Contours Of The Heart (Asian American Writers Worksh)

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9781889876009: Contours Of The Heart (Asian American Writers Worksh)

This book comes at a critical time in the history of South Asians in North America. As the number of South Asian immigrants increases in the United States and Canada, a familiar tension has been the immigrant conflict between home as a physical site in North America and home as an emotional concept tied to the ancestral country, and the second generation's questioning of both notions. This anthology critically explores this familiar tension and the concept of \u0022home.\u0022 It focuses on the transformative experiences that lead individuals to declare or reject new forms of belonging in North America. Setting up \u0022home\u0022 may require contesting existing roles, inventing hybrid identities, or seeking social and political change. The anthology challenges undifferentiated, stereotypical images of South Asians in North America, portraying instead the subtleties of their varied, sometimes invisible experiences. It includes fiction, poetry, essays, and photography.

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The poems, stories, photographs, and essays in the American Book Award-winning anthology Contours of the Heart speak to almost every aspect of the South Asian experience in North America. These diverse voices map their own New World, rendering in quirky detail the complexities and ironies of living in two places at the same time. The bride of an arranged marriage finds a letter from her husband's male lover and consoles herself by chanting the names of familiar spices, first in English, then in Hindi; two "Indian" women--one a Zoroastrian Gujarati, the other a Yupik Eskimo--forge powerful bonds despite their cultural differences; the daughter of a famous Indian American guru accidentally blows her mother's lavish ashram into smithereens, but insists "I was just a good daughter. Like all of us, I guess." Throughout this anthology, South Asians engage in an ongoing dialogue between different notions of homeland and exile, personal identity and familial duty. In the end, many find that they are not forced to choose between South Asian and North American cultures--that they can instead create their own culture, one that values its heritage yet is vibrant and new. In her poem "We the Indian Women in America," for example, Chitra Banerjee Divarkaruni writes, "And what we want is this: for us and our daughters, / India and America, / the best of both together. If you tell us we cannot have / it, we refuse to believe you (for we have learned / to say no)...." Despite the horrid academese of the editors' introduction, Contours of the Heart is a fascinating and lively document, its very diversity providing the best possible antidote to cultural stereotypes.

From the Publisher:

Critically explores the immigrant conflict between home as a physical site and an emotional concept

Winner of the 1997 American Book Award

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