April 15, 2021.
Hello, day before what used to be Tax Day.
Till the miracles and apocalypses of 2020-2021 swayed even the close cousin of death: Taxes. April 15, 2021 is now May 17, 2021.
Have you filed? I haven’t. Man, I need a break. And not from taxes.
We have been watching the beauty of the American policing and judicial systems competing with each other to demonstrate that when something is broke, it needs fixing. Or, in more precise terms, We DA Nation have been transfixed for a month by a weighty question.
Can a man die of oxygen deprivation if there’s a strong, heavy knee placed on his neck for 9 (oh, just give and take, the killings haven’t even slowed down yet, homeys) minutes? Or must we dig for alternative causes like all the ills that black folks have been heir to and victim-blamed for throughout these last great American centuries—drugs, poor self-care, poverty, despair, lack of faith in the SYSTEM and the MAN, systemic denigration [note the intended pun! The word means ‘to blacken’!] and devaluation—till we come up with something resembling business as usual.
Such as the great democratic tradition of CHECKS AND BALANCES.
In February 2021 Texas froze. Ted Cruz went to Cancun. Check—Ted Cruz, what a good Dad.
Then Biden declared vaccine sufficiency by end of May 2021. However, exas governor Greg Abbott lifted the mandatory mask rule the same day. Probably Abbott doesn’t like to be behind; he’s a man of action. So Balanced, you see. (Wait, there’s more about Abbott later; don’t go away yet).
Earlier, Mitch McConnell had denounced Donald Trump at the end of the Second failed Impeachment for disgraceful conduct. Yet, Mitch said a week later that if Donald Trump wanted to represent the Republican Party in 2024, he certainly would be allowed to. That Mitch; so Balanced.
But hey, there’s more on how UNCHECKEDLY BALANCED things can get. Like, eight people die in a spree-shooting in Atlanta, Georgia; six of them Asians. The Sheriff explains to the press the next morning that the assailant, a twenty-one-year-old white man ‘suffering’ from ‘sex-addiction,’ was having a ‘bad day.’
But when Georgia is in the fray, can Texas be far behind? Not so.
Soon after, not to be left behind, Representative Chip Roy of Texas objects to the ‘politicization of rhetoric’ by Asian-American-Pacific Islander communities grieving the atrocity (recall, six of the victims were Asian-American) and reminds the world that in Texas “We believe in justice. There’s an old saying in Texas … find all the rope in Texas and get a tall oak tree.”
There you have it. That’s right, Chip. CHECK hate crime with the BALANCED rhetoric of lynching.
Then, to BALANCE things out some more, a Colorado gun-loony hits out and takes ten innocent lives. He’d been having many bad days, apparently. But do you imagine that sways our hallowed Republican leaders? Oh no, they are still looking out for democratic CHECKS AND BALANCES, all y’all. How dare anyone take away our Second Amendment right? April 15, 2021, ahem.
(By the way, my good friend Henry Bourgeois and I have agreed that from now on if we ever enter a roomful of a certain complexion of people, we will be sure to ask if anyone’s having a bad day. Or even fixin’ to have one. . . .)
Especially since so many new cool assault weapons are now on the market and anyone can buy them, at any time. Makes sense, right? People, human lives on the one hand; the second amendment on the other. . . .
Check. Balance. Shoot.
Not to forget that Rachel Maddow recently reminded us of the Tulia TX case. In 1999 a gung-ho sheriff named Tom Coleman sent forty-six people, thirty-nine of them black, all of them innocent, to prison. For over eight hundred years total. On false drug charges. Until, in 2003, a brilliant young lawyer for the NAACP known as Vinita Gupta challenged the decision and exonerated –oh yeah—EVERY single one of them. Though too late for some to start their lives over again. Democracy just ain’t for everyone, alas!
And, just to balance things out, guess who’d given the perjured and racist Tom Coleman the “Lawman of the Year Award” in 1999? Why, none other than Texas’ own other shining star senator, John Cornyn himself! Currently, as Vinita Gupta is being nominated for a powerful position in the Biden-Harris Justice department, guess who’s objecting? Guess. Guess. I know you can.
