Negative Space
Nathacha Appanah, Youmna Chlala, Ranbir Sidhu

From the Indian Ocean to the American west, three daring fiction writers tell the story of the dispossessed. Like many characters in postcolonial lit., their protagonists have been cut off from motherlands by war, prison and migration. But the terrain of dislocation these writers explore–spanning the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean, an imagined concentration camp for Arab Americans and the pathways between 1980s California and a war-torn Punjab–is startlingly new.

One of France’s foremost emerging authors, Nathacha Appanah reads from her novel The Last Brother, which tells the little known story of Jewish refugees who are refused entrance to Palestine and imprisoned on Mauritius. This “important story, lyrical, grave and gorgeously told” (Victoria Redel) tells the story of two boys–one Indian, one Jewish–and their deeply moving attempts to escape both prison camp and the terrifying wilderness that surrounds it.

Science fiction meets post-9/11 civil liberties in Youmna Chlala’s stunning short story about concentration camps in the American southwest. Playwright Ranbir Sidhu reads from his recently completed novel The Open Country. The book focuses on a family of Sikh immigrants in 1980s California and is set partly against the distant events in the Punjab in India, where a civil war is raging.

Nathacha Appanah, a French-Mauritian of Indian origin, was born in Mauritius and worked there as a journalist before moving to France in 1998. The Last Brother, her fourth novel, won the Prix de la FNAC 2007 and the Grand Prix des Lecteurs de L’Express 2008.

Youmna Chlala, a Beirut-born artist and writer, is the Founding Editor of Eleven Eleven {1111} Journal of Literature and Art and a recipient of the Joseph Jackson Award for poetry. Her writing has appeared in the MIT Journal for Middle Eastern Studies, XCP: Journal of Cross Cultural Poetics, Arab and Arab American Feminisms, and for the NPR Project for the 2008 Whitney Biennial. Her art work has been