Archive for the ‘All Things Literary’ Category

14 May, 2013

Pub Date II

A long time ago, it seems, I wrote a post here called ‘On Publication,’ during pub-week for A Disobedient Girl. I just re-read that this morning. Funny how clarity of thought about some particular things comes to each of us when it is necessary to have it. I realize, looking back, that this is still how I feel about publication. If there is a difference, then it is that I am even more aware that the life of a book is not so much about the book but about the people who surround it – those who bring it forth, those who receive it, those who hand it to readers, and the readers who give it their time.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of reading in my “home” town of Philadelphia, among many friends and family, most of whom had played some role in the making of this book, either by taking care of all the rest of my life while I went missing for weeks at a time to write, or by turning a blind eye to the state of sleep-deprived, deadline-driven misery that I require in order to finish anything of worth, that glassy eyed look that comes when I realize that the world is beautiful and the days are sunny and oh dear god I cannot move, I must sit, sit, sit, and read and write and read and write and doesn’t anybody care?! Oh! Why doesn’t anybody care?! Yes, those people were there, dressed up, taking pictures, asking questions and making me feel good.

There will be many things to write about, many images to share, along the way. But for now I’m going to share a few photographs from the time along the way, a visual reminder that the glossy dust jacket and the nicely bound book had its own story before it got there.

In my room where I sat for eight hours each day with breaks for lunch, chocolate tea from David’s, and a solitary walk, and wrote the first draft of the book.

The grove I stumbled upon on the day of my arrival, and where I went to spend the first anniversary of my mother’s death, which also was the day I finished that draft. The flowers I placed on that grave, which belonged to a mother who lost everything and still found a way to make such an enduring gift to artists, lasted a long time in the upstate NY Fall cold, and many of my new-found friends would tell me how they were doing long after I had gone. On that particular day, I read this poem in memory of my mother, a poem given to me by the poet who made it:

Spell to Be Said Upon Departure
by Jane Hirshfield

What had come here to do
having finished,
shelves of the water lie flat.

Copper the leaves of the doorsill,
yellow and falling.
Scarlet the bird that is singing.

Vanished the labor, here walls are.
Completed the asking.
Loosing the birds there is water.

Having eaten the pears.
Having eaten
the black figs, the white figs. Eaten the apples.

Table be strewn.
Table be strewn with stems,
table with peelings of grapefruit and pleasure.

Table be strewn with pleasure,
what was here to be done having finished.

Editing in a different space. I would write notes to myself in the night after all the work was done and I was in reading mode, and then paste them on the desk so I could cross things off as I went. I’d work all day with a break for lunch and a quiet, solitary walk (except for a post-dinner walk which often included the lovely Cathy Chung, in which case we’d be fleeing cows and shrieking with laughter.

There is always time to kiss the horses on a walk.

More editing. Work all day, with a break for lunch and solitary mostly walk but sometimes run sojourn. Quaker quiet before meals. And watching the night-blooming primrose flower, in real time, sitting on the bench silently with others at the Quaker retreat where I was staying.

Final edits. Such desperation. Such angst. Such panic. Really? You want me to put this into the hands of a mail carrier? You don’t want me to scan and mail? I’m impressed the mail-carrier did not care that I looked like an un-washed, un-rested, bug-eyed lunatic in my shabby lounge-about clothes and boots with no socks. Oh, and that the precious words made it from here to Minneapolis.

Which is to say, I went through a great many changes that paralled the changes being made to this thing of beauty, and some aspects of those things made their way into the language and direction of this book. I would have loved to have been able to sign one of these in gift to my mother, but also know that losing her was folded into this creation, the way that everything we experience transforms everything we experience after.

People often asked me – after the first novel – how my book was doing. Whenever I heard that question, I would think of my friends, the ones who were brilliant and talented, but had no publisher yet, the ones who were not as gifted but who did have their work out, published, and everybody in between. In such a world, how does one judge how well a book is doing? In such a world, I celebrate the absolute miracle of seeing the stories that came to me without my going in search of them, that got written through so much else in my life, that found welcome in the heart of an agent and an editor I respect deeply, and was then made, with the assistance of many hands more accomplished than mine, into what they are now, these books.

