It’s frustrating, being…

It's frustrating, being here in Chicago, when Jed's having such a rough time. Part of me wants to just fly to the West Coast now; but I have responsibilities in Chicago this week -- an open house at Roosevelt for incoming students, a Kriti meeting I'm hosting -- I have more meetings in New York next week, and then I was planning on being in the Bay Area for a few days the week after that anyway. So I'll see him soon, and Kam is able to be with him and help him with anything he needs right now. Jed's being taken care of, but still, I fret.

In the meantime, work goes on. I finished one of the student packets at the cafe yesterday afternoon, and got back a very enthusiastic note from the student a few hours later, saying how helpful it was. That's really nice to hear; I'm still a new enough teacher that I need some reassurance periodically that I do know what I'm doing, that I have useful things to say to these new writers. And then, after I finished the packet, I got an unexpected call from Roshani, who had come into Chicago to take her board exams. She was able to join me at the cafe for an hour, and it was really lovely to be able to catch up -- somehow, with all the travel and such, I haven't seen her in half a year. She's six months pregnant now with her second child; hard to take it in. She has one more year of her residency in Milwaukee; I hope she doesn't decide to stay there. It'd be so lovely to have her back in the city again. I've made friends here in the past few years -- people to eat with, chat with, etc. And Karen is sort of near here, though Madison is frustratingly far away. But Roshani and I have been friends since grammar school; that makes a difference. She's like family.

Today, I finish writing up my comments on the last two student packets. I think I was overoptimistic about how quickly I could finish them before; it takes time to do a good job on them. That's fine. Hopefully by tomorrow I'll be free to go back to revisions. I did figure out while I was lying in bed this morning that chapter 14 needs a few more scenes, which means that I'll probably move the last two scenes from it into chapter 15, which will conveniently also help with the pacing of that chapter. We'll see how it goes, sometime soon.

One small favor from a graphic artist type? We could use a logo for DesiLit, something to put on letterhead and the website and flyers and the like. I was thinking maybe something like the silhouette of a woman in a sari, reading a book, or writing one? I'm not sure how to best connote 'S. Asian' in that kind of design -- a long braid? A mehndi-patterned border? And would S. Asian men feel excluded if we didn't have a picture that depicted them too? I just don't know...

The key is to keep it really simple, so it will reproduce well even printed small, something like the SLF logo in style. If any of you have any ideas, or are willing to try a sketch, I'd really appreciate it. I tried, but my drawing skills are nonexistent, and the results are truly scary.

16 thoughts on “It’s frustrating, being…”

  1. Hmm…I think I just don’t get what’s problematic about saris or mehndi. Explain, please?

    On the mailing list, people so far seem to dislike the idea of gendered figures (fine) but are okay with paisley or mehndi patterns…

  2. Since I am not South Asian, maybe my opinion here should be ignored. Nevertheless, I shall offer it. It seems to me that using an outline of the Southern Asian coastline, including India, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, etc, would be a very distinctive image that would attract attention, and would be very clear in meaning except to the most geographically unaware.

  3. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    I thought of that, David, but I’m not sure it’d reproduce well. Imagine that image at 1 inch, for example…especially since you need to incorporate the book elements too…

  4. Guess I am just frustrated that the only representations we can find of us/our writing/our words are exotic, pretty, feminine patterns. Just ranting, that’s all.

    So now I’ll try and be more helpful, by actually thinking of a motif/pattern/symbol that might work :). Stay tuned…

  5. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    I can see resisting the pretty. I guess I was thinking of saris as simply denoting a particular culture, rather than necessarily something attractive; a shape that might serve as a reference. But perhaps that was naive of me; I can see the argument.

    I wonder whether having a book with a sari-dressed woman might be sufficiently de-prettifying? I don’t think I’ve ever seen such an image. Pretty and intellectual are so rarely represented together… It might be an interesting disjunction for a lot of people — instead of a pretty sari-clad dancer image, a sari-clad woman in glasses holding a book?

    Anyway, I’m not wedded to the idea. Maybe we really should just go with a book with some sort of paisley border or some such. The SALTAF logo is a book with a film strip (they do both explicitly) with some words/characters in an Indian language — but I don’t know what language, and I’m hesitant to single any particular language out in any case…

  6. To me saris and mehndi play too much into the exoticization of the subcontinent and I think it’s been overdone. On book covers, web sites, places where S. Asians are featured. Many S. Asian writers call this is the trend of the curry/sari covers.

