Puro Border: Dispatches, Snapshots & Graffiti from La Frontera,Luis Humberto Crosthwaite, John William Byrd, Bobby Byrd.

The proverbial tortilla curtain is that very real boundary etched across lands that divide North American and Mexican peoples. It is also a place of complex experience and multiform cultural expression. The dozens of photo-journalistic, investigative, and personal essays along with testimonials and fictional vignettes that make up Puro Border reflect such a lived borderland space.

Latinos Remaking America. Eds. Marcelo M. Suárez-Orozco and Mariela M. Páez.

The 2002 census proved without a doubt that Latinos have become the largest minority group in the U.S. It proved that for our public policy and legislations to ignore the thirty-eight-plus million documented Latinos (Chicanos, Mexicanos, Latin Americans, Puerto Ricans, Cuban, and Dominicans) would be akin to grand-scale social suicide.

Red Matters; Arnold Krupat, Grave Concerns, Trickster Turns: The Novels of Louis Owens; Chris LaLonde

Arnold Krupat's Red Matters and Chris LaLonde's Grave Concerns, Trickster Turns: The Novels of Louis Owens seek to emplace centrally Native Indian literature and cultural production within American studies. While Krupat addresses a variety of Native texts--from the narratives of Sherman Alexie, Charles Easton, and Mourning Dove to oral histories, and translation theory--and LaLonde focuses exclusively on the novels of mixed-blood author, Louis Owens, their goal is the same: To use a variety of theoretical methods from Derridean informed poststructuralism to formulations of trickster metafictional techniques to enrich and complicate our understanding of Native identity and experience.

Gang Nation Review by Frederick Luis Aldama

Monica Brown's Gang Nation powerfully explores novels, autobiography, and drama by and about Chicano and Puerto Rican gangs to expand the range of U.S. ethnic scholarly criticism and to complicate the mainstream's misconceptions of the young and disenfranchised urban dweller.

New Critical Directions in Comparative Literary Studies By Frederick Luis Aldama

Tectonic shifts are fracturing old models of literary analysis and pushing forward approaches anew. Lacanian psychoanalysis, post-Marxist Marxism, Foucaultian new historicism, and Derridean deconstructionism are being radically revised--or discarded all together.

The Mind and Its Stories: Narrative Universals and Human Emotion

In spite the hustle-bustle of our everyday, we still take pause to read novels, watch films, t.v. shows, and/or to hear someone recount a story. Storytelling in all its shapes and sizes continues to perform a vital function in the everyday lives of peoples worldwide. In The Mind and its Stories Patrick Colm Hogan begins to explore this aspect of our quotidian existence--and much more.

Postindependence Voices in South Asian Writings. Alamgir Hashmi, Lalashiri Lal, Victor Ramraj, eds. Islamabad, Pakistan. Alhamra. 2001 (released 2002). Rs450. 320 pages. ISBN 969-516-093-X

POSTINDEPENDENCE VOICES IN SOUTH ASIAN WRITINGS brings together literary scholarship, author interviews, and creative non-fiction to reflect the vital and ever-expanding sphere of contemporary South Asian letters.

Rohinton Mistry. Family Matters. New York. Knopf. 2002. $26. 434 pages. ISBN 0-375-40373-6

IN FAMILY MATTERS, Rohinton Mistry beautifully colors a contemporary Bombay peopled with characters whose lives are filled with mundane-but no less grand-struggles and accomplishments. As with his earlier short-story collection, Tales from Firozsha Baag, and novel, Such a Long Journey, Mistry carefully crafts a narrative that heightens our sense of the vital life of a Parsi family-one filled with sibling rivalries, lost loves, secrets, and also the growth pains of the young alongside the deep sufferings of the old.

Anita Rau Badami. Tamarind Woman. Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Algonquin. 2002. 266 pages. $23.95. ISBN 1-56512-335-2

IN HER SECOND NOVEL, Tamarind Woman, Anita Rau Badami once again proves to be a wonderfully gifted storyteller. In a dramatic turn from her male-centered bildungsroman, A Hero's Walk (2001; see WLT 76:1, p. 134), Badami plunges her readers deep into the coming-of-age trials and tribulations of her young character, Kamini.

Chitra Banerjee Divakarani, The Vine of Desire. New York. Doubleday. 2002. 373 pages. $23.95. ISBN 0-385-49729-6

"IN THE BEGINNING WAS PAIN. Or perhaps it was the end that was suffused with pain, its distinctive indigo tint. Color of old bruises, color of broken pottery, of crumpled maps in evening light." So begins Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's novel The Vine of Desire.