How well is my book doing? My book is doing great!

11 March, 2013

A Post-AWP Q&A

I returned – a little bit tired – from AWP last night. I had intended to write something for this blog on the train from Boston to Philly – about impressions, about friends, and also write something about the sessions perhaps. A ridiculous idea, given the noise levels in the Loud Car on the train, given my fatigue. When I got home and checked email last night, however, I found this lovely note from someone who had heard me say a few things during our panel on navigating the writing world without having an MFA. What she asked, these questions that plague so many of us no matter where we are in this story, and my response, I feel, could stand in for a lot of what I would have written about the conference. So here it is. For what it is worth. (That – in the picture – is Cathy Chung, author of Forgotten Country, getting five books signed by Anne Carson by the way)

Ru Freeman,

After the AWP conference, where I took one of your cards, I went to your website. That feeling that had developed after spending the day there, that sensation of being lost in a confusing world when the path once seemed so clear vanished. I was so impressed not just by the overall aesthetic of the site itself, but by the amount of work you put into your writing career – blogging, tweeting, writing essays, poems, fiction, non-fiction – so that it’s just that: your career.

When you handed out your card, I felt it was because you really wanted to hear from young aspiring authors (I say author because I already consider myself a writer, though largely unpublished). I felt the need to contact someone because I’m overwhelmed. By what, you might ask? Yesterday I listened to a panel of writer discuss how the publishing field is drastically changing. I learned just by being at the conference the sheer number of writers competing for different retreats, MFA programs, publications, and more. I’m overwhelmed because what I’ve considered my goal career for so long seems that much further away. But maybe it always has been? Now, after viewing your website, I feel I should contact you not only to tell you my admiration, but also to ask you some questions.

Did you start tweeting and blogging before your book? Was this self-promotion something you decided to do by yourself alone or was it introduced by your editor or agent? How do you keep up such a schedule of tweeting and blogging so often? How do you schedule yourself to so many events (I looked on your events page)? How do you finance trips to different places or are they in fact financed by your publisher/editor/agent?

I hope it isn’t presumptuous of me to ask you so many questions, nor to write you in the first place. I really enjoyed your talk on the panel “Master of None.” I thought you were so well-spoken and not just that, but so inspirational. I was indeed feeling bad after listening to so many writers list their qualifications when I have none. It was highly encouraging to hear that even today a writer can get by based solely on their talent and gifts. I also loved your advice, especially on getting references.

In any case, I hope this email reaches you happy and well. I hope that you can find the time to reply, whenever is convenient for you.

Thank you for your time and understanding,

Dear JW-

Thanks for this note. I will share with you that my first AWP was in NYC in 2008. I looked around at the 10,000 people there (the record until Boston, 2013), and thought I just cannot do this, there are too many people doing it, I should just give up and go home. I fell miserably ill, I hated most of it. And yet, five years and four AWPs later, I have learned that AWP – like everything else – is about making connections and being kind to people. It is no more than that. We cannot speak to all 11,000 people and we cannot be influenced/disheartened by whatever is going on with those 11,000 people either. So first, take heart, it will get better.

I have always been on FB – “always” since the earliest days I guess – though I didn’t use twitter as much until about a year before my first novel came out. I don’t see either as self-promotion however. I see it as being engaged with the world outside my own life and aspirations. It feeds my creativity and my political interests and I feel that, in return, I am able to offer some commentary on it. I wrote a piece for the Huff Po once about FB etiquette for authors – I think it might help to read it, to think about the ways in which the more we support other people, the better our own lives become. Here is the link:

With regard to travel – the tours are usually handled by the publisher, sometimes the costs are shared. Some of the time the events are by invitation from an organization or group or university in which case they are paid for by the host.

Lastly, I don’t know that I am where I am right now solely because of innate talent – I may have some gifts, but I don’t think they are the whole story. I think you have to work hard, and you have to place yourself in the light somehow – whether it is at readings, by writing online, by submissions, by reaching out to people as you have just done – and if you stand there long enough and nicely enough (i.e. as part of a bigger picture, not as the star of your own show!), then good things do happen. I have many many friends who are far more talented than I am who are still struggling to be recognized, and others who are perhaps not as good who are very successful. None of us can let the truth of that get in the way of continuing to do what we love to do.

