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Basso Profundo, March 22, 2020.

The first review of Fallen Leaves, is by Luke Sherwood and is at Basso Profundo. Go here for the link or read it below.

“Fallen Leaves” by Shirani Rajapakse

In Shirani Rajapakse, the small and long-suffering island of Sri Lanka has its voice of reason, its staunch advocate for the local people shredded in the maw of bloody insurrection. Rajapakse, award-winning poet and writer, casts her tired eye and her energetic pen to the multiple civil wars – only concluding in 2009 – waged on her island. Fear and greed and loss and genocidal mania emerge as the main themes in these poems, and the reader is never relieved of them. This steady load of sorrow mirrors exactly Sri Lanka’s unending grief, and lends this collection its magisterial weight.

Ms Rajapakse sings of displaced peoples, of the haunted look in a grieving mother’s eye, of baked and ruined earth, of greed, hypocrisy, and the murderous folly of the powerful. The poet explores multifarious points of view to record the destruction: the bereaved mother, the wife for whom hope is fading, the child soldier dressed in belts of bullets, barely able to carry his weapon. Dogs and cattle too witness the destruction, and smell the arresting odor of blood soaking the dusty ground.

Striking also, is the thought-provoking measurement of distances: from the living to the remembered dead; from the place of death to where the bodies are discovered; from the midnight knock on the door to the first, exhausted glimmering of hope; how far refugees must walk to find safety; from reason to ghastly reality. These gulfs yawned for far too long for poor Sri Lanka; Ms Rajapakse attends to the work of bridging them.

The title “Fallen Leaves” refers chiefly to the dead: soldiers and civilians alike. In “Anuradhapura, the Sacred City,” after two elderly Buddhist monks are murdered by terrorists: “Bodhi leaves whispered / your last rites as the breeze / gently bore it down to you lying there / where once sat a man / a woman, a human on earth …” Falling leaves are introduced by this elegy, and the very next poem, “The Lonely Watch,” focuses on a lone soldier on guard, listening for footsteps in the leaf litter, and then: “Fallen leaves, fallen heroes / there was something poignant about it all / he mused as he cocked his gun at the sound of the wind / nudging the old leaf next to him …”

Such stark realities populate this series: baked by an angry sun, sorrowful, regretful at the folly of humanity. This moving collection will remain a scathing indictment of the Sri Lankan factions at the root of the chaos, and a bright highlight of Ms. Rajapakse’s career.

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Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards

I entered Chant of a Million Women in the 27th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards last year. It didn’t win but I got this commentary by the Judge.

 

Judge’s Commentary*:

The variations of form in this collection are wonderful. I loved how the voice of the poet is clear through all of the forms the poems take and that nothing is lost there. It’s a very evocative tone, with each poem’s structure assisting the voice and meaning seamlessly. I loved the poem The Violinist, p. 13, which is able to transport me to the moment so well. The title poem is a wonderful and timely expression (maybe a manifesto?) of womanhood that is empowering to read. I really appreciated the honesty, boldness, and clarity of the words used by the poet. They’re not frothy or extra, they just speak to the truth being expressed and it was very refreshing to read that. Loneliness, p. 31, and Accountable to No One, p. 49, were a couple other favorites. I was impressed with how well the collection as a whole opened my experience, perspective, and viewpoint of the world and the experiences of other women, while also speaking to my own unique viewpoint. That’s not an easy balance to strike and I think it was really spot on. Several of these poems that deal with the difficult realities of womanhood and femininity give words to feelings I’ve had before, and it is my favorite thing when a writer can accomplish that. I really liked this collection and hope the writer continues to express and explore these feelings and experiences.

 

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Readers’ Favorite – May 26, 2019

A review  of I Exist. Therefore I Am by Maria Beltran for Readers’ Favorite.  You can also read it below.

I Exist. Therefore I Am

Fiction – Short Story/Novela

178 Pages
Reviewed on 05/26/2019

Buy on Amazon

Book Review

Reviewed by Maria Beltran for Readers’ Favorite

I Exist. Therefore I Am by award-winning poet and author Shirani Rajapakse is a heartrending collection of women’s stories from the different classes and parts of India. Drink Your Milk and Go to Sleep, the opening story, is not only gut-wrenching, but it is also a horrible eye-opener to the way a lot of women in India are being forced to live their lives. And just when one might think this is the worst story of all, one after the other the terrible tales demand to be read. There’s one woman burned by a spiteful mother-in-law, an old woman abandoned by her family, and a smart young woman treated as a slave by her husband. This is a book of fiction that feels as real as the latest news coming out of India regularly.