Vijay Tendulkar. Mitrachi Goshta: A Friend's Story. Gowri Ramnarayan, tr. New Delhi. Oxford University Press. 2001. xv + 78 pages. Rs295/$10.95. ISBN 0-19-565317-3

SINCE THE APPEARANCE of cross-dressing male actors in Patanjali's Mahabhasya (ca. 150 B.C.E.), India's dramatic productions have been characterized by a fluid role-playing of gender. Of course, having all-women and/or all-men performances was intended to prevent transgressive heterosexual couplings. For others, however, it became a space where same-sex desire and couplings could flourish. In the play Mitrachi Goshta: A Friend's Story, preeminent playwright Vijay Tendulkar more than alludes to this long tradition of same-sex gender performing in theater; indeed, he uses it to foreground the coming-out story of Sumitra Dev-a fictional character based on a real woman whose promising acting career was stunted after her affair with a young woman turned into a great scandal. Tendulkar's three-act play fictionalizes the life-changing moments in Mitra's struggle to cope with being "different."

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni The Unknown Errors of Our Lives New York. Doubleday. 2001. 268 pages $23.95. ISBN 0-385-49727-X

IN THE UNKNOWN Errors of Our Lives Chitra Divakaruni uses the short-story form to bring to life a complex array of South Asian characters and their struggles to survive within the restrictive social conditions of a rural and urban India and a suburban USA. Characters at the social margins take center stage in these stories.

Conversations with Leslie Marmon Silko Ellen L. Arnold, ed. Jackson. University Press of Mississippi. 2000. xvi + 200 pages. $45 ($18 paper) ISBN 1-57806-300-0 (301-9 paper)

FOR THE LAGUNA Pueblo Indians in New Mexico, the sense of being within history and culture passes down through a strong oral storytelling tradition. Fitting, then, that editor Ellen Arnold culls fifteen interviews from a twenty-five-year period to weave a complex portrait of Laguna Pueblo-born and -raised novelist and prose poet Leslie Mormon Silko.

Leslie Marmon Silko. Gardens in the Dunes. New York. Simon & Schuster. 1999. 479 pages. $25. ISBN 0-684-8ii54-5

As Indigo and Sister Salt set out on their different paths, they encounter a panoply of colorful, uprooted characters who seek a similar sense of belonging. Indigo stumbles into the lives of a protofeminist, Hattie, and her experimental botanist husband Edward (in a handy metaphor, he is cross-fertilizing orange with lemon to create a new, more robust hybrid fruit). Tucked under Hattie's wing, Indigo travels to England, Corsica, and Italy as well as the U.S. Southwest.

Anita Desai. Fasting, Feasting. London. Chatto & Windus.1999. 228 pages. 14.99. ISBN o-701-I6894-3

Anita Desai's novels typically gravitate around women (mostly middleclass South Asians) who come of age in the sweltering clime of India's outback and within households heavy with patriarchal oppression. In her new novel, Fasting, Feasting, the protagonist Uma, much like Desai's earlier characters Nanda Kaul in Fire on the Mountain (1977) and Bimla in Clear Light of Day (i98o), dares to dream of a life beyond her estate's closed gates. Unfortunately, also like her predecessors, Uma finds that her desires - "A career. Leaving home. Living alone" - meet with unscalable walls at every turn.

HanifKureishi. Intimacy. Scribner, 1999.

Explosive--and justifiable--controversy surrounds the 1998 British best-seller Intimacy by Anglo/Indian Hanif Kureishi. Light to hand at barely a hundred pages, the novel weighs heavy with macho attitude. Too, while it is Kureishi's most autobiographically confessional work to date, it tiptoes most lightly of his works around issues of racial and sexual identity formation. Intimacy records a sour night in the life of Jay--a fortysomething man who, not so unlike the author, leaves his partner, foodianado and publisher Susan, and their two ABC-age sons.

Why Does Literature Matter?

Indeed, why does literature matter? Plato and Aristotle had quite a bit to say on the subject, and latter the Classical and Medieval theoreticians of rhetoric even turned it into the central theme of their taxonomies and structural explanations. Moreover, this has been a question posed continuously and everywhere since the nineteenth century, and not only by readers in general but above all, by academics that study and teach literature as a discipline.

Why Does Literature Matter?

Indeed, why does literature matter? Plato and Aristotle had quite a bit to say on the subject, and latter the Classical and Medieval theoreticians of rhetoric even turned it into the central theme of their taxonomies and structural explanations. Moreover, this has been a question posed continuously and everywhere since the nineteenth century, and not only by readers in general but above all, by academics that study and teach literature as a discipline.

Hanif Kureishi. My Ear at His Heart: Reading My Father

Set out to draft a contemplative essay on the influence of authors and other matters, upon opening one of his late father's unpublished novels, Hanif Kureishi steers a radically different course. The result: the vividly textured, brutally honest, and complex biographical meditation, My Ear at His Heart.