I don’t know how old you are or what your circumstances are, but there is a belief among medical practitioners that a woman’s body will not permit a pregnancy if the physical and emotional composition of the body is toxic to an embryo. Similarly, I feel that we cannot create good work if we are emotionally drained or stressed out by getting caught up in the drama that surrounds writers sometimes – who is winning which prize, which one has an MFA, why did that person go to that retreat and so forth. It is impossible to resist completely, but it is vital to try.

I will close with another memory. I remember walking down a hallway to a meeting with an editor – Alane Salierno Mason – at Bread Loaf. I was supposed to pitch my novel to her. All of a sudden just before I got into that room I had a clear sense that it did not matter whether I impressed her that day or not, my novel would, in its time, find its place among other books. And just like that the meeting became just another moment in a journey, not the end of it. Alane did not become my editor, but by keeping in touch over the years, we are now working together on a project for Words Without Borders.

It is how the world works – good luck making your way through it. And thank you for writing.

All best – ru.

18 February, 2013

Work-in-Progress Day

Thanks to Libby Mosier for alerting me to this effort by Beth Kephart (all the lovely people live in Philadelphia!) Oddly enough, this beginning starts with the same word that ends Libby’s excerpt: After.


The road that leads into Jerusalem embodies the contradiction within which he exists: Route 60. A $42 million dollar project which allows him, a Druze-Israeli to drive his brown car with the yellow license plates across it, bypassing Dheisheh refugee camp where he sometimes works, and into Jerusalem so he can visit the community center in the Shaykh Jarrah neighborhood in Palestinian East Jerusalem where he spends his evenings. If he takes it, he is on time. If he chooses not to drive, he is late. Late reaching the Domari and Arab and the few Jewish children who come to the Community Center for Reconciliation, and who wait for the blessed relief of his arrival, for the music and the joy of his company.

16 December, 2012

Newtown, in the face of faces

I’d been holding them close every time I had to leave them somewhere, send them somewhere, or take myself somewhere other than where they were going to be. My daughters. Last night, as I stood in a zoo decorated with thousands of bulbs, a Christmas in New Jersey, the oldest, the one left behind, sent me a series of texts. She was waiting to picked up by one of our friends, and she was online, the screen lit up by the faces of four seven year olds and sixteen six year olds. She was crying. She wanted me to hug her younger sisters. She said she loved me. There wasn’t anything I could do from so far away, so I sent her what I could. This poem, by the late Jack Gilbert.

A Brief for the Defense

Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving
somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that’s what God wants.
Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not
be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not
be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women
at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
in the village is very sick. There is laughter
every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit there will be music despite everything.
We stand at the prow again of a small ship
anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront
is three shuttered cafés and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.

From REFUSING HEAVEN (Knopf, 2005)

I think of the photograph of Jillian Soto, waiting to hear about the fate of her sister, Victoria, a teacher inside Sandy Hook Elementary School, how among the twenty odd photographs I looked at that afternoon, this one broke my heart wide open. I think of the three sisters growing up together in my house. I look again at this memory from the summer just past, the girls going where I cannot follow. I can only let them go and hope their gladness overcomes the ruthless furnace of this world.

9 May, 2012

Tayari Jones

I’m over at the Huffington Post with a Q&A with author Tayari Jones, whose third novel, Silver Sparrow, just came out.

Here’s a snippet (below). You can read the full interview here.

RF: In 2010 you joined the boycott of Arizona, in protest against SB1070 which penalizes non-Whites. In your letter you wrote, “That people should be legally required to show proof of citizenship is similar to the antebellum mandate that black people produce “free papers” proving themselves not to be slaves.” Recently, after the Trayvon Martin murder, you were on NPR speaking to the fact that young Black girls watch as “our mothers groom our brothers to live in a world that feared them…We, too, were in training, learning to protect the men we loved.” Many writers avoid the activist role despite having one of the best tools – words – at their disposal. What makes you different? What gives you the courage to raise your voice against social injustice?

