Each week, we ask writers, artists, and people of interest to share what’s inspiring them lately. This week we feature picks from writer and professor Amardeep Singh. He teaches literature at Lehigh University and is a former blogger at Sepia Mutiny. You can find him on Twitter or on electrostani.com.
1. The soundtrack to Dhoom 3
2. Tulika Books
3. The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani
My older child is not yet ready to read this this young adult besteller by a Desi author, but while I was shopping for titles more appropriate for his reading level I was intrigued to see The School for Good and Evil prominently displayed at my local Barnes & Noble. I’m about 100 pages in, and thus far Soman Chainani’s book is long on fairy tales (with Caucasian protagonists) and short on references to South Asian diaspora type issues. However, Chainani has previously made the short film Kali Ma (which you can see on YouTube here) and his website bio indicates that he’s also working on a film called Love Marriage (any connection to V.V. Ganeshananthan’s novel…?). Hopefully Chainani will bring some of his South Asian diaspora ideas to bear on future young adult projects — that particular space is currently woefully lacking in diversity at present (the young adult aisles at Barnes & Noble are dominated by covers featuring young white women staring off into the distance…). Meanwhile, I wish him continued success with the Good and Evil trilogy.
4. DJ Cheb i Sabbah, Samaya
5. Zadie Smith, NW
Though Zadie Smith’s fourth novel didn’t get as much critical love as some of her earlier, splashier books (the review of NW in the New York Times was respectful and approving, though not quite rapturous), it makes for quite gripping reading. Here Smith is back to the multicultural/multiracial west London world she explored in White Teeth though without the sense of youthfulness that is both the source of that earlier novel’s exuberance as well as its pretty apparent limitations. (White Teeth, in my opinion, has not aged well.) South Asian characters are everywhere in NW, but without a great deal of fanfare or self-consciousness. They appear as old acquaintances as well as store clerks in passing (a Sikh store clerk is introduced simply as “bored”), as well as hip young professional types who are worlds away from the ghettoized and alienated Asian youth rioting in the face of police brutality and racism in Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses. Both the South Asian and black communities in London have changed dramatically since the 1980s, meaning the old identity politics no longer has the purchase it once did. The evolving racial landscape leaves Smith’s black characters somewhat unsure of themselves; arguably Britons of South Asian descent might be facing similar issues.