Each week, we’re asking different writers, artists and others to share some of their current favorites. This week we feature picks from Nina Bhattacharya, a public health professional and writer based in Washington, D.C. She recently returned from Indonesia, where she facilitated English language learning and intercultural exchange through creative writing workshops on a Fulbright grant. Nina has also contributed to sites like The Hairpin and Feministe. Follow her on Twitter at @onlynina.
The annual SAAN conference at the University of Michigan always has a special place in my heart. It was an essential part of my university experience, and directing conference programming my senior year was both inspiring and fun. There’s nothing like watching a couple hundred college students — many who haven’t had much exposure to social justice issues or movements — transform during a weekend with passionate, bad ass speakers. I think it’s so important for young South Asian Americans to see that it’s possible to have successful careers that incorporate advocacy and social justice. The conference is becoming even more accessible, with several scholarships available to subsidize the cost of attending. Amazing folks like Bushra Rehman, Samip Mallick (SAADA), and many more will be speaking this year.
2. Dara Puspita, The Garage Years
I returned from Indonesia a few months ago, and I’ll admit to missing living there a lot. A friend recently introduced me to the music of Dara Puspita (“The Flower Girls”), an all-female pop group in Indonesia that was active during the 1960s and 1970s. From 1966 to 1968 they released three LPs in the garage rock genre. Not only was an all-female pop group fairly unusual for the time, the band faced pressure from the Sukarno regime, which saw pop and rock music as an unwanted and corrupting Western influence. Their airy and beachy sound has been a fun listen while working.
As I’m getting ready to leave to India for three weeks, I’m really missing my mom’s cooking and especially this typical Bengali breakfast. There’s nothing quite like scooping up the savory and thick lentils with a crispy, hot luchi.
How to describe this book? It sucks you in and spits you out, leaving you gasping for air. Most of the story comes from the point of view of a young girl being bullied in a Tokyo school, while the rest is told from the perspective of a middle-aged writer in British Columbia who is reading the girl’s diary. Throw in a bit of Buddhism and magical realism, and you have a dreamy and simultaneously jarring read.
5. Ann Friedman’s Newsletter
Ann Friedman’s weekly newsletter is the one newsletter you should subscribe to if you like gifs and quality reporting. I love her smart, sometime irreverent, take on important issues, as well as her carefully curated selection of the week’s best stories.
6. The Garden Open Mic at BloomBars
BloomBars is a non-profit arts organization in DC that seeks to unite and energize communities through the arts. But there is a lot more to it than that simple explanation. BloomBars is a performance space, art gallery theater, youth academy, screening room, wellness center. I attended my first open mic night this week, after hearing about this purely donation-based non-profit from a friend. The open mic is hosted by Gowri Koneswaran, poetry editor of Jaggery Lit and expert composer of on-the-spot haiku. By the end of the night, I felt like I had been cracked open. Trust me, if you’re able to attend, you’ll be just as moved.
"It's funny how breaking open can feel like falling apart." On the wall of BloomBars. Moving open mic tonight, @gowricurry & fab performers.
— Nina B. (@onlynina) December 17, 2013