TJ: I think all artists are activists, whether they know it or not. The ones who think they are avoiding it, are activists for the status quo. I don’t mind expressing my opinions and speaking out against injustice. I would be doing this even if I wasn’t a writer. I grew up in a household that believed in social justice. I have always understood myself as having an obligation to stand on the side of the silenced, the oppressed, and the mistreated. I never made a decision. It was how I was brought up. It’s what I believe. I don’t think it takes courage to stand up. If I fear anything, I fear being silent, because I fear the consequences of that silence.

29 February, 2012

Dzanc Prize Winner: Eugene Cross

I’m over at the Huffington Post with a review of Eugene Cross’ Fires of Our Choosing. (Dzanc Books, March 2012). There’s a taste of it below. You can read the full review here.

As Eric says in the title story, “Dignity was a faraway country from which I had been exiled years before, a place I could hardly recall.” Indeed, very little of it is permitted the underclass of this nation, a fact that creeps up on the reader as these stories unfold, one after another, bringing news of realities so rarely addressed by contemporary writers. How noteworthy is it, then, that Cross offers no apologies for his characters: their poor choices, their lack of moral fortitude, their betrayals of each other and the poverty of their surroundings and, often, themselves; he leaves these things alone. They are who they are, and if dignity has been denied them by the rest of us, including us story-tellers, it is restored by this collection. That he has undertaken to serve as their raconteur should place Cross on the radar of all the big prizes that gift those blessed with talent, compassion and fearlessness, particularly during this present moment in our history.

3 November, 2011

I am over at The Rumpus with a review on Steve Almond’s new collection of fiction, God Bless America(Lookout Books/UNC Wilmington, October 2011). You can read the whole post here. Below, a short excerpt:

God Bless America, a collection that should be seen as part of a body of work intent on eviscerating and then forgiving our pitiful culture of excess, this social milieu in which we—our bodies bent to their “awful purposes”—run amok with the faintest grasp on reality and even less on our own motivations. We spout platitudes on the one hand, like Billy in the title story, about this “land built by opportunists,” and face painful truths on the other, as Sophie does in “Not Until You Say Yes”: “Nothing was ever done, it was always suffering some improvement. Were human beings really such factories of discontent?” Yes, we are, and Almond is a writer who is as painfully aware of the ludicrousness of our predicament as he is a believer in the possibility of our salvation.

31 August, 2011

Huffington Post/Justin Torres

I’m over at the Huffington Post with a review of Justin Torres’ debut fiction, We the Animals (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, September 2011). It is a gem of a book. Here’s an excerpt (below). You can read the entire review here.

We the Animals will surely find a cozy home among the burgeoning shelves of coming-of-age stories. That would be a travesty. It is no more a coming-of-age story than Jamaica Kinkaid’s My Brother is a meditation on siblings or Cormac McCarthy’s The Road is simply the story of a journey through a post-apocalyptic landscape. These are books that get to the heart of our relationships to one another, particularly those to whom we are bound by blood. Torres gives us the crux: the way we gather our frailties with tenderness like wildflowers picked in a thorny field through which we walk barefoot, the way we ribbon those bouquets with impossible cruelties and gift them to one another. The way we each consent to take and take.


20 April, 2011

Poems from my Mother

Just a few days ago, the husband of my college room-mate, a guy I’ve only met once (at their wedding), who serves in the American military whose wars I cannot condone, posted this line as his facebook status update: “I must go down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and the sky; and all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by.”

In a rush of excitement at discovering something in common between us, I mistook that poem for one I had learned as a child, ‘Wander-thirst’ by Gerald Gould, whose poem opens with these lines:

Beyond the east the sunrise; Beyond the west the sea
And East and West the Wander-Thirst that will not let me be;
It works in me like madness to bid me say goodbye,
For the seas call, and the stars call, and oh! The call of the sky!

