but I can be just as stubborn as any of my five sisters when I need to be.

A Gentle Man, 2003
Suneel wakes up hours before his family. This is normal, although today is not normal, today is a special day. Most days he makes tea, reads the paper, eats some toast without butter before going to work at his store. Sushila, his wife, never wakes until after nine. She likes to stay up late, talking on the phone with her friends. When the children were younger, he was the one who woke them, who ironed their Catholic school uniforms and put out milk and cereal. But now the children are able to wake themselves, and only Riddhi, his youngest, still sleeps at home. It is Riddhi’s birthday today…

How It Started, 2002
When a hot new dyke moves to Berkeley, you’ve only got a tiny window of time in which to make your move. If you don’t move quick, she’ll be snapped up by someone else, and you’ll be left alone in your bed — wet fingers for company, waxing the saddle and wishing for love…

Wild Roses, 2001
It started with a phone call. Sarah had been expecting the call, but it was still a shock. She had learned over the last few years, as friends succumbed to old age, and to one or another disease, that there were limits to how well you could prepare for death. It was usually cancer, of one type or another. Cancer had gotten Daniel, too. It was hard when it was someone you’d loved…

Minal in the Winter, 1999 (Bodies in Motion)
“Dear Raji Aunty, I hope you and Vivek Uncle are well. How is the painting going? The painting you sent on my birthday — of the women bathing at the waterfall — hangs over my bed. I think my mother would be shocked, but my roommates are very impressed that I have an aunt who paints such things. The women in their bright saris remind me of home…” All my letters to my aunt start like that, and never finish. I have written twenty or thirty of them in the last week. Words and lines and paragraphs of politeness, all true and all lies. I cannot write what I am really saying. I cannot write that I am in terrible trouble, and I don’t know what to do…

Seven Cups of Water, 1999
My brother’s wedding day. The feasting lasted long past dark, and I went to bed exhausted. I first peeled off my sweat-soaked sari, rinsing my body with cool well water before changing into the white sari I wore to sleep. The old women had consulted the horoscopes of my brother and his young bride, had pronounced that this day, in this month, would be luckiest, in fact the only day that would not bring down a thousand curses on the young couple — never mind that it was also one of the hottest days of the year. There was no flesh left on the old women’s bones, nothing that could drip sweat; I am sure they enjoyed making the young ones miserable…

And Can This Ever End? (a cyclic tale), 1998
Rosa. Rosa in the afternoon, sitting in the window with her hair falling down, hair so pale, so fair, a white waterfall cascading down and down and he loses himself in it, in this girl sitting in the window, reading a book with her eyes half-closed and her legs pulled up and the light behind her so she is only a shape at dusk, in the town library, a curving shape with white water falling behind…

Esthely Blue, 1998
My toes curl and release. I am lying with my back against his chest, with my ass against his groin and him slowly going limp inside me. I am catching my breath, slowing down, listening to my heartbeat fill the room. I am waiting for the right moment to shift away; though it would be nice to cuddle, I’m dying of the heat. Yes, long enough, and in one movement I slip a little forward and he slides out and only our toes are touching now, way down at the bottom of my bed. And I look down the curve of my body, smiling, down the faint moonlit bed, down my thighs to knees and calves, looking for my toes — they are not there. Ankle, heel, and emptiness…

Johnny’s Story, 1998
It was the summer before I started college. I was working in the factory and living with my family, saving up the money to buy my books and pay my rent, ’cause even if I had gotten a partial scholarship, it wasn’t going to be near enough by itself, and my poppa didn’t have anything to spare. Though he was proud, I think. None of the men in our line had ever even finished high school before. Just my momma’s sister, who married the doctor, and Cassie, of course. Though it’s not like Cassie’s really my sister. She’s just the daughter of the woman my poppa married after my momma took off. She doesn’t look anything like me; she’s little, y’know? Little like a bird, a little chocolate stick of a thing…

Kali, 1998
So you’re walking up and down Telegraph, up and down, trying not to look like the new dyke in town, trying not to telegraph that you are fresh off the boat, innocent new meat just in from Indiana, come to the big city. Actually, the small city, to Berkeley in fact, because San Francisco is a little intimidating to start off with if you’re a twenty-two-year-old dyke who just came all the way to California to get laid because you have just been dumped by the only other lesbian in Franklin, Indiana and you just can’t take it anymore…

