Growing Up With Violence

I’m over at Bookslut today, answering questions about reading, writing, influences, as well a this one:

And the family and friends who ushered you into adulthood? Who are they and in what ways do they appear in these pages?

I think I was ushered into adulthood by a character called political violence, more than any one human being. Violence, the kind that unfolds here, obviously, but many other occasions of death and betrayal — of people, of ideals, of political objectives — were the real companions of our lives; they informed our views, they circumscribed our journeys, they dictated our relationships. The anti-government uprisings that were put down in the mid-late 1980s and in which my brothers and their friends were caught, the way we grew afraid of our neighbors informing on us for political expediency, the death threats my father received over the years, the phones that were tapped, and through it all, this drawn-out war in which we were all (every disagreeing political faction), under the threat of suicide bombers from the LTTE [Liberation Tigers of the Tamil Eelam, also known as the Tamil Tigers, a militant separatist organization based in northern Sri Lanka]. You live differently under such circumstances. You learn to expect bad news, to ask the question, “Did anybody die?,” which is really asking, “Did anybody we know die?” because, of course, somebody has died, many people have died, and though we mourn them, we are also instantly grateful not to have to mourn the ones we know well.

There is that sense in these pages, the way in which we are, ordinary people, transformed by the politics, and the politically motivated violence around us.

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