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Shortlisted for the Rubery Book Awards 2019

I Exist. Therefore I Am is shortlisted for the Rubery Book Awards 2019.

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Here’s what they said about the book.

 

PictureI Exist. Therefore I Am Shirani Rajapakse
Nine short stories set in India, all well-written stories focusing on discrimination against women in India.  Drink Your Milk and go to Sleep is a harrowing tale of gender discrimination and infanticide. The speaker is forced to abort a series of female babies as their sex is detected in the womb, but one survives to full term, only to be murdered by the mother. The second, Shweta’s Journey, is about a woman who is duped by Swamiji, a bogus religious guru who appropriates her wealth and proceeds to govern her life. The third, A Room Full of Horrors, focuses on two female students’ attempts to pay their tuition fees in an institution that feels hopelessly, and some may say maliciously bureaucratic, presided over by the gratuitously unhelpful patriarch, Mr Singh. Other stories address women on death row, women experiencing existential crises, and women caught in the snare of convention and patriarchal expectation. At her best the author’s style is direct and the stories have real force; they seem driven by a powerful sense of frustration and outrage.  Poignant and moving, the book deals with issues that require more of a profile.

 

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Interview on Mandy Eve-Barnett’s Official Blog – June 25, 2019

My interview is up on Mandy’s blog. check it out here, or read below.

Author Interview – Shirani Rajapakse

June 25, 2019
mandyevebarnett

AuthorInterview

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What inspired your latest book?

My latest book is a collection of short stories inspired by the time I spent in India. It’s about women and the issues faced by women living in contemporary India.

How did you come up with the title?              

The title of the book, I Exist. Therefore I Am is also the title of one of the short stories in the collection. Each of my other previous books also uses one of the stories/poems as the title. I’ve done this as I wanted to have a title that exemplified what was in the whole collection.

(ebook) I Exist. Therefore I Am - Shirani Rajapakse

Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?

The message is that women need to be treated as equals and with dignity and the respect that is their due.

How much of the book is realistic?

Although fictionalized the stories are about real people and real lives. I’ve used examples of incidents that I came across to create my stories. The characters aren’t real but the issues these women face and the treatment they receive at the hands of society and of other women are very real.

Are your characters based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

They are based on people I read or heard about from others or from newspapers. I’ve come across women who have either gone through similar experiences that my characters undergo or have known women who have.

Where can readers find you on social media and do you have a blog?

https://shiranirajapakse.wordpress.com

https://www.facebook.com/shiranirajapakseauthor

https://twitter.com/shiraniraj

https://www.pinterest.com/shiraniraj/

https://www.instagram.com/shiranirajapakse/

https://lk.linkedin.com/in/shiranirajapakse

https://www.goodreads.com/shiranirajapakse

My Book links are,

https://www.books2read.com/shiranirajapakse

https://www.books2read.com/iexist

https://www.books2read.com/breakingnews

https://www.amazon.com/author/shiranirajapakse

Do you have plans or ideas for your next book? Is it a sequel or a stand alone?

Yes. I’m planning on publishing a poetry collection this year. It is about the effects of conflict on people and how they live through it. As a people,  we in Sri Lanka have gone through 30 years of bloody conflict that left no real winners. People from all sides lost. The poems look at what happened and speak in many voices. They discuss a variety of issues and viewpoints. I wrote it because I wanted to create a collection of voices for those in the future to understand, as well as anyone else to realize the futility of war. It’s like a documentation of what happened in verse form.

Chant of a Million Women - Shirani Rajapakse

Of the characters you have created or envisioned, which is your favorite & why?

I don’t have particular favorites because I think all the characters are special and they serve a purpose in helping me tell my story.

Do you favor one type of genre or do you dabble in more than one?

