Silence and the Word


Lethe Press, May 2004, 300 pp., $15, 978-1590210147


A new collection drawing from the many areas of 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.

“The word for Mary Anne’s writing: delicious. It is also rich, inventive, full of unexpected moods and tastes—by turns funny, poignant, strange, familiar, pungent, mournful, thrilling, stark. Like a dish of something wonderful: dig in.” —Benjamin Rosenbaum, author of Other Cities

Covering the seven years since the publication of her last collection, Torn Shapes of Desire, this book offers the reader reader favorites like “Esthely Blue” (a magical-realist semi-autobiographical story of sex, work, and disappearing body parts), never-before-published pieces like “At the Gates of the City” (a Mormon ghost story), and award-winning stories like “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. If you’re a long-time fan, you’ll be thrilled to have so much of her work finally collected in one place; if you’re a new reader, prepare to be emotionally engaged, possibly aroused, and certainly fascinated by what you’re about to read.

“Mary Anne Mohanraj’s writing is just like the writer herself: graceful, exotic, and full of boundless energy. Readers will find it a treat to get to know her.” —Cecilia Tan, author of Black Feathers


  • Introduction
  • Esthely Blue
  • And Can This Ever End?
  • Silence and the Word
  • Fringes
  • Johnny’s Story
  • Still
  • At the Gates of the City
  • Spinning Down
  • the sock tray
  • Seven Cups of Water
  • Rice
  • A Gentle Man
  • Listening to My Daughter
  • Minal in Winter
  • Under the Skin: A Survey
  • The Light at Dawn
  • And the sea is shaking
  • And Baby Makes Four
  • Kali
  • catch me if you can
  • Wild Roses
  • the bones want to fly
  • Exposure
  • how should I protest?
  • Mint in Your Throat
  • Invocation
  • The Survey
  • Would You Live For Me?
  • Amanda Means Love
  • Poem for a University
  • How It Started
  • A Jewel of a Woman
  • The Poet’s Journey
  • Flowers and Branches
  • one of the ways
  • Letter to Kevin
  • Sitting Under a Tree, in the Rain
  • End Notes

Excerpt from the Introduction

“…There was a strange time, a few years ago, when I was living in Salt Lake City (and perhaps influenced by the overwhelming conservatism). I wondered why I was still writing about sex, why I spent so much time and energy on it. Was it purely for the shock value, the admittedly sometimes fun role of the black sheep?

“My sex writing may have started that way, a little, but I believe that there’s more to it — that the real reasons I keep writing about sex are intimately tied to the power of the material. Sex writing, perhaps because of its taboo nature, has the power to reveal aspects of human nature that are otherwise inaccessible. Writing about sex can be scary — when I’m writing revelatory memoir pieces like “Silence and the Word” and “Under the Skin,” it can be downright terrifying. But that only underlines its importance, and its interest.

“After ten years, I still find that writing about sex is the most interesting writing I’ve done — not sex as simple titillation, or for shock value, but sex as it relates to and reveals the intricacies of the human heart. In passion, we are stripped bare, we reveal our fragile and vulnerable selves. We can only hope that the world will value us for what we are, will see us clearly and with generous eyes…”

For more of the introduction, and all the stories, essays, and poems that follow it, purchase a copy of Silence and the Word today! 🙂