I don’t think I’d ever…

I don't think I'd ever actually read this introduction to a piece of mine which appeared in Catamaran, so I was particularly delighted to discover it today, especially given the events of the day. It's surprisingly apropos. (With only a tiny error in calling this an excerpt from a work of fiction -- it's actually an excerpt from my memoir-in-progress, Arbitrary Passions, the one I'm hoping to finish this summer.)

�The excerpt from an ongoing work of fiction by Mary Anne Mohanraj, �The Arrival,� also presents this violence, albeit as a backdrop for the story of a diasporic woman�s return to Sri Lanka. This is an intimate story, in every sense of the word. Given the context of the traditional nuclear South Asian family, it is also remarkable for the way in which this story presents unorthodox romantic arrangements in a matter-of-fact way: this matter-of-factness is itself a political act, for it demands that readers accept as normal behavior what would be seen as extraordinary in traditional South Asian societies. The third partner of the authorial persona�s former m�nage-a-trois, Karina, will meet her on her arrival, we are told, but it is not clear even to her what she wants from Karina, or why she�s arranged to meet her in Sri Lanka. She wants to write about a female member of the LTTE, the Tamil Tigers, but this woman too remains at the margins of this story (admittedly it is only a small piece of the larger project). But a certain authorial signature appears even in this �thin slice� of the whole story, as Malcolm Gladwell, the author of Blink, might have put it. Even in such a thin slice of the whole, we can get a sense of the style and substance of Mohanraj�s larger project. The style is calculatedly understated, again because the story wants to unsettle received ideas about sexual politics, immigration policies and political ideologies in its traverse between North America and Sri Lanka.�

-- Samir Dayal, Guest Editor, Catamaran, vol. 9, 2008

Huge thanks to Sheila Brown for digging up this documentation for me; I somehow had completely the wrong info. This is the piece it introduces, which also appeared later in Without a Map, the Aqueduct Press volume I co-authored with Nnedi Okorafor. Catamaran was really a wonderful magazine -- I was very sad to see it go on hiatus. Maybe it will come back someday.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *