SAWCC Conference Highlights and Links

Last weekend's SAWCC conference ended up being a lot of fun. One thing that really stands out at a conference like this is the way the South Asian writers and artists in the U.S. across a number of different media are using the internet. So instead of writing a gossip-columnish summary, for this post I've collected links to sites by people who were on panels, or who were involved in the conference in some way.

First off, photos! Preston Merchant is, we established, definitely no relation to Ismail Merchant, but he did take lots of beautiful pictures of the conference here. He's also working on a book of photography of the South Asian diaspora.

Amba, who I don't think I've met in person, blogged about Friday night's event with Amitav Ghosh and Vijay Seshadri (Sara Suleri Goodyear couldn't make it); it's a pretty detailed and accurate description of the conversation. Also check out Mitali Perkins' report here. The highlight might be this sentence: "And in ten years, Pooja Makhijani and Anna John of Sepia Mutiny will both be famous." Incidentally, Mitali has written a couple of young adult novels that look like they might be fun: The Not-So Star-Spangled Life of Sunita Sen just came out last year on Little, Brown & Co.

On the young adult novel tip, I was also quite impressed by the excerpt Marina Budhos read from her new book Ask Me No Questions. Given the fluffiness of Opal Mehta (and most of the books KV plagiarized from), it's refreshing to see a work of young adult fiction that makes a serious political point about the experience of South Asian immigrants in the U.S. This novel addresses the ‘dark’ turn for civil liberties since 9/11, and is partly based on Budhos’ own firsthand experience talking to undocumented (or “overstayed”) Bangladeshis in the U.S. (Manish profiled Marina Budhos here)

While we're on young adult literature Monika Jain, the editor of the spiffy desi-oriented children’s magazine Kahani, mentioned a couple of times that they actually sometimes have trouble getting short stories submitted that have boy protagonists. So if anyone out there writes children’s stories about desi boys -– either abroad or in India –- you know where to submit it. (Incidentally, Pooja Makhijani maintains a pretty thorough bibliography of South Asia-oriented Young Adult literature.)

On two different panels, Ravi Shankar is a poet and the editor of You can see a number of his poems on the web. At DrunkenBoat, check out the poems and prose (some by desi writers), audio clips, video, and web-based interactive art. See, for instance, Prema Murthy's "Mythic Hybrid" project.

From the same "new media" panel, Sepia Mutiny’s own priestess of blog Anna John represented— -- no surprise there. She had the room riveted with one of her most moving early posts (pre-SM) about the death of her father.

Yesha Naik podcasts at PodBazaar. She is going to put up podcasts of the SAWCC panels at some point soon. She also read part of a spoken word monologue Saturday evening, which I thought had some quite funny bits.

As they say in hip hop, Amitava Kumar brings the ruckus. He added some brilliant insights and a lot of ‘presence’ to the panel on SA Lit and New Media, all the while claiming that he had no right to be there! Amitava is too modest; his own blog is quite charming. If there had been time enough, I would have asked him about his documentary film projects.

It was fun chatting about literature and politics with the highly knowledgeable Mahmud Rahman (who I’ve linked to before on my personal blog). Mahmud has published a number of things in recent months, including "War Stories," in India Currents. He also has a blog. Go check him out.

Sejal Kukadia.
She plays traditional tabla something fierce. She studies at the Taalim School of Indian Music in New Jersey, and has been studying and performing in the U.S. and India for more than nine years. Some of her stuff has been released on a CD called Tabla Upaj, which I am thinking of ordering.

At the same performance Saturday evening, I was also impressed by George Mathew’s western classical piano. It’s not every day that you get to have pizza with a Malayalee piano virtuoso who has conducted Beethoven’s Ninth in Carnegie Hall.

Hippocrene Books had two editors in the house. They do a number of books oriented to South Asia, including dictionaries (Telegu/English and Tamil/English coming soon!), cookbooks, phrasebooks, and travel guides.

I was sorry I wasn't able to stay to hear Sejal Shah read Sunday night, but I was happy to find this personal memoir by her at the Massachusetts Review this morning. There are some formatting problems on the site, but it's worth checking out.

[X-Posted on Sepia Mutiny]