Neela Banerjee

A Golden Age

A GOLDEN AGE Tahmima Anam (John Murray Publishers)

The horrors of the 1971 Liberation War in Bangladesh are little known in America, but the scale of mass killings and rape carried out by the West Pakistani army against Bengalis compete with the Jewish Holocaust as one of the most concentrated acts of genocide in the 20th century. Tahmima Anam's novel The Golden Age is one of the first, in English, to tackle these bloody nine months. Told richly and suspensefully, Anam's book follows the widower Rehana Haque, whose love for her children and her country lead to acts of shocking heroism.

Sorry: Christine Wong-Yap and Jennifer Wofford Show in SF

Last week, I serendipitously ended up at the opening of Sorry at the (totally hot) Frey Norris Gallery in San Francisco and was happily surprised to find the works of my old friend Christine Wong-Yap (who is also in a show at Kearny Street Workshop) and Jennifer Wofford  (whom Claire Light profiles in our upcoming Spaces Issue, which will hit the stands next month!).

Floater Nurse by Jennifer Wofford        


 Mailinvoice...& So If I Was You By Christine Wong-Yap

Here's the description of the show:

"Point of Departure" and "Nurse" by Wofford and text-based works and "Inventions" by Wong Yap will line the gallery's walls and Wong Yap's "Presents" will populate the center of the gallery. Both series of Wofford's work explore and re-interpret an imaginative comic-like narrative centered on Filipina nurses and immigration histories. Wong Yap takes wry aim at blind spots in printed language, conveying optimism and pessimism, using distorted typography and the failures and half truths of illegible words, as well as sculptural stacks of "empty" gifts.

Otherwise, the gallery has a great collection of artists in their stable and focus especially on contemporary art from the San Francisco Bay Area and classic surrealism, especially women artists. Check out their artists here. And, get off your couch, go see the show!

Move Over Maria, Here Comes Leela

leela.jpgSesame Street has a new neighbor running the laundromat: Leela, or Indian American actor Nitya Vidyasagar.

I remember feeling really warm seeing the Puerto Rican Rodriguez family -- Maria and Luis -- because they kinda looked like me. How cool that, from August 2008 -- Sesame Street's 39th (!!) season -- Indian kids will grow up with someone who REALLY looks like them.

The best part of this story is that the producers claim that they weren't looking for another ethnic character:

"When the producers of Sesame Street were looking for a new actor to run the local laundromat, they were not looking for an Indian or any particular ethnicity -- they just wanted someone who was charming and not patronizing to a young audience. According to the newspaper India-West, the fact that this character is a Hindu and Indian American is purely coincidental. In fact, the character was recreated for this actress since they were smitten by her theatrical abilities."

Momo recently blogged about the bi-lingual Madarin animated show Ni Hao, Kai-lan that Nickelodeon is showing. What other live or animated Asian American characters are there out there for children's programming?

Introducing: The WRITE Questions for Marianne Villanueva


Writer Marianne Villanueva (Mayor
of the Roses
) is doing another
this week (with Nona Caspers) at the Book Passage in the Ferry Building
in San Francisco on Wednesday April 9th at 6 p.m., so I thought it would be a
great time to kick off a new literary feature - The WRITE
- where we ask Asian American writers a few pressing
questions. Marianne was gracious enough to respond from a trip to Tel Aviv, and
on the way back to California in the Frankfurt airport.

 1. What was the last book you read? What are you
reading now?

MV: OK, the last book I finished reading (two days ago) was
Big House: A Century in the Life of an American Summer Home
by George
Howe Colt, which was an absolutely fascinating dissection of a period of time
and a culture (Boston Brahmin) that is as exotic to me as, say, the culture of
the Andaman Indians or the Aleutians or whatever. And it has given me lots of
ideas about how to go about doing a dissection of my own culture (Filipino
Negrense, that is: Filipino from the island of Negros, which is in the middle
of the Philippine archipelago).

The book I've just started (at 3 a.m. on Apr. 2, I have
terrible insomnia) is Penelope Lively's The
, and it's (so far) a very "British" novel about
a cuckolded husband. And again I'm finding all sorts of interesting ways in
which Lively manipulates mood and memory, that help me in writing what I think
I am trying to write.

Hindu Leaders Worried About "The Love Guru"

Mike Meyers is coming to multiplexes near you this summer with his first original character since Austin Powers in "The Love Guru." This time he is Guru Pitka, “an American who was left at the gates of an ashram in India as a child and raised by gurus.” The rest of the story is refreshingly strange, involving a black hockey player, sports curses, Justin Timberlake and Jessica Alba. Your usual summer movie froth. But of course, the majority of the jokes seem to revolve around Pitka’s spiritual sayings and his Austin Powers-esque libido – this time curtailed by an elaborate chastity belt of sorts.

All Things South Asian at SFIAAFF

Okay, so last year I threw a little tantrum at the end of the festival about the lack of interesting South Asian programming. I called out (the newly-named) Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) for marginalizing good South Asian film, especially when it came to the International selections.