The Survey, 1998
So this guy walks up to me on the street, at something like 8 p.m., on that deserted stretch over by the park, y’know? I’d be scared, except he’s just a kid, and he says, “Hey, you wanna do this survey?” And I say, “What’s in it for me? I’m a busy woman?” And he says “Five bucks — and if you answer the long form, fifty…”

A Jewel of a Woman, 1997
this is my favorite story to read aloud; it’s short, silly, and a lot of fun. It started from a discussion on the EROS workshop, on all the different terms there were for female masturbation.

Mint in Your Throat (original), 1997
I’ve actually reworked this to include in my dissertation collection; I wrote this version during the six weeks I spent at the Clarion writing workshop, and almost started a fight in class with it. It’s still one of the most controversial pieces I’ve written, and one of my personal favorites.

…the shiver of your mouth, 1997
A night spent not embraced, not after so many years, but almost touching still, with the warmth of your skin radiating across the few inches and the heady unspoken knowledge that a turn, a twist, a nightmare can bridge that distance in an unfelt instant.

The Girl Behind the Fantasy, 1996

“Hey, boy. You listening? ’cause I have a story for you, oh yes I do. It’s the story you’ve always dreamed of — it’s your story; it’s every story. It’s your favorite fantasy — ’cause that’s what I am, a fantasy, and I can be whatever your heart desires.”

Goddess Blessing, 1996
“Mina followed the rituals, but her heart was heavy as she wove wreaths with ink-stained fingers. Her book was going well, but since Suresh’s death had left her a wealthy widow a year previously, she had cared little for it. She had been alone in the big empty house since the death of her husband last year; the marriage had been arranged, and while she had been fond of him, he had not been the great love of her life. Her eyes went often to a small photo on the windowsill, of a young woman in a green sari. It had been over 20 years since she’d last seen Raji, and her letters had all gone unanswered. Until today…”

Lady Distressed, 1996
“Jane stood lost amidst lords and ladies, jugglers and madmen,
merchants who plucked at her blouse and dirty children in rags, wondering
what had possessed her. Why in the world had she agreed to accompany
Matthew to this insane asylum, where these refugees from the real world
pranced and danced and pretended they had been born centuries earlier?
He had begged her to come to the Faire with him, to indulge in an
afternoon of harmless hedonism away from her computer, and she had
inexplicably agreed. Normally she was impervious to such persuasion,
but yesterday she had fallen victim to his persistent pleas.”

The Masks We Wear, 1996
“She shrugs, cheerfully, helplessly. “What? We can be friends,
right? I don’t hate you — you don’t hate me, right?” Her voice trembles
a bit there, giving her away, but she recovers magnificently, tones
cooling to British perfection. “Surely we can be civilized about this?”
Morgan’s eyes are only slightly over-bright, and if tears lurk behind
them, they are invisible in the shaft of sunlight that bathes them both,
blinding his early-morning eyes. Chris sighs, and sits up, blankets
falling away from his chest to reveal a fist-sized bruise, nicely
blackened. She gasps.”

Mistress Molly, 1996
“It seemed so innocent at first. How could I know that it would bring me to this point, this place, this strangeness? Would you have known? Could you? Impossible for you to answer, of course, even if you had the faintest idea what I meant. Perhaps I should start at the
beginning. That’s generally a good rule.My boyfriend’s name is Michael. I’m Kate. We’ve been together for five years, and they’ve been pretty good years. We were even thinking
of getting married, though I’ve always been a little skittish about the idea. He’s a really nice guy, and I care about him a lot. He’s also great in bed– really imaginative, and very considerate. One of the most caring, giving, unjealous people I know. I’m planning to break up with him tomorrow…”

The Adventures of Gorgeous Gracie, 1995
“Grace Fitzpatrick looked down her glasses at the student
sitting in her office. It was difficult to maintain the proper
distance and respect between herself and her college English students,
but the prim outfits she wore and the glasses she didn’t need helped.
At least she hoped so. She would need all the help she could get to
retain her composure in front of this muscled football jock whose gaze
kept drifting to her chest. She tried to hide them as much as
possible, but Grace did have unusually large breasts, and there just
wasn’t that much that she could do about them. She tried not to look
down, hoping a button hadn’t come undone. They often did.”