Shirani Rajapakse’s I Exist. Therefore I Am is an unforgettable journey into the world of Indian women and the wretched situations they face for simply being born women. Lyrically beautiful and brutally disturbing, each of these women’s stories will leave a strange aftertaste in all readers, men and women alike. I Exist. Therefore I Am is a powerful social commentary on a patriarchal society that has persisted until the 21st century, and exposes the religious and cultural differences existing in our midst. As Shirani Rajapakse’s words continue to tell her stories with vivid imagery and troubling metaphors, one cannot help but be affected by it all. And when we finish reading and go on with our own lives, I will not be surprised if that strange aftertaste lingers longer than any of us ever expected.

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Jim Bennett – Amazon/Goodreads Review – February 4, 2019

This review ofI Exist. Therefore I Am by Jim Bennett was posted on Amazon and Goodreads. You can also read it below.

Customer Review

Jim Bennett

February 4, 2019

As always, do not let my star count override your judgement of content. More on the stars, counting, and my rating challenges later.
As always, Google anything you’re not entirely sure of. There is a lot of India-related culture in this work, and you don’t want to miss out on the details. Caste, for example. This is not a trivial work, and is an insight into life in a culture very different from mine.
The prejudice against females is scarily exposed. Here are a couple of quotes.
From I Exist, Therefore I Am: “How can you hate someone inside you?”
From Her Big Day was fast Approaching this ”All the money spent on a daughter was money wasted because it would be another family that benefited.”
For a horror story, turn to Arti. You will throw up when you read this.
Now for my star count boilerplate. My personal guidelines, when doing an ‘official’ KBR review, are as follows: five stars means, roughly equal to best in genre. Rarely given. Four stars means, extremely good. Three stars means, definitely recommendable. I am a tough reviewer. I try hard to be consistent.
This is disturbingly, extremely good. Four stars feels right to this curmudgeon.
Kindle Book Review Team member.
(Note: this reviewer received a free copy of this book for an independent review. He is not associated with the author or Amazon.)

 

 

 

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Sappy’s World – January 18, 2019

A review of I Exist. Therefore I Am by Swapna posted on her blog Sappy’s World. You can also read it below.

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Book Title: I Exist. Therefore I Am
Author: Shirani Rajapakse
Format: Kindle edition

Book Title:
The title of the book is ‘I Exist. Therefore I Am’ is very strong and interesting.

Book Cover:
The book cover is the digital image of the ‘Woman’ symbol underwater. Which clearly gives a picture that the womanhood is getting drowned in the water, either dead or looking for survival.

Plot:
Our land is a place where Goddesses are worshipped and respected in an utmost way by everyone.  But most of the people fail to treat the Woman and show insolence towards them. Sometimes, they are tormented by the society and family in a  physical and mental way which forces them to take the unexpected treacherous decisions. The pain woman take is unexplainable and her toil is inappreciable.

The author has penned down the trauma and soreness which woman goes through in her stories.

The characters in the stories will show how rude the society is towards the woman and how they treat her when she is in twinge. While reading each story the reader will feel the chills in the spine. The horrifying stories and the disturbing plot will leave the reader in fury.

The pitiful stories of a mother, newly married woman, an aspiring young woman, widowed woman are presented in the book. Read this mind alarming book by Shirani Rajapakse.

What I like:
The plot of the stories is good and the characterization is good and stirring.

What I didn’t like:
In particular, there are no negatives which can be pointed out. The stories are way too tragic and make the reader feel pity about the life of a woman.

Narration:
The narration in all the stories is very well and it is easy to read.

Language & Grammar:
A clear language with neat and uncomplicated grammar is used in the book

My Final Verdict:
A book that focuses on the harrowing issues which women face in day to day life and to be read by everyone especially the youngsters.

Book Title: 3/5
Book Cover: 3
/5
Plot:
3/5
Characters:
4/5
Narration:
3/5
Language & Grammar:
4/5
Final Rating:
3/5

Link to buy the book:
https://www.amazon.in/I-Exist-Therefore-Am-ebook/dp/B07JD29CW6/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1547185814&sr=8-1&keywords=i+exist+shirani

 

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Magnolia Review – Volume 5 Issue 1 – January 16, 2019

Thanks to Suzanna Anderson for the review of I Exist. Therefore I Am in this issue of Magnolia Review. You can read it at the Magnolia Review site, at Amazon or Goodreads, or see below.

Rajapakse has traveled to India often, and these stories “…were written at two stages of my life and represents the eight years I spent in India, working and travelling to cities and also some of the remote places where I encountered many instances of negativity towards women and girls. Some of the incidents I came across or heard about are too painful to recount or fictionalize. The tales I have included here are a mere fraction of the lives touched during my stay.”

In “Drink Your Milk and Go to Sleep,” a married woman continues to carry girls while her husband and mother-in-law want a boy child. Her family takes her to a midwife who “…was famed for helping women with problems. She must be good because women from all over the land visited her to find solutions to their sorrows. She didn’t talk much. There was no time for any words as it was obvious why we were all there. She had lots of customers like me waiting to be served every day. She gave me something to drink when I got home.”