So, I am happy to see that this year, along with the requisite Bollywood film at the Castro – which really does look awesomely over the top – viewers can also check out The Voyeurs by Bengali director Buddhadeb Dashgupta. I haven’t seen this yet, but I highly recommend this to anyone who thinks South Asian films are all about flimsy plots and dance numbers – this should change your mind.


OCHO #16: The poetry journal as mixtape

Barbara Jane Reyes – the former poetry editor of Hyphen – is one of those writers who seems to be constantly churning out a steady stream of amazing poetry, maintains an intellectually stimulating blog, and always manages to look stylish and rested when I see her out at events. This makes me think she knows the secret to life, and maybe it’s poetry.


Playwright Diana Son Goes Back to Work

Hyphen has been a flurry of awesome events lately, and we're having another one this weekend. Cosmic Night Out is an opportunity to get discounted tickets to the West Coast premiere of Diana Son's play Satellites at the Aurora Theater and to come party with Hyphen staff afterwards at Berkeley's Zabu Zabu. Don't miss it.


Leon Ho Hacks Your Life

I picked up ReadyMade at the grocery store yesterday in a fit of desire to be more organized -- that's the theme of the new issue -- and found a great article about the new efficiency gurus like Tim Ferriss and Julie Morgenstern. I immediately wasted 45 minutes surfing the websites of all these people and found to be the most palatable and useful. I'm not the only one who likes it, supposedly it was -- at one point -- the 40th most popular blog in the world.

Indian Prime Minister's Daughter Kicking Ass and Taking Names in America

I found this article on Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s ACLU lawyer daughter, Amrit Singh (who co-authored this recent report Administration of Torture:
 A Documentary Record from Washington to Abu Ghraib and Beyond ) to be an interesting take on South Asians who end up living in America (or the West in general) -- especially with Benazir Bhutto’s son so prominently in the news.

Child Prodigy 2.0

The new model for Asian American child prodigies is all about the Benjamins, baby.

WATCHING DOOGIE Howser, M.D. at my house was not a joke. The opening credits of the show-with a montage of newspaper clippings claiming feats like "Six Year Old Scores Perfect on S.A.Ts"-were a blaring reminder that my brother and I were just not doing enough.

Other: An Asian Pacific Islander Prisoners' Anthology

Eddy Zheng and the Asian Prisoner Support Committee

For years, I've been complaining that Asian American literature is either trapped in Amy Tan's mystical Chinatown or Jhumpa Lahiri's "whitewashed" suburbs. Where are the stories of the people who don't fit the narrow focus of the model minority myth? Well, ask and you shall receive. The self-published anthology, Other, was driven mainly by Eddy Zheng, a Chinese American who spent some 19 years in prison for a robbery he participated in at the age of 16.

A La Carte

We're obsessed with food, so what's up with the lack of Asian American celebrity chefs?


IT WASN’T A SURPRISE to most die-hard Top Chef fans that spee- dracer Hung Huynh, the 29-year-old Vietnamese American chef from Las Vegas, won season three’s title. Of all the contestants, Huynh’s classic Asian and French training, along with his cutting edge ideas— i.e., the coconut froth that he served on one of his final winning dishes—made him a cut above the rest. Huynh might have been this sea- son’s shark, but in the end it didn’t matter.

À La Carte

We're obsessed with food, so what's up with the lack of Asian American celebrity chefs?

IT WASN'T A SURPRISE to most die-hard Top Chef fans that speedracer Hung Huynh, the 29-year-old Vietnamese American chef from Las Vegas, won season three's title. Of all the contestants, Huynh's classic Asian and French training, along with his cutting edge ideas-i.e., the coconut froth that he served on one of his final winning dishes-made him a cut above the rest. Huynh might have been this season's shark, but in the end it didn't matter.

Good Cop, Bad Cop

Maverick writer Ed Lin invades Chinatown

WRITER ED LIN has a knack for writing about characters that inhabit the underside of the Asian American Dream. In his first novel, Waylaid, the main character is a 12-year-old Chinese kid who helps his parents rent sleazy motel rooms to hookers and Johns on the Jersey Shore, while playing Atari and obsessing over getting laid. The slim novel captured the angst of being an outsider kid and the gritty life of working class Asian Americans. The hero of his new novel, This is a Bust-set in New York City's Chinatown circa 1976-is a rookie cop with a bad case of problems.

Asian Fetish Myth: Not Debunked

I, of course, was drawn into this Slate article on racial preference and dating by the teaser on the front page, which read: “The Myth of the Asian Fetish,” and featured an Asian woman’s face.
Yet, the corresponding article did nothing to debunk any such “myth.”

This is the most the whole article gets into the whole thing, which is based on some speed dating analysis:

Come Heal Yourself and Nominate Fierce Women Artists and Community Builders

When I’m not sitting on the newly-elected Hyphen Board (woo-hoo!), I also sit on the Circle of Directors of Purple Moon Dance Project – a non-profit arts organization whose goal is “to increase the visibility of lesbians and women of color and to encourage social change, peace and healing in our society through the medium of dance.”