I heard that poem recited best by my oldest brother, Arjuna, to whom poetic declamation and stage-presence came readily along with the accolades of teacher and examiner alike. The lines quoted by my Facebook friend, of course, came form John Masefield’s poem, ‘Sea Fever,’ another “yearning to breathe free” poem that I had heard recited by my brother.

It got me thinking about poetry and the first poems that I read. I studied what is called ‘Elocution’ in Sri Lanka, a mannered acquisition not only of the English language but of its literature, including history and literary theory as well as the latin terminology for the various parts of our mouths that combine or separate to form sounds – the epiglottis, lingua, etc. I learned these things at a young age, as an only girl in an all-boys classroom where I am told that during one morning in an early year of my life – I must have been six or seven at the time – I, much to my teacher’s and mother’s horror, stood up and tucked my pretty dress into my underwear in order to look like them! Small efforts to integrate like that notwithstanding, In comparison to my oldest brother who executed precise and heartfelt recitations, I struggled with the poems and prose passages I was given to memorize for my examinations. I could decorate the pages of my notebook with sketches of my characters, even manage a passable Becky Sharp (from Thakeray’s ‘Vanity Fair’) or Katherine (from Shakespeare’s ‘The Taming of the Shrew’), but in general I was not bound for success upon the stage.

My appreciation of literature came from listening to my mother teach her students, then one of my older brothers (who gave up physics and maths to study literature and politics), and finally, me. And of all the poems my mother taught, the one I remember with the greatest clarity as it stayed on the Advanced Level syllabus year after year, was John Donne’s Holy Sonnet XIV:

Batter my heart, three-person’d God ; for you
As yet but knock; breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp’d town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but O, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betroth’d unto your enemy ;
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

A teenaged school girl at the time, Donne’s message was entirely crystallized in an unabashedly secular reading of those final lines, their visceral yearning finding an answering beat in my own tormented heart, a heart whose longings were anything but prayerful. And yet I often wondered what faith my mother harkened toward as she recited those lines, sounding the beat of his words with consistent passion. Who, in other words, was her God? Was he – I had no doubt that this God was male – human? Was he crowned with thorns like the Jesus Christ who reigned in stained glass glory over the chapel at the convent I attended? Was he poetry itself? Somewhere along the way I realized that I did not know to whom or of whom she spoke, and I learned that I, too, may never know of whom I spoke then or speak now. The poem existed and the very fact of its existence, its permeable words, its impermeable intent, its offering of itself, these things were enough.

I always knew that this poem and all the other poems that she would teach me – poems by Wordsworth, Longfellow, Soyinka, Dryden, Browning, Coleridge, Rossetti and dozens of others including Dylan and Lennon – moved my mother into a realm that held a greater peace than was permissible in the conduct of her life. I followed her there as a child, longing to inhabit the same space that moved her so greatly. I never made it. She was always a little further on, somewhere else, the reading that she gave to me only a fragment of the gift she received through her own involvement with the poem. I realize now, that was her gift: to teach me to hold a poem on my tongue, to follow it with my whole heart, to let it take me where it will, to return blessed.

A while back I put out a call to ask my friends to tell me their favorite poets. A reading list for me. Here is that thread. I am sure my friends will forgive me the cut/paste that reveals their identities (and do click their links to read their work):

In honor of this month dedicated to poetry, can you tell me your favorite poets? Mine: Mahmoud Darwish, Jane Hirshfield, Wislawa Szymborska, Czeslaw Milosz, Anne Carson, Eevan Boland, Rabindranath Tagore, Sholeh Wolpe, Jack Gilbert, Stanley Kunitz, Nathalie Handal…

Larry Bradley: Czeslaw Milosz, John Berryman, Carolyn Forche, WS Merwin, Linda Gregerson, Rilke, Charles Wright, Eliot, and maybe an ounce of Pound

C. Dale Young: John Donne, George Herbert, W.B. Yeats, T.S. Eliot, Donald Justice, Elizabeth Bishop, Sylvia Plath, Brigit Begeen Kelly, Carl Phillips, and others…

Ru Freeman: Love yours too, C. Dale. My first poems were Donne’s – with my mother teaching them as part of the syllabus for high school literature.