I write both poetry and short stories. My poetry is free verse and the short stories are mostly literary fiction. I’ve also written a few stories that are fantasy or magic realism as well as a couple of children’s stories. Apart from the children’s stories the others are published in literary journals and anthologies but I don’t have enough to have a complete collection. I think it would be nice to have a complete collection of fantasy stories and also of children’s stories, but for this I need to write.

Do you plan your stories, or are you a seat of the pants style writer?

I’m mostly a seat of the pants writer, but I do plan a little. When I get an idea to write something I make a rough draft in my head. I let the sequence of the story or poem play in my mind like a movie and when I feel it is possible to sustain the story I start writing it down. But I don’t plan how the story evolves. That happens while writing.

What is your best marketing tip?

Marketing is the hardest aspect of writing and publishing. Moreover poetry and short stories are not easy to sell as there is a limited market compared to some of the popular genres. I prefer to get exposure for the book through reviews, interviews and word of mouth.

Do you find social media a great tool or a hindrance? 

I think it’s a huge benefit because it connects us to writers and readers around the world not merely to promote our writing but also to discuss writing get help and advice and find like- minded people. I decided to self-publish because I found many writers doing this and I felt encouraged. I also learnt everything about self-publishing through other writers who were on the same journey as I am and it’s amazing how many people I’ve come to know through social media.

OPTIONAL QUESTIONS 

What do you enjoy most about writing?

I don’t know if there’s any particular aspect about writing that I like more than others. I just like to write. It’s like being able to direct my thoughts onto a blank canvas and create something beautiful out of the jumble of ideas and words that are there. Writing poetry or fiction is hugely liberating as I can express what I want or write about something that may not be possible to do as a fact.  It’s like painting, but with words.

Breaking News - Shirani Rajapakse

What age did you start writing stories/poems?

I wrote my first poems and short stories when I was in university as an undergraduate student. These were experimental works and I never planned on publishing them.  There was a short period after my post grad study in India where I was doing nothing and I wrote some stories and poem that were better than the ones I wrote earlier. But it was really much later that I started to write seriously and this is where the bulk of my work is from.

Has your genre changed or stayed the same?

It has stayed the same for the most part, but I’ve dabbled in other genre, like fantasy. I’ve also written a couple of short stories for children but these aren’t published.

What genre are you currently reading?

Right now I’m reading contemporary romance. Sometimes reading outside the genre I write can be more relaxing.

Do you read for pleasure or research or both?

Both. Right now I’m reading for pleasure.

Who is your best supporter/mentor/encourager?

My lecturer from undergrad study Dr. Lakshmi de Silva was someone who encouraged me to write even when I didn’t know I wanted to write. Through the years she has been a huge supporter of my writing and I tend to discuss my work with her. She is also the only person who first sees my writing before I send it to anyone else.

Where is your favorite writing space?

In front of my computer. It’s a mess with papers and books all over the table but that’s where I write.

Do you belong to a writing group? If so which one?

I belong to several writing groups on Facebook where we help each other with advice about writing and publishing.

If you could meet one favorite author, who would it be and why?

Alice Munro and Carolyn Forche. I like the way they write and it would be nice to just talk to them about writing.

If you could live anywhere in the world – where would it be?

Right here where I am as this is the place I’m most comfortable. But if I could travel to anywhere in the world then the list would be endless. I think travel opens up your mind and give you opportunities to learn and experience diversity in all forms and this is good not just for writing but in general too. I’d like to visit several places, like Russia, China and some parts of the US like Colorado or Alaska and spend some time there, maybe a few weeks just taking in everything. But I wouldn’t want to move anywhere.

Do you see writing as a career?

Yes. It already is.

