Last night Sorayya Khan came in for her reading -- did a great job, and the students who were there I think enjoyed it. I only wish I'd had time to read more of Noor before her visit -- the novel centers around the West Pakistan, East Pakistan conflict, before East Pakistan became Bangladesh. Khan is half-Pakistani and half-Dutch, and she moved to Pakistan at age 10, just a few months after the end of the war (in which somewhere between 300,000 and 3 million East Pakistani people were killed).
Her talk was fascinating, and I'm deeply envious of the several months she spent on a Fulbright in Pakistan, researching her book, interviewing soldiers, etc. She took her two small children with her too. If Sri Lanka weren't such a disastrous mess, I'd be trying to do that sort of thing too. But the Fulbright committee won't even allow people to go to Sri Lanka right now -- too dangerous. Argh.
Sorayya comes to my classes today, and then is free this afternoon while I try to get some work done. This evening, grad student reading to attend, a bit of grocery shopping to do. Tomorrow, in theory, brunch with her and Boman and me, but so far, only Satya has rsvp'd, so we may need to cancel, or at least plan on something less formal. We'll see; it's possible some of my students are planning to attend.
I have to admit to being very frustrated that we went to some effort and expense to bring a really great speaker out, and essentially no one in the community has come out. It's still worth doing for my students, thankfully, but where are the local S. Asian writers, readers, etc.? They're missing out, and it's making me question the value of what DesiLit is doing in Chicago -- is there really so little interest? Am I doing something wrong in how I'm organizing/publicizing these events? Is it that Khan isn't famous enough, or what?
When we started DesiLit in Chicago, we had over a hundred people interested and active in some way, and rather than gaining folks with the events we've done over the last few years (as would seem reasonable), it feels like we're losing people and interest. Very frustrating. What am I doing wrong???