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Wednesday, 7:00 pm September 25, 2019
C.S. Lakshmi, writing under the pseudonym of Ambai, is a feminist Tamil writer and author of the new collection of stories, A Kitchen in the Corner of the House. Her short stories portray the reality of the lives of women, communicating their silence through words. Ambai’s narrators are daring and courageous, stretching and reinventing their homes, marriages, and worlds. With each story, her expansive voice confronts the construction of gender in Tamil literature. Piecing together letters, journal entries, and notes, Ambai weaves themes of both self-liberation and confinement into her writing. Her transfixing stories often meditate on motherhood, sexuality, and the liberating, and at times inhibiting, contours of the body. We’re excited to have her here all the way from India. She is joined in conversation by Ru Freeman. Co-presented with Kundiman.
Ambai (C.S. Lakshmi)
Ambai (C.S. Lakshmi)
C.S. Lakshmi, writing under the pseudonym of Ambai, is a feminist Tamil writer. She was born in 1944 in Tamil Nadu, and grew up in Bangalore and Mumbai. She received her Ph.D. from Jawaharlal Nehru University. Her publications include In a Forest, A Deer, Fish in a Dwindling Lake, A Meeting on the Andheri Overbridge, The Purple Sea, and A Night with a Black Spider and articles in newspapers such as The Hindu, The Times of India, and Political Weekly. Her short stories portray the reality of the lives of women, communicating their silence through words. She has worked in research projects such as The Face Behind the Mask: Women in Tamil Literature. In 1988, Lakshmi founded SPARROW (Sound and Picture Archives for Research on Women) a non-governmental organization for documenting and archiving the work of female writers and artists. She is currently a member of the University of Michigan’s Global Feminisms Project.
Ru Freeman is a Sri Lankan and American writer, poet, and activist whose work appears internationally in English and in translation. She is the author of the novels A Disobedient Girl (Atria/Simon & Schuster, 2009) and On Sal Mal Lane (Graywolf, 2013), a New York Times Editor’s Choice Book. She is the editor of the anthology, Extraordinary Rendition: American Writers on Palestine (2015) and co-editor of Indivisible: Global Leaders on Shared Security (2018). She writes for The Guardian, The New York Times, and The Boston Globe and blogs for The Huffington Post on literature and politics. She is a contributing editorial board member of the Asian American Literary Review and is the recipient of many fellowships including from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Yaddo, Hedgebrook, and the Lannan Foundation. She is a winner of the Mariella Gable Award for Fiction, and the JH Kafka Prize for Fiction by an American Woman. She teaches creative writing at Columbia University.
SYNOPSIS & PRAISE
A Kitchen in the Corner of the House
Published by Archipelago Books
Translated by Lakshmi Holmström
A Kitchen in the Corner of the House collects twenty-five gem-like stories from the innovative and perceptive Tamil writer Ambai.
Ambai’s narrators are daring and courageous, stretching and reinventing their homes, marriages, and worlds. With each story, her expansive voice confronts the construction of gender in Tamil literature. Piecing together letters, journal entries, and notes, Ambai weaves themes of both self-liberation and confinement into her writing. Her transfixing stories often meditate on motherhood, sexuality, and the liberating, in turn inhibiting, contours of the body.
“Ambai has played a major role in breaking down the literary molds that had trapped Indian women for long. She presented before her readers innumerable women who set out to discover their self-identities in the face of social structures that either deified them or humiliated them.” —Salma
“Ambai’s stories explore the nuances of personal relationships, complex networks of emotions, and mingle themselves insightfully.” —The Telegraph
Kundiman is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to nurturing generations of writers and readers of Asian American literature. Through workshops, mentorship programs, an annual Retreat for poets and fiction writers, a Youth Leadership Intensive, and a national reading series, Kundiman creates a space where Asian Americans can explore, through art, the unique challenges that face the new and ever-changing diaspora. We see the arts as a tool of empowerment, of education and liberation, and of addressing proactively the legacy we will leave for our future.
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