Bio

Shirani Rajapakse is an internationally published, award winning poet and short story writer. She won the Cha “Betrayal” Poetry Contest 2013 and was a finalist in the Anna Davidson Rosenberg Poetry Awards 2013. Her collection of short stories Breaking News (Vijitha Yapa 2011) was shortlisted for the Gratiaen Award. Her critically acclaimed poetry collection Chant of a Million Women (2017) won the 2018 Kindle Book Awards. It was chosen as an “Official Selection” in the 2018 New Apple Summer eBook Awards for Excellence in Independent Publishing and received an Honorable Mention in the 2018 Readers’ Favorite Awards. Her second collection of short stories, I Exist. Therefore I Am (2018) is about women in modern India. Rajapakse’s work appears in many literary journals and anthologies worldwide. Rajapakse read for a BA in English Literature from the University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka and has a MA in International Relations from JNU, India.

shiranirajapakse.wordpress.com

 

 

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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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Unlikely Stories – November 10, 2018

This was posted about Chant of a Million Women in Unlikely Stories on November 10, 2018.

It’s always interesting to read what others think of my work. The reviewer mentions bad editing and superfluous elements. Must take it up with me editor. 😉

What saddens me is the reviewer assumes just because I’m Sri Lankan that all the poems are about women and men in Sri Lanka, when the examples of people I mention as well as places clearly indicate it is not. What  really surprises me though, is the misunderstanding of two of the poems mentioned. Sometimes context is important to understand the nuances and the reason some words are used, or not used, or said in a certain way. So how do you portray something that is local in a way non-locals understand while still preserving the local identity?

Read below.

On reading Shirani Rajapakse’s “Chant of a Million Women”

In Shirani Rajapakse’s Chant of a Million Women (self-published, 2017) we have poems that narrate the lives of Sri Lankan women and their relationships with men. It is at its core, a criticism of the innate sexist culture of Sri Lanka and the poems vibrate with action, gesture, and compassion, describing horrible realities. However I have to note that, sadly, there are too many faults of language, concision and sentimentality. The author, I have to say, is guilty of bad editing. Where perfect endings, lines or stanza breaks, could exist, the author adds too many superfluous elements, sometimes whole stanzas that unbalance otherwise perfect poems. The ideas and content discussed and described in the poems are incredibly moving and hit close to home to a third world native like myself, but the bad editing fails the book. Too many examples of this; in the poem “She Thought She Knew it All,” a poem about poetic identity in the said country, the failed editing surfaces. The lines “and feel the solace that someone / empathized in a world / full of no meaning” are sentimental in the expression of the emotion described and have a grammatical error, things not forgiven to poets. The emotion expressed feels childish, unedited, uncrafted, and I am left confused by the line “full of no meaning” where ‘meaningless’ could have done fine. Lines should be crafted by necessity and this is a recurring problem in the book: the author is guilty of superflux. Then the poem continues and still holds effect up to the 27th line, the perfect ending having been nailed at “No one else gave a damn,” but the author adds 5 more unnecessary lines which prolong this spirit of sentimental superflux and my negative criticism of the book. Instead of being charmed, I am left regretting.

“They rode in cars with tinted glass.
They read a different verse.
She was not counted.
But she didn’t know.
Ignorance is such bliss.”

What about the “tinted glass”? How is it relevant to the poem that “She was not counted”… or couldn’t there be a better expression, one with more poetic cadence and that also solidifies the trajectory of the poem? The last line crushes whatever effect the poem had created, and I am left wondering about its necessity and also about the author’s command of her craft. If we take the poem, “In The House at The End of The Road,” it was full of potential, but some unnecessary lines hurt it as well.

“She plucked
her breasts because
she said they didn’t fit.
She was
meant to be male, but

they had grown on their own,
large and voluminous
sticking out for all to see like buoys in the sea.
Obstinate, rude and beckoning
to all. Come see me
defy the rules.

I stand up to gravity.

They cramped her style.
She couldn’t move her arms
or bend down to touch
the ground.

So she ripped them out,
one by one.
Unlike the Amazons, they only removed one.
It was an occupational hazard.
That’s what they said.

They couldn’t aim their bows
to defend their realm.
But she had nothing to defend.
Except her annoyance at
being female.”