Caught Between Two Angry Women, 1995
“This is an interesting piece for a number of reasons. It was the
longest story I had attempted when I wrote it, and I was surprised by
how much more difficult it was for me to write one long story than
several short ones (didn’t bode well for the novel :-). I was also
working under word/content/style constraints for the first time —
specifically, Puritan Magazine, the people who commissioned
this piece wanted it to be under 9000 words (left to itself, I think
it would have ended up closer to 12000), fairly hard-core (a little
harder than I think is really appropriate for the story), and slanted
towards their het audience (understandable, but you’ll notice later on
that there’s a hint of homoeroticism in one passage, and had I had my
way, that would have been much more developed). I’m not complaining,
mind you — they had every right to ask for a story that met their needs,
and I happily wrote it that way — merely noting that left to itself, it
would have been a fairly different story. Of course left to itself, it
may never have been written at all. (side note: The story is a blend
of two old ballads — the tale of Thomas the Rhymer, and the tale of
Tam Lin. Ellen Kushner did a wonderful retelling of the first, entitled
Thomas the Rhymer, and Pamela Dean did an equally wonderful,
if very different, retelling of the second, entitled Tam Lin).”

Charlie, 1995
“But Charlie is gone, as he usually is, and so I am the one
opening the door to Peter’s cheerful smile, and with a quick fluttery
glance at Kate and Alison’s down the hall door, he slips inside and
the door is shut and I am caught up in his arms, in his eyes, in him.
Today he is hungry…”

Dialogue, 1995
“The couple lies intertwined. His left hand rests casually on a small
right breast; her hands are pressed against a slightly hairy chest. Dim
light falls on them through a white-curtained window above the queen-size
bed, creating odd shadows in the curve of young bodies.”

Was It Good For You?, 1995
“His hands press smooth against her waist as he guides her into the
frantic club. The blast of heat and music hits them both. Now they are
past the bouncers and the ticket counter, skimming past the teens in their
translucent skirts and carefully bored expressions, down the stairs to the
over-21 hangout, where he promises her interesting conversation and
air-conditioning. Once there, pulled into a booth by his over-friendly
friends, he curves her body to his and loosely links his hands around her
waist. His thumbs etch small, slow circles on her belly through the thin
black tank. She wonders if he remembers that she is seeing someone else.
She wonders if he cares.”

Attraction, 1994

The collar was hard to miss against her pale skin, sharp against the soft curve of Belinda’s throat. I imagined I could see the racing pulse under the studded black leather, unlikely as that was in dinner candlelight. I’d never seen her look so beautiful…”

Blind, 1994
“There is a heaviness across my eyes, something pressing against the skin. I try to bring my hand to my face, to test what feels like silk, or chiffon…and discover my hands are bound behind me. Gently, comfortably, but without any extra give at all. I am curled on my side, my arms behind me, my legs tucked under, blind.”

Fireworks and Storms, 1994
“I walked her down to the beach, almost silent, comparing the
taste of root beer and peppermint. She needed to walk, and I could
use the exercise, so we went down to the beach. A long, slow walk
down 53rd street and along the Lake Shore Drive, and then you dip
through the newly-graffiti’d tunnel, parts still sparkling white. I
resisted the urge to yell for echoes. It would have been too painful.”

Japanese Garden, 1994
“If you’ve ever been to Chicago, and are at all the
museum-going type, you’ve probably been to the Museum of Science and
Industry. It’s worth seeing, with the Omnimax 360 degree theatre, the
over-priced coal mine ride, and the tons of cool techno gizmos. If
you’re anything like me, you can’t resist the glass globe with the
sparks that reach out to caress your hand, or the computer quizzes. But
the best thing about it in 1989 was that it was still free. Only a
ten-minute walk from my dorm, it was irresistible during those rare
weeks of Indian summer, when it was warm and humid enough that you
desperately wanted to be naked, or at least outside by the lake.”