Amanda Auchter: Brigit Pegeen Kelly, Marie Howe, Nick Flynn, Claudia Rankine, Lucie Brock-Broido, Nicole Cooley, Matthea Harvey, Sylvia Plath, Brian Turner, Jason Shinder, Gary Copeland Lilley, TS Eliot, Sophie Cabot Black, Carolyn Forche, Brenda Hillman, Kevin Young.

Jess Row: Meng Jiao, Du Fu, Bai Juyi, Su Shi, Wang Wei, Rilke, Celan, Anna Akhmatova, Anne Sexton, W.S. Merwin, James Tate, James Galvin, Mary Ruefle…

Tomas Q. Morin: Zbigniew Herbert, Gerald Stern, Homer, Philip Levine, Szymborska, Brigit Pegeen Kelly, Milosz, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Elizabeth Bishop, T.S. Eliot, and whomever wrote the books of Ezekiel and Amos.

Hamutal Yellin: William Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Dorothy Parker, Wislawa Szymborska, Rachel Bluwstein, Leah Goldberg, Dahlia Ravikovitch, Tal Nitzan

Julie Prough: Erica Jong, Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, Jim Morrison, Dylan Thomas, Sandra Cisneros

Pat Ford Loeb: Tony Hoagland, Kay Ryan, Pablo Neruda, Walt Whitman, Rainer Maria Rilke

Marsha Levell: paul Lawrece dunbar

Cecilia Rodriguez Milanes: Lucille Clifton, Marjorie Agosin, Tato Laviera, Quincy Troupe, Janye Cortez . . .

Porochista Khakpour: ‎#1 Favorites: Henri Cole and Forugh Farrokhzad. Then James Wright, Mark Strand, CK Williams, Sylvia Plath, GC Waldrep, Philip Larkin. And yes re Darwish.

Porochista Khakpour: Oh and Gerard Manley Hopkins of course!! (love this post, Ru. It’s a great reading list for me!)

Sara Stowell: ernesto cardenal, roque dalton

Porochista Khakpour:(how did i forget frank o’ hara! oops)

Not knowing what to pack for the flight home for my mother’s funeral, I stood sobbing before my shelves of books searching for the one among all the others that may bring me some comfort. I took one book – Brigit Pegeen Kelly’s The Orchard, hearing the poems in the poet’s voice and, eventually, finding the one that would help me write about my mother in an eulogy. As a child the poems that came to me were filtered through the choices made by my mother. As an adult I am never very far from a book of poetry. The shelf that I have at eye-level in my writing space at home contains only poetry. When I travel I reach first for a colletion of poetry – usually by a friend though not always – to keep me company. I read and re-read. Somewhere along the way I understand my mother and myself.


11 April, 2011

Cricket and Sri Lankan Author Shehan Karunatilaka

I’m over at the Huffington Post today, writing about debut novlist, Shehan Karunatilaka, a Sri Lankan writer with talent to burn. You can read the interview over there. Here’s an excerpt.

On April secnd, Sri Lanka takes on India in the final for the ICC World Cup. What better day on which to think about Shehan Karunatilaka’s debut novel, Chinaman, which has been described as being “ambitious, playful and strikingly original, [a novel] about cricket and… the story of modern day Sri Lanka through its most cherished sport.” Indeed, cricket-mad Indian reviewers have flocked to sing his praises, calling it “improbably potent and toothsome.”

The novel was released by Random House, India in February, 2011, but before it did, it had already won the top award for literature in English in Sri Lanka, the Gratiaen Prize, endowed by none other than Sri Lanka’s most famous literary native son, Michael Ondaatje, in 1992. The annual award, named after Ondaatje’s mother, Doris Gratiaen, is given to the best work of literary writing in English by a resident Sri Lankan.

The Books:

The Books:

On Sal Mal Lane

In the tradition of In the Time of the Butterflies and The Kite Runner, a tender, evocative novel about the years leading up to the Sri Lankan civil war.

A Disobedient Girl

A Disobedient Girl is a compelling map of womanhood, its desires and loyalties, set against the backdrop of beautiful, politically turbulent, Sri Lanka.