Some minor changes in line preserve the humor and meaning of this poem while not killing the effect and main intention on the reader.

She plucked her breasts
because they didn’t fit

they had grown on their own
large and voluminous
sticking out for all to see like buoys.
Obstinate, rude and beckoning
to all. Come see me
I stand up to gravity

They cramped her style.
She couldn’t move her arms
or bend to down to touch
the ground.

So one by one
she ripped them out
unlike the Amazons
who only removed one.
An occupational hazard
is what they said.
They couldn’t aim their bows.

But she had nothing to defend
except her annoyance
at having breasts.

Just minor editing modifications bring back an element of sharpness to the poem and preserve its humor. As we travel along with the author into places where few Americans have been, places where men feel entitled to a woman’s body, places where money and status can also make you own people, the poem “Dream of the House Maid” captures the purpose of the book beautifully. It is both a tender and direct poem that tells the tragedy of a housemaid tortured by her employers. I think lines 4-6 capture this well:

“You got much more than you bargained for,
with a salary paid in nails.

Hard as hell.”

This poem is sharp and takes the reader to a place of emotional torment. The poem following that poem, “Mutilated,” also grounds us in the abuse this sexist culture imposes on women. It is a heartbreaking portrayal of womanhood and the imagery is powerful, that of a woman’s lips sealed shut and the woman left seeing the world through “vermillion tears / in the rain, running all over.” These are two of the good poems in this book and they show the poet’s talents: “Lips, inviting, delicious pink, sealed / shut. / Words are damned, can barely trickle / out. / Sewn up tight, threads crisscross an / ugly /design like embroidery by / an unknown hand done hurriedly…” (“Mutilated”). She creates a powerful and symbolic image in the poem’s main persona, a Madonna who, instead of bearing a son who will die for others, is herself the martyr who “finds it hard / to sing sweet songs of longing…”

I am not saying that all the poems in this book are bad. Nor am I saying that the poet is bad. I am, however, saying that the book as whole is bad because the poet failed at editing too many poems that seemed like first drafts. I hope Shirani Rajapakse takes my criticism as constructive and pursues poetry. And that next time, I’ll be writing a praise instead of a criticism.

 

Darryl Wawa

Darryl Wawa is a Port-au-Prince born Haitian-American who studied Photography and Creative writing. He enjoys chocolate and good books. That said, maybe a movie is a good book. He loves to work with images and words and their pairing.

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Bibliophiles Cafe – November 17, 2018

This review of I Exist. Therefore I Am was posted on Bibliophiles Cafe by EverydayGoddess today. You can read it below.

Book Review: I Exist. Therefore I Am.

 

I Exist. Therefore I Am by Shirani Rajapakse is a collection of disturbingly moving short stories of the atrocities women in rural India confront and the hope they have for a brighter future. The author’s evocative and unforgiving style of writing is what pumps life into the characters as they walk through life fighting various battles.

Gayathri Devi was waiting to die. She had been here for a long time, but it
appeared as though death was in no hurry to come and take her away. Dressed in dirty white with her head shorn, she was one of the many widows
shunned from her family and forced to live a non-existent life.

From the very first page, the pleadings and laments of the oppressed can be heard; the shocking and immoral crimes committed made my hair stand on end. Each story was heart-wrenching, the egregious and grisly ways these women were treated for just being was horrifying. Shirani unrelentingly portrays the plights of women and the atrocities they face due to baseless religious, cultural, and tribal taboos imposed on them. These are a gigantic obstacle, and removing these iniquitous taboos is essential.

Each story highlights the atrocious and odious ways women in rural India are forced to live. In her story Death Row, Shirani portrays the slow and terrible way older widows await death when they are no longer wanted by their families. In her story Drink your Milk and go to Sleep, Shirani highlights unflinchingly the taboo against female child, the awful environment created for women if they birth a daughter.