Jinsong (With Cecil Williams), 1994
“I hope that I am who you think I am…and you are who I think you are.
I hope that we like each other…that we become friends.
I hope that the summer heat will help us drop inhibitions.
I hope that we have sex on the quads.
I hope you like the way I taste.”

Just Reading News, 1994
“I’ve been waiting for this all day. Just one of those days
when you can’t stop thinking about it — when you want to lock
your married, overweight boss in his office and tear his expensive
clothes off. Thank god I’m not a horny teenage male — my poor
boss wouldn’t survive that. He’d die of embarrassment.”

Lady, 1994
“She was trying very hard not to look scared. Scared was
dangerous. Scared had gotten her married, gotten her beaten, gotten
her raped in her home and on the road. If she’d learned one thing
in the last three weeks it was this: sexy was a whole lot more
useful than scared.”

Letter Found Near a Suicide, 1994

“This is for Maureen. This is for Maureen to tell her all the things I
could not tell her. This is for Maureen O’Reilly, who lives on Elm
Street, near the old church.”

Making the Sale, 1994
““I hate all of them. Don’t you have anything else in back?”
Her tone had shifted slightly, almost pleading. Bob couldn’t resist
that seductive voice. He knew he shouldn’t leave the front
unattended, but it would only take a minute…”

A More Congenial Spot, 1994
“Stories were told about her on campus, legends almost. They
said that she had taken on all of Alpha Delt and lived to tell the
tale, that she had seduced every TA she had…to the point where
they fought to get her assigned to their section, and that she
considered it a personal slight against her honor to become friends
with a virgin and let him, or her, remain so.”

A Night to Remember, 1994
“There were only three of us that night, lounging on Kate’s
plush carpeting. Sometime after graduating college, we’d started a
regular Friday night party, a place the six of us could turn to if we
couldn’t find a date. For various reasons, or no reason at all, none
of us had serious lovers then. So it was nice knowing you wouldn’t be
alone on Friday night. And occasionally, what with the champagne we
usually got and the odd game of Scruples or Truth or Dare, we got a
little more than friendly.”

The Other Woman, 1994
“Do you remember that last night you saw me? Have you wondered
over the years why I ran away, leaving that open apartment, those open
arms? I could not remember birthdays for you, love. I will always
prefer lilacs to roses. I think sometimes that I was meant to be a
mistress, a high-class whore.”

Paint, 1994
“Something twisted in me, and I couldn’t help saying, “I think
you could use a little loneliness for a change.” I turned away,
fighting unexpected tears, and picked up a brush and started to
paint, slowly, calmly. Suddenly, Andrew’s arms were around me, his
left hand pressed against the skin at my waist, the right still
holding a paintbrush in front of me. At the contact, the pressure
of his long body against my back, I broke. Tears were suddenly
pouring down my face. Weeks of pent-in frustration burst loose,
and it was all I could do not to slam my paintbrush right through
the newly-painted wall.”

Radhika and Matthew, 1994
“She is stunning in a white and gold sari, a princess more
beautiful than any of the German fairy tales. White suits her far
better than it could have any of the those milksop blond maidens. She
seems cool and calm, despite the August heat. His palms sweat in the white
New England church, his pale skin incongruous against the sea of brown
faces. All he thinks as he breathes is what a shame that custom binds
her hair, studded with carnations and gold.”

Reunion, 1994
“Maybe it would be like that. But more likely it wouldn’t.
Janie stepped away from the phone once more, to sit in a shrinking
pool of sunlight by the window. The brindle cat leapt momentarily
into her lap, long enough to leave a jagged gash along her thigh.
Janie’s fingers clenched tightly in the space the cat had been.
Too late.”

Season of Marriage, 1994 (Bodies in Motion)
“She was scared. Why, oh why had she agreed to this? The answer to that was easy. Because she hadn’t cared anymore. After she’d found out about Jim and that other girl; after all the broken promises and shattered dreams, it just didn’t seem to matter. The heat and incense combined to bring on a wave of brutally clear memory.”

Chantelle, 1994
“Chantelle has risen from the futon and stands framed in a halo
of flickering light. That lamp has never been reliable, and now in
this uncertain moment it seems to sound its death-knell, flicking in
and out as we walk slowly into the room.”

