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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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Basso Profundo – September 30, 2018

The first review of I Exist. Therefore I Am by Luke Sherwood was published in Basso Profundo. Read it below or go here to the site to read the other reviews.

“I Exist. Therefore I Am” by Shirani Rajapakse

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While reading I Exist. Therefore I Am, I had the sensation of being submerged. I felt trapped deep an endless sea, with no hope of seeing the surface. Author Shirani Rajapakse’s stories of women in modern India has the effect of burying all hope for these females, these second-class citizens. While it is an oppressing collection, it was clearly designed to be so; while its function is to expose and obliquely denounce, its variety does nothing but strengthen and reinforce its message.
Ms. Rajapakse leads off the collection with “Drink Your Milk and Go to Sleep,” and establishes right away the grisly and hopeless tenor of the series. A unfortunate woman has married into a family suffering from the superstitions typical of certain classes of Indian society. So her new family inevitably finds her culpable when she gives birth to female children. This young mother resorts to her only recourse after so many births of the wrong sex again and again. It’s shocking and horrifying.
“Shweta’s Journey” recounts a modern young woman’s descent into household servitude and enslavement at the hands of a purported religious leader. Her naïveté plunges her into this self-obliterating hell; her fear for her life keeps her there.
Even women who have passed a long, satisfying life with family and spouse have an expiration date, apparently. In “Death Row,” Ms Rajapakse recounts the slow, tortuous journey to death of many older widows whose families no longer want them. It matches the bleakness of these women’s spirits with the bleak conditions in which they are forced to live out their days.
The title story features the plaints and exhortations of developing female fetus, and are thus simply inaudible. It echos the heartache of the first story and reflects the devastated lives of so many of India’s women.
Current cultural and religious conflicts have their airing here: young carefree women who have been kidnapped and subjugated into wives by Muslim men hold no hope of ever being rescued, and scant idea of even being missed. This sad state distills the sad theme of the collection into one brief story.
There are ghastly crimes in these pages; there are hopeless laments; each tells a different aspect of the complete pulverization of the female character in India. The author has followed up her award-winning poetry collection, “Chant of a Million Women” with an alarming and sensational collection of short fiction calling attention to the plight of women in India. Pick it up; prepare to be educated and appalled.
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Are you interested in reviewing a collection of short stories?

   

I Exist. Therefore I Am is my second collection of short stories that will be published this month. #Review copies are available for anyone interested in reviewing on Amazon, Goodreads, a literary magazine or on your personal blog.

Please email me if you are a reviewer and would like an ARC (mobi or ePUB files only). Contact: shiraniraj@hotmail.com

This collection is about #women and is set in India. The stories follow the lives of women from diverse backgrounds and the treatment they receive as a result of social pressure, religious, cultural and tribal taboos placed on them and the need to conform. The stories portray the suffering women undergo not just at the hands of society but at the hands of their own kind. It is about stories of the other in society – women.

Here’s the blurb.

A newly married woman burns to death. A mother is forced to kill her infant daughter. A young woman with a promising future becomes a slave to a holy man. A recently widowed woman is left on the bank of a river to die. I Exist. Therefore I am takes you on a journey into the world of women and the trauma they face for simply being.

Moving yet also disturbing, these nine stories set in India are about internal struggles, desperation, vulnerability as well as yearning for something better. It is about secrets, words that cannot be spoken, social restrictions and smiles that don’t quite reach the eyes.

In story after story, Rajapakse portrays the terrible treatment towards women as a result of religious, cultural and tribal taboos placed on them, and the suffering at the hands not just of society but of their own kind.

This is fiction that is created for readers that aren’t afraid to question society and its beliefs and tear open the wounds to heal the soul.

They describe what it means to be women, the helplessness they are confronted with and the unending hope they have for a better future. Will these women’s sacrifices make a difference or will they have been in vain?

What’s in a Pen Name?

Some writers are confident writing under their own name while some opt for a pen name, like Mary Anne Evans who became George Eliot. There are many reasons for using pen names. Do you feel comfortable writing under your own name? Or do you think a different name would sound more exotic, more in keeping with the type of stories you tell?

I’ve never felt a need to write under a different name, mostly because my name is my identity. Although I tend to write from different perspectives and view points both fiction and poetry I wouldn’t feel comfortable using a different name. It would feel like being someone else, or like being in character. But that’s just me.

Other writers may have various considerations. It could also be quite exciting. Getting a pen name is like reinventing yourself.

Would you write under a pen name and where would you go to look for a name? What  would you consider when looking for a pen name? How do you select a pen name and where can you find names? Read this interesting article here about selecting pen names.

 

There are both artistic and practical considerations in choosing a pen name. (Image via Bigstock/Vima)

Beneath the Masks – Kari Holloway

My review of Beneath the Masks is up at Goodreads. You can also read this delightful short story at Amazon here.

Beneath the Masks by [Holloway, Kari]

“I wasn’t too sure what to expect as I’m not into fantasy but I was pleasantly surprised and glad I read Beneath the Masks. I liked the start, how the scene is set with the three moons glowing in the sky and then moves to the ball inside. It felt a little like reading a historical romance but with the touches of fantasy. The story ended at just the right place, keeping readers wondering if there is more. Loved it.”

 

The Writer’s Space

What runs through an editor’s mind as she reads a piece of work for the first time? Does she let herself relax into the story like a reader would, or does the editor’s mind take over, hawk eyed, looking for flaws that need to be perfected?

Karen R. Sanderson, my first guest to drop in for a chat is an editor and a published writer. Her debut collection of poems No Boundaries was released last year on CreateSpace and she has plans of publishing short stories too.

Here’s your opportunity to ask everything you want to know from Karen about editing, her book of poems, and anything else about writing.

You have 48 hrs to post your questions. At the end of two days I will stop notifications and hand over to Karen. She will pick a select number of questions and reply to you in the comments. So what are you waiting for? Come on over to my page and get started https://www.facebook.com/shiranirajapakseauthor/

You can view Karen’s profile at https://karenrsanderson.wordpress.com/. or follow her on twitter https://twitter.com/KRS_WordShark . Check out her book here https://www.amazon.com/No-Boundaries-Karen-R-…/…/ref=sr_1_1…