    This is a tough fence to straddle…on the one hand differntiating the organization as distinctly S. Asian…on the other guarding against exoticization. Anyway, that’s just me. Perhaps I am too sensitive about these things. I would prefer something more forward looking, more modern, more reflective of S. Asian writers/readers. But I don’t know what.

    Well, I’ve just talked myself into a huge circle so I’ll stop now.

  7. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    Yes — what can we use that’s distinctly S. Asian, that conveys that immediately and visually, without playing into exoticizing tendencies?

    I don’t wan to be stupid and cheesy with this, but I also do want it to be visually effective at conveying ‘South Asian’ immediately.

    I wonder what other cultural literary groups do. The Finns, for example?

  8. Jawahara, my sentiments *exactly*. Another issue is that we are such a diverse group that anything that denotes regional specificity is gonna cause some discussion, i.e. saris don’t work because it’s not the regional, native dress for all SA women, a language font won’t work, because, well, that’s self-explanatory, a South Asian person reading won’t work, because I have no idea what a “South Asian person” looks like! Anyways, I also think I am super-sensitive to these things…

    What about an icon of a South Asian writer, i.e. Tagore?

  9. I reacted similarly to Jawahara and Rani, and I’m not even South Asian. Suppose it were a man wearing some kind of traditional garb; how would that read? Or if a woman, a salwar kameez instead of a sari? Or suppose it weren’t an image of a person at all, but some other iconography that’s South Asian, perhaps paired with a book? (I like the book part.) A book and a clay lamp, like those they burn at Diwali? I dunno. I shouldn’t even try to suggest iconography, cause I’ll just reveal my ignorance. But I feel that there’s ton of other imagery to pick from, rather than the too-familiar one that tends to lure clueless white men (_pace_ the non-clueless ones, of which there are thankfully many) hoping for a whiff of Indian spice.

  10. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    The problem with an image of Tagore is that it won’t be immediately recongizable, especially in icon format (no fine details, essentially a silhouette).

    I’m not sure about the Diwali lamp — too specifically of one religion? I feel ignorant about these things, since I was raised Catholic. Not to mention in America — it’s tough for me to come up with iconography that’s generally S. Asian without being religiously or otherwise over-specific.

    That map idea is sounding better and better — I tried a search for images of European literature on Google, and did come up with a bunch of maps of Europe. Ditto Finland. 🙂 But I just worry that it won’t reproduce well small.

    I wonder about the salwar kameez option — would that be immediately clear, in an icon? I’m just not sure…

  11. I wonder whether there are any photographs of Southern Asia taken from space; maybe from the moon? If the image was clearly a part of the Earth, it might work at postage stamp size. I was thinking of a line drawing of the coastline, which is quite distinctive; but maybe shading the land or the water area would make this clearer. An artist would have to experiment with the image, along with the included image of a book.

  12. How about taking one of the usual images…mehndi, paisley, saris or something like that and turning it on its head? Perhaps, for instance, taking the paisley but rendering it in a very comtemporary, fresh way.

    I am not an artist so I can’t think of a wa to do this but doing something like that might be witty, fresh and nicely subversive.

  13. Two thoughts for you… How about something stylistically similar to shadow puppets used as a border? Is that too specific to Indonesia/Java to be workable for DesiLit as a whole?

    As another thought, I am a big fan of recognizable typography. Maybe some logotype based on the characters “DesiLit” made to look more like South Asian script characters…?

    (Not an artist, but a free-associater.)

  14. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    The puppets are too-specific, Naomi, and as well, Indonesia is actually not part of South Asia. Southeast Asia is a separate, non-overlapping region. Southeast Asia generally refers to a bunch of countries that DesiLit doesn’t cover: Brunei, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. *South Asia* covers Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Bhutan, Tibet and the Maldives. I know this isn’t common knowledge, but now you know. 🙂

    The typography might be an idea. Of course, no graphic artist has actually volunteered to help with this yet either…

  15. hey i follow desilit and happened upon your site. I am a graphic artist and I would love to work with you on the project.

    Let me know if you are still in search of a logo. 🙂

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