Composition in Cream and Chocolate, 1993
“A golden spotlight hits the bare stage, near the front. It
moves slowly backwards, up the center stage, and focuses on a pair of
black boots. Ever-so-faintly, you can make out silver tracery on the
boots as your eye, and the spotlight, follows them upwards. The spot
outlines tight black pants, clinging to clearly-defined muscles in
long, lean legs. The pants hide nothing. They caress strong thighs
and narrow hips before disappearing under a midnight blue silk shirt.”

Morningsong, 1993
“When you sleep, the lines all smooth out of your face. Worry
lines, age lines, even the laugh wrinkles at the corner of your eyes
that I see all too rarely, disappear into pale softness. I was
pressed against your back, asleep, my chest against your spine, my
left arm flung over your waist. I wake hours before you would, if
left to yourself.”

Rain Sings A Sad Song, 1993
“The sun’s touch eventually woke them from sleeping in each
other’s arms. They dressed hurriedly, all too aware of patrol cars
rolling much too close to their hidden place. Then they sat, cross-
legged, staring at each other. She had her back to the rising sun,
and he could not tell whether there were tears in her eyes.”

Wide Brown Eyes, 1993
“Kate bristled for a moment, but then laughed and relaxed. She
wasn’t very good at staying angry, and he was so beautiful in the
light, with ferns hanging down around his shoulders. ‘Puck in the
woods’, she thought briefly. She told him, “My family says that
too…that my eyes go wide, I mean. I’ve never seen it, but I guess
it’s true.””

American Airlines Cockpit, 1993
I don’t generally believe in disclaimers, but I want to note that this
story is probably the raunchiest and worst-written of the lot. It was my
first erotica piece, and I’m fond of it.”

Essays

Remember, 2010
“I feel the need to tell you this in order to establish my queer, sex activist, credentials. Even though you can be queer without being sexually active, just like you can be straight and a virgin. I know that. I know you do too. But I have such a hard time remembering that I’m bisexual these days, remembering, even, that I’m sexual. Sometimes I need to remind myself that once upon a time, I had sex. I had a lot of sex. Now I have a two-year-old and an infant, and I tell people my sexual orientation is tired.”

The Pledge, 2008
“I pledge allegiance to the flag, of the United States of America. I used to say those words every morning, five days a week, in homeroom, standing along a bunch of Polish and Irish-American kids, mostly second or third generation. I was born in Sri Lanka, but we came to America when I was just two years old, and I grew up in Connecticut, in a school where I was the only South Asian kid.”

The Arrival, 2008
“Four days before my departure for Sri Lanka, it is seven a.m. and I am standing in an airport in San Francisco. I was in Connecticut two weeks before, visiting my parents, have been in the Bay Area for a week, and am now supposed to be getting on a plane to Vancouver, to be on a panel about South Asian Literature at AWP, the associated writing programs conference. But I have forgotten that Vancouver is in Canada. I have forgotten that Canada is a separate country. I have forgotten to pack my passport and green card, the alien registration card that will allow me back into the United States, certifying that I am a permanent resident, with certain, limited, rights.”

Revised Itineraries, 2006
a nonfiction excerpt from Arbitrary Passions: “‘Don’t worry — you can pass,’ she said, her voice low, her hand reassuring on my arm.”

Under the Skin, 2004
I sent out an e-mail to several old and current lovers. I realize that this is not the approach that most people would have taken, and I hesitated briefly before sending the letter out, wondering, perhaps, if I were presuming too much on lingering affection and friendship. But in the end, I sent the letter, full of impertinent questions.

Silence and the Word, 2000 (part essay, part story)
This is a true story. In the dark, there’s a woman in bed. Her lover’s hand is between her thighs, and he is rubbing what he thinks is her clit, but in fact he’s almost an inch off, and she doesn’t know what to do. She wants to tell him, somehow, but it’s not an easy thing to communicate…

And Baby Makes Four, 2000
Her back was sore, despite the pillows the guys had tenderly tucked around her when they settled her in the back of the car. Her back was sore and her head felt like it was stuffed with cotton; the baby was kicking and the last thing she wanted to hear right now was what she was pretty sure she was hearing from the front seat…