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Indivisible: An Anthology of Contemporary South Asian American Poetry edited by Neelajana Banerjee, Summi Kaipa, and Pireeni Sundaralingam

 

IndivisibleThe title – Indivisible – the editors explain, is “a word taken from the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance.” Through the 49 diverse American voices represented here with roots in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, Indivisible explores “[t]he issue of whether unity and pluralism may be reconciled …” The editors starkly remind that in a post-9/11 world, the “voices [of many South Asian American poets]  had been diminished by the tide of anti-Muslim and xenophobic sentiment arising after the attacks.” Given the recent Quran burning threats and the ongoing debates over who is welcomed as Ground Zero’s potential neighbors, that oppressive tide unfortunately remains challenging at best.

Regardless, creative expression will not be stemmed. Through many years of devoted labor, three tenacious editors – Neela Banerjee is a journalist, fiction writer, and editor; Summa Kaipa is a literary curator, psychologist, and magazine editor; and Pireeni Sundaralingam is a playwright, literary judge, and scientist – have created a remarkable collection that pays homage to a “multiplicity of languages, cultures, and faiths” while acknowledging the “inherent contradictions in grouping together writers of such differing backgrounds.”

Established, award-winning writers such as Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Vijay Seshadri, Amitava Kumar, and Meena Alexander, mix experiences with younger, break-out voices including Srikanth Reddy and Shailja Patel. From Reetika Vazirani’s search for elusive glamour in her prose poem “From the Postcard at Vertigo Bookstore in D.C.,” to Tanuja Mehrotra’s borderless memories laid bare in “A Song for New Orleans,” to Sejal Shah’s lost road trip through “Independence, Iowa,” to Sundaralingam’s own unique snowflake discovery in “Vermont, 1885,” these category-defying, form-pushing works criss-cross the country, searching, watching, discovering, being …

Lucky for us as we enjoy the journeys …

Tidbit: Co-editor Pireeni Sundaralingam makes her Smithsonian debut at SALTAF 2010 this Saturday, November 13. She’ll be sharing the stage with award-winning Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni … and me as their moderator. Uh-oh …

Readers: Young Adult, Adult

Published: 2010

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