As a widow, Gayathri Devi was “…waiting to die” in the story “On Death Row.” In the beginning of the story, Gayathri Devi “…had been sitting here in the same place for a while, not caring about what happened around her. She’d seen the colors change in the sky a thousand and one times and more and was no longer interested. Was no longer overjoyed. She no longer anticipated the fading beauty of the end of the day as she did the first time she arrived.” The widows “…were a burden on the young, an unnecessary life that needed to be cared for, fed, clothed and helped along the way. There was no time, no money or room left in houses for the likes of these women that passed their expiration date and were still sitting on the shelf, when whatever little money the families had were needed for the hungry mouths to feed, the demands of school and the dowries to be collected throughout their lives. Women like Gayathri Devi were put aside and left to themselves and what better way to get rid of the unwanted than to send them to God.”

The collection’s title comes from the story “I Exist. There I Am.” Those words are the opening line and the refrain carried throughout the story. “I rest deep inside you, wrapped up tight like an old woman swathed in quilts in the desert during winter when it’s too cold to do anything but sit by the fire and wish it was summer once again.” “You see me through the folds of fat projected onto the screen and can only discern a small shape with a centre that beats like a drum. The sound and rhythm unlike the drums they played at your union, but a drum just the same. Thudak, thudak, thudak, it beats softly. You place your hand on your stomach but you can’t feel me, nor can you hear the drum beats of my heart pounding inside me. Only the machine can tell you that.”

And in “Secrets” “Rules kept the family together, rules made things work the way it was supposed to.”

Each story is heart breaking in its own way. I can’t even begin to imagine the stories that were too painful to recount or fictionalize. Rajapakse’s prose is as strong as her poetry. The characters’ pain is real and their circumstances resonate. I hope for a brighter future.

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A Chat with Annette – November 30, 2018

A review of I Exist. Therefore I Am by Annette Spratte on her blog A Chant with Annette. She also posted a shorter version on goodreads a few weeks back.

Thanks for the Chatworthy Read Badge. That was a lovely surprise.

I Exist. Therefore I Am by Shirani Rajapakse

41hVfXozwZLThis collection of short stories by highly acclaimed Sri Lanka author Shirani Rajapakse has touched me and left me with one dire, unanswered question: Why?

‘I exist. Therefore I am’ is written in a very quiet, yet poetic style. For the difficult topic it addresses, it uses no drama and no judgment. The stories tell individual episodes of lives of women in India from all ranges of society, thereby drawing a devastating picture of an entire culture. Even before I read the book I knew that women are not highly regarded and suffer a lot in India. Arranged marriages, infanticide and lack of rights or education were familiar topics. But the depth of hatred running deep in the mindset of an entire people shocked me and left me speechless.

‘Why?’ I asked myself after every story. Why would a mother poison her newborn child, just because it was a girl? Why would a girl spend all of her family’s money just to get a socially acceptable husband? Why, oh why would a woman douse her daughter-in-law in kerosene and burning oil and watch her burn to death? And why are these things not only accepted by the majority, but passed on through generations?

For me, the most striking piece of the collection is the one that gave the book its title. The reader gets to share the thoughts of an unborn girl from first awareness to the point of abortion. As a Christian and a mother of two (I would be highly esteemed in India, having borne two sons!) it is inconceivable how women can be put under so much pressure (by other women!) that they begin to hate that which they are called to love and protect, nourish and raise.

It makes me sad and calls me to pray for a nation hopelessly lost and without love. This is a far cry from Bollywood!

I read the book knowing it was not an easy topic. I’m glad I read it because I cannot close my eyes to the fate of millions, even if they live far away. The author has done a marvelous job in portraying each of the women without making it garish sensationalism. Her calm recounting of facts and feelings make the stories digestible, despite their often cruel contents; and her poetic language give the thoughts and feelings depth and beauty.

In the introduction she states that she has lived in India for eight years, taking the risk of leaving the tourist trails to discover the true heart beating in that big and wildly differing country. I commend her for that and for her aim of raising awareness on behalf of women who are so deeply suppressed they often have no way of standing up for themselves.

I highly recommend this book. It has filled me with gratitude for my own loving family, the respect I am treated with and the freedom I may enjoy every day. I am also deeply grateful for my faith in Jesus Christ, which has given my life purpose and meaning and has established an identity and value as a person that nobody will be able to take from me. I exist. Therefore I am – able to love with the freedom to do so.
My prayers go out to women in India now more than ever.

BadgeTLI

For the beautiful language used, the touching storytelling that kept me turning the pages and the depth of topic I gladly award ‘I exist. Therefore I am’ a Chatworthy Read badge.

Congratulations to the author!