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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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Winner – State Literary Awards 2019

I Exist. Therefore I Am won the State Literary Award 2019 in the short story category.

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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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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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Lady/Liberty/Lit – January 1, 2019

What a wonderful way to start the year with a poem published in a Lady/Liberty/Lit. Response to a Man is from #ChantofaMillionWomen 

Response to a Man

January 1, 2019

Shirani Rajapakse

You can’t mold me into

something you want—those

rough hands trying to create

dreams that can only shatter.

You are no sculptor and cannot shape

perfection from mud nor

chisel beauty out of a slab of granite.

I am flesh and blood

just like you.

Not made of clay or rubber that

bends at your will.

Don’t even try to change me

for you will not like the person

I might become in your hands.

Leave me as I am and let me

mold myself as I have done all this while.

I am an individual, a human.

Not a doll made of plastic

or wood that you take out to play

when it pleases you.

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. Her recently published short story collection I Exist. Therefore I Am is also about women and is set in India. Rajapakse’s work appears in many literary journals and anthologies around the world. 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.

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Renaissance Writer – November 25, 2018

This review of I Exist. Therefore I Am by Gordon Long was posted on Renaissance Writer as well as on Goodreads.

“I Exist. Therefore I Am” by Shirani Rajapakse

This is a book of short stories chronicling the unremitting horror of being a woman in India. It is poetic, descriptive, and unrelenting in its portrayal of what life is like for the unlucky woman who is poor, unable to produce sons or widowed. Each separate story outlines one possible scenario where a happy person is brought to despair, poverty or death through the cruelty of people who use the system to prey on the weak.

But these are not really stories with plotlines. The only important event that happens in any of them is when the victim dies. Otherwise, each is a rich portrayal of misery, described in elegant poetic detail.

A strident torrent of damnation of the Indian social system that condemns the innocent to suffer.  A difficult read for anyone with any sensibilities, but an eye-opening experience. Beautiful writing, best read in small doses.

(4 / 5)

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Always Write Again – November 24, 2018

A review of I Exist. Therefore I Am by Natalie Wood on her blog Always Write Again. You can also read it on Goodreads.

Natalie Wood’s Reviews > I Exist. Therefore I Am

I Exist. Therefore I Am by Shirani Rajapakse

I Exist. Therefore I Am
by

Shirani Rajapakse (Goodreads Author)
4390236

Natalie Wood‘s review

Nov 24, 2018


A whimsical travel feature in India Today advises readers not to visit the mountain beauty spot of Ladakh.

Correspondent Samonway Duttagupta says the locale is remote and that India boasts far prettier destinations. What’s more, it is overcrowded, everything there is ridiculously expensive and much worse – the climate can become cold enough to cause ill-health and even death.

But he does not describe the large numbers of Kashmiri Muslims who have migrated to the area and whose growing presence has adversely affected the centuries-old Buddhist traditions of those born there. Inevitably, the women are most badly treated and have been brutally shoved to the bottom of the social heap.

So much emerges from Shirani Rajapakse’s A Chill Flew across the Mountains, the penultimate tale in her short story collection, **I Exist. Therefore I Am.

There is never a good moment to read a book like t his and several times I delayed posting my review as I found more and more comparisons between the domestic serfdom that Sri Lankan Rajapakse’s fictional characters endure and the oppressed reality for too many women worldwide.

Believe me: it does not happen only in dramatic fashion to forced labourers in Uzbekistan or to Yazidi sex slaves. It occurs over and again every which way in modern democracies like the UK or even in Israel where following the murder of a Netanya housewife by her husband – a police officer – nationwide public demonstrations were held urging action to stop violence against women.

But I was distressed to note that the protests did not embrace the sort of non-physical but public humiliation meted to some female members of the religious Zionist B’nei Akiva youth movement, whose staged dance performance at a recent event in Katsrin near the Golan Heights was allegedly blacked out for spurious reasons of ‘modesty’.

I was also dismayed that the one woman who actively campaigned to be Karmiel’s new mayor was absent from the local demonstration.

Why did this well-known woman city councillor appear so indifferent to domestic abuse? Was her personal background to blame?

It is often noted that the affairs of the Jewish Diaspora and Israeli communities are a reflective microcosm of what happens outside. Should the answer to the conundrum therefore be the same as to that posed at the heart of Rajapakse’s book?

Why, as we near the close of the eighteenth year of the 21st century and vast numbers of us enjoy the countless advantages that implies, are so many young adult women still bound by antiquated tribal traditions of land, property and paternalism?

More important: why are these outmoded, unwritten laws sustained with such ferocity by family matriarchs so haunted by personal status that they despise the births and then continuing presence of any infant girls?

Must they be reminded of the difficulty of producing future generations without them?

In her introduction, Rajapakse cites a June 2018 global poll by the Thomson Reuters Foundation that ‘ranked India as the most dangerous country in the world for women’. No-one will deny that it has plenty of stiff competition!

She also refers to the December 2012 rape and murder of Jyoti Singh Pandeh (variously nicknamed ‘Nirbhaya’ and ‘Damini’) and other similar incidents that may have helped to change Indian law. But legislation has never altered constitutional prejudice. Only time and patience will do that.