I hope JFK was right (Another shooting assassination victim, what coincidence!) when he said, “The highest duty of the writer, the composer, the artist is to remain true to himself and let the chips fall where they may.”
So, recent chips that have fallen from me:
Huge shoutout to Alex Graffeo, my fabulous reviewer and a great writer herself!
Here’s my PANK review for a fabulous collection of poetry called FOUR QUARTETS: POETRY IN THE PANDEMIC (Tupelo Press, 2020). And in case you haven’t heard of Tupelo Press…. Excuse me my dear, but where have you been?
AND my brilliant young artist friend ALICIA LINK‘S MisTress-PieCe. She created this at the Vermont Studio Center in 2019. It’s titled EVOL
And the brilliance of young people I know just doesn’t end these days—or ever—and here’s my dear friend’s son ROSHAN CHANDY’S illuminating, one-of-a-kind blog piece. Read about the courage of facing a personal battle every day.
And last but not least, the haunting and ecelctic vision of women and myth in Koral Dasgupta‘s newest prose poetry, Ahalya. Buy it, read it, think about it, talk about it.
And last and least, my latest public reading event at LITBALM:
The usual itty bitties:
Folks, I was born and raised in India and have called the United States my second continent for the last thirty-odd years. Wherever I’ve lived, I’ve generally turned to books for the answers to life’s questions, big or small (that includes philosophy and recipes). My first novel Love’s Garden was published in October 2020. Some nice people have said some nice things about it (Buzzfeed; Medium.com; Foreword Reviews; Goodreads). I’m currently finishing my second novel about about Caste and Hindutva politics in Narendra Modi’s India and love, racism, xenophobia and other mysteries in Donald Trump’s America, titled Homeland Blues.
My short stories have been published or will be in the Saturday Evening Post Best Short Stories from the Great American Fiction Contest Anthology 2021 (forthcoming 2021), the Good Cop/Bad Cop Anthology (Flowersong Press, 2021), the Gardan Anthology of the Craigardan Artists Residency, Funny Pearls, The Bombay Review, Meat for Tea: the Valley Review, Storyscape Journal, Raising Mothers, The Bangalore Review, OyeDrum, and more. I’ve attended the Bread Loaf Writers’ Workshop, the Vermont Studio Center residency, the VONA residency, Centrum Writer’s Residency, and others. I was first runner-up for the Los Angeles Review Flash Fiction contest (2017-2018), long-listed for the Disquiet International Literary Prize (2019 and 2020), a finalist for the Reynolds-Price International Women’s Literary Award (2019), and received Honorable Mention for the Saturday Evening Post Great American Stories Contest, 2021.
In a related avatar, on April 15, 2021, I’m Professor of English at Texas A&M University, USA and teach and write about English literature, South Asia Studies, Indian Cinema, Postcolonial Studies, Colonial Discourse Analysis, Gender Theory, Film Studies, and Critical Theory. I founded and directed (2007-2017) the South Asia Working Group of the Glasscock Humanities Center at Texas A&M University, and rom 2012 -2014 directed the Graduate Studies program of the English department at Texas A&M University. I’ve published three academic monographs and many articles on film, world literature, feminism and visual culture, colonial and postcolonial discourse analyses of literature from the eighteenth century onwards, gender in South Asia, and travel writing. I’ve received grants and fellowships from the Huntington Library Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellowship, the Regional Worlds Program of the Globalization Project (Ford Foundation) at the Chicago Humanities Institute, the Lilly Foundation, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Workshop, the Vermont Studio Center, VONA, the Centrum Artists Residency, and the Craigardan Writers Residency (forthcoming).
I love (and read!) Jhumpa Lahiri, Megha Majumdar, Amitav Ghosh, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Jose Sarmago, Salman Rushdie, and last but not least, Chimamanda Adichie.
I was sighted at these spots recently:
Invited Workshop and Reading with a focus on Love’s Garden at Dev Samaj College for
Women, Panjab University, India, February 2, 2021
Featured Reading at Sacred Grounds in San Francisco, CA, January 13, 2021
Book Launch at Brazos Bookstore, Houston, TX, Oct 27, 2020, 7–8 PM CST
Podcasts: Desi Books Episode 21