I didn’t expect him to smile and say, “I love you,” as Americans did. I had never seen him smile and I would never expect him to embrace me; he never had. But perhaps there was some way—some subtle, casual way—that he could acknowledge my worth.
Ali Najmi, the contender to represent one of the largest South Asian enclaves in New York City, talks about growing up in Glen Oaks, his politicization in Sikh gurdwaras, and fighting for the rights of taxi drivers.
Join us for an evening featuring Tanwi Nandini Islam and Naomi Jackson, whose debut novels share a setting in Brooklyn, home to so many families who call somewhere else home. Born to immigrant parents, Islam's and Jackson’s heroines wrestle with competing cultural messages, gender norms, and a poignant sense of placelessness, all while navigating the tribulations of teenhood in America. In Islam’s Bright Lines, the Bangladeshi Saleem family raises three girls on Cambridge Place: rebellious Charu, bookish adoptee Ella, and runaway Maya, who seeks refuge from her abusive father. When their home falls victim to fire, the Saleem family returns to Bangladesh, where they must confront the demons of their past alongside the ones of the present. Home and homeland come into conflict again in Jackson’s The Star Side of Bird Hill, when the Braithwaite sisters, Dionne and Phaedra, are torn from Brooklyn and sent to Bird Hill, Barbados to live with their grandmother. Jackson transports the reader through history, tracking the stories of three generations of Braithwaite women, and confronting love, mental illness, and the struggles of immigration.
Brooklyn resident Tanwi Nandini Islam’s writing has appeared in Elle.com, Fashionista.com, Open City, Women 2.0, Billboard.com, and Gawker. She is the founder of Hi Wildflower Botanica, a 2013-2014 AAWW Open City Fellow, and a graduate of Vassar College and the Brooklyn College MFA program.
Naomi Jackson was born in raised in Brooklyn, and graduated from Williams College. She has studied writing at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and the University of Cape Town in South Africa.
For the final event in the Post-Midnight series, guest curator the Asian American Writers’ Workshop (AAWW) is throwing a rather unusual holiday: Anti-Nationalism Day. An invented holiday meant to humorously rebut India's Independence Day on August 15th, Anti-Nationalism Day will feature poets and writers reading newly written pieces in response to the works and themes of After Midnight, the Queens Museum’s Indian Modernism exhibition that orients itself on the years 1947 and 1997—the year of Indian and Pakistani Independence and its 50th anniversary, respectively. Audiences are invited to tour the show, stopping at various pieces to hear the writers share their poems, essays, reflections, and short stories, and continue the conversations over masala chai and chaat. Writers will include novelist Hari Kunzru (a Guggenheim Fellow and named by Granta as one of the "Best of Young British Novelists"), Amitava Kumar (nominated for the highest literary prize in India), and others.
“Post-Midnight” is a series of artist and writers responses to After Midnight, the current exhibition of modern and contemporary art from India. In the interest of presenting audiences with multiple ways of reading and interpreting the works in the exhibit, we have selected artists who can create interactive experiences for our museum’s publics. We approached artists working in various disciplines– visual art, video, spoken word, dance, and sound–in hopes that the works in the exhibition might inspire varied interpretive forms. The series has been organized by guest curator Reya Sehgal...
It’s 1839. China and Great Britain stand on the brink of the First Opium War. By the time it’s over, the Western powers will have torched the Emperor’s summer palace, legalized the Opium trade in China, and reduced China to a semi-colony carved up by the colonial powers. More than a decade ago, Booker Prize Finalist Amitav Ghosh began the Ibis trilogy, a 1,600-page triad of novels that told the story of British colonialism on both sides of the Indian Ocean. If the first volume, Sea of Poppies, alighted on the poppy fields of India, the next installment, River of Smoke, took us to the ports of Canton, where the British sought to push the narcotic on the Middle Kingdom. The Ibis trilogy now concludes with Flood of Fire, a rip-roaring tale of sexual politics, global commodities trade, and pan-Asian imperialism.
Encompassing the onset of the First Opium War, the British acquisition of Hong Kong, and China's "hundred years of humiliation," Flood of Fire follows a funky cast of characters: an American freedman who passes as white, a bankrupted Raja working for the Chinese, a politically ambivalent sepoy working for the East India Company, and the strangest character of all: British colonial English infiltrated by the diction of Anglo-India (“It’s my turn now to bajow your ganta!”). A linguistically playful, structuralist retelling of the colonization of Asia, the Ibis Trilogy shows how the British conquest “redrew the map of the region, prompting, among other things, the transformation of the backwater port of Hong Kong into a globally influential centre of enterprise” (The Guardian). Flood of Fire paints a vivid, intimate portrait of the First Opium War--what Ghosh calls “one of the most iniquitous things that has ever happened in the history of mankind.”
One of India’s best-known writers, Amitav Ghosh has sold more than 30 million books worldwide. His novel Sea of Poppies was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2008, and his other works have earned the Dan David Award, the International Grand Prix of the Blue Metropolis Festival, and the Padma Shri. His work has been translated into more than 30 languages...