Vijay Tendulkar. Mitrachi Goshta: A Friend's Story. Gowri Ramnarayan, tr. New Delhi. Oxford University Press. 2001. xv + 78 pages. Rs295/$10.95. ISBN 0-19-565317-3


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SINCE THE APPEARANCE of cross-dressing male actors in Patanjali's Mahabhasya (ca. 150 B.C.E.), India's dramatic productions have been characterized by a fluid role-playing of gender. Of course, having all-women and/or all-men performances was intended to prevent transgressive heterosexual couplings. For others, however, it became a space where same-sex desire and couplings could flourish. In the play Mitrachi Goshta: A Friend's Story, preeminent playwright Vijay Tendulkar more than alludes to this long tradition of same-sex gender performing in theater; indeed, he uses it to foreground the coming-out story of Sumitra Dev-a fictional character based on a real woman whose promising acting career was stunted after her affair with a young woman turned into a great scandal. Tendulkar's three-act play fictionalizes the life-changing moments in Mitra's struggle to cope with being "different." Here, Tendulkar chooses not to focus primarily on Mitra's love affair but rather on her friendship with the central character and sometime narrator, Bapu. Their friendship goes through a succession of quick, dramatic growth spurts that reveal the complexity of friendship and show that which Bapu ultimately comes to represent: a homophobic society that keeps its blinders on to naturalize straight relationships as the norm, even if this should lead to a tragic end.

Like many of Tendulkar's earlier, Ibsenesque domestic plays (Ratra, Ghashiram Kotwal, Gidhade, and Shantata? come to mind), Mitrachi Goshta focuses on a human drama cut off from the world at large. The epoch is roughly set in the 1940s (the time when Tendulkar first spotted the biographical Mitra performing in a play produced at his older sister's college), and the scenes unfold within a variety of faintly textured private spaces in and around Bapu and Mitra's college campus. Tendulkar's diminishes the background details of place and setting to intensify Bapu's and Mitra's tense and often contradictory interior states. After Mitra comes out to Bapu, he asks at one point, "Do such women exist? Are they born like that or do they get conditioned as they grow to be what they are? Is it an ailment or a human trait of a particular kind? What would happen to Mitra? It was bizarre, repulsive and abhorrent." Bapu wants to be friends with Mitra, yet he is repulsed by her. He helps her but never considers her love normal. At certain moments Bapu tells her, "If you resolve to change, then everything can change." Mitra's frustrated desire for fellow thespian Nama-"the love scene was on, things came to a head. I lost control. Her touch... her very desirable body in my arms"-feels like a slow suffocation and ultimately leads to self-destructive acts. The friendship between Bapu and Mitra isn't completely insular. After Mitra rejects the Hindu-identified character Pande's advances, he calls her variously "frigid" and "lesbian bitch," thus revealing the deep hypocrisy embedded in a religious system that at once worships women deities and also cultivates same-sex (male) bonding and platonic love. Other male characters reveal the deep contradictions inherent in patriarchal society; they don't know what to do with their simultaneous desire and fear for an independent, strong woman like Mitra, so they violently assault and demonize her. In her vertiginous descent, the play reminds its audience that there is no place for Mitras in a violently homophobic world.

Unfortunately, while the friendship between Bapu and Mitra is central to the play, it often feels forced. Bapu's many audience asides tell too much and take away from the power that a more subtle showing might have realized. Bapu's asides unnecessarily sidetrack from a story already filled with complex psychological details that are apparent in the character's actions: hesitations, uncontrolled rages, and humiliations, to name a few. And, while Bapu clearly stands for that part of society that is more willing to understand a woman like Mitra, the audience is never sure why he really sticks around her. She constantly assails him with contemptuous words, calling him at different times a "worm," "Milksop!" and a "Chickenheart"; and after he has been beaten to a pulp defending her, she barely blinks, asking condescendingly, "Did the baby get beaten up?" Tendulkar never really shows why Bapu invests in a one-sided friendship, leaving the audience with a skeleton of a friendship that seems only to serve the purpose of reducing complex emotions to an essentialized critique of patriarchal society. Perhaps, however, Tendulkar only sketches the friendship precisely to show more dramatically Mitra's plight: no one, not even the person who is faithful as a friend, will understand her. Perhaps, too, Tendulkar's play must tell more than show to open audience's eyes more dramatically to a society that enacts violence against those deemed unworthy of belonging to it. Finally, Mitrachi Goshta's message is bold, but not overly rendered as an ideal. Whereas the real Mitra lived as a spinster into old age, the fictional and tragic Mitra reminds us that the world still isn't ready to shelter human life in all its diversity and complexit



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