“There are maggots inside you,” maaji said staring daggers at me.
She let her eyes rest on each one of the family sitting in the room and raised
her voice for effect.
“It’s stuffed with maggots! Her womb is full of maggots!”

Following her award winning poetry collection Chants of a Million Women, these edifying stories highlight the alarming conditions of women in rural India. The beautiful imagery, heart-wrenching truths and the endless hope that women have for a better future makes this an eye-opening read. This book is for the ones who are not afraid to ask questions and ready to dissect baseless beliefs to uncover the layers of trauma and anger that women carry everyday.

You can buy the book here.

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Featured in the Spotlight on Grab The Book – November 16, 2018

I Exist. Therefore I Am is featured in the Spotlight today on Grab The Book.

https://shiranirajapakse.files.wordpress.com/2018/11/d3ae0-grab2bthe2bbook2b2528425292bcopy.jpg

Friday, November 16, 2018

Spotlight: I Exist. Therefore I Am by Shirani Rajapakse

Greetings Book readers,
Introducing a new author Shirani Rajapakse on our blog: with her latest book: I Exist. Therefore I am.
This book is collection of nine stories about women in India. These stories portray the struggles, hardships, discrimation they face for being born in this gender. Lets get to know the book more:

 Book: I Exist. Therefore I am by Shirani Rajapakse

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?

Buy book at:

Amazon.in | Amazon.com | Books2read

 Author Shirani Rajapakse

About Author: 

Shirani Rajapakse is an internationally published, award winning poet and short story writer. She won the Cha “Betrayal” Poetry Contest 2013 and was a finalist in the Anna Davidson Rosenberg Poetry Awards 2013. Her collection of short stories Breaking News (Vijitha Yapa 2011) was shortlisted for the Gratiaen Award. Her critically acclaimed poetry collection Chant of a Million Women (self published 2017) won the 2018 Kindle Book Awards. It received an Honorable Mention in the 2018 Readers’ Favorite Awards and was chosen as an “Official Selection” in the 2018 New Apple Summer eBook Awards for Excellence in Independent Publishing.

I Exist. Therefore I Am is her second collection of short stories (self- published, October 2018). Close on the heels of Chant of a Million Women it takes on the theme of women and looks at what it means to be a woman in modern India.

Rajapakse’s work appears in publications around the world including, Flash:The International Short-Short Story Magazine, Litro, Silver Birch, International Times, City Journal, Writers for Calais Refugees, The Write-In, Asian Signature, Moving Worlds, Citiesplus, Deep Water Literary Journal, Mascara Literary Review, Kitaab, Lakeview Journal, Cyclamens & Swords, New Ceylon Writing, Channels, Linnet’s Wings, Spark, Berfrois, Counterpunch, Earthen Lamp Journal, Asian Cha, Dove Tales, Buddhist Poetry Review, About Place Journal, Skylight 47, The Smoking Poet, New Verse News, The Occupy Poetry Project and in anthologies, Fireflies & Fairy Dust: A Fantasy Anthology (Eu-2 2018),  Flash Fiction International (Norton 2015), Ballads (Dagda 2014), Short & Sweet (Perera Hussein 2014), Poems for Freedom (River Books 2013), Voices Israel Poetry Anthology 2012, Song of Sahel (Plum Tree 2012), Occupy Wall Street Poetry Anthology, World Healing World Peace (Inner City Press 2012 & 2014) and Every Child Is Entitled to Innocence (Plum Tree 2012).

She has a BA in English Literature (University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka) and a MA in International Relations (Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India).

She interviewed, promoted and reviewed books by indie authors on The Writers Space at shiranirajapakse.wordpress.com

Connect at:

Website | AmazonFacebook | Twitter | Pininterest | Instagram | LinkedIn | Goodreads

Do buy a copy of the book, read and review it on Amazon & Goodreads. Thank you in advance.

Bye. Take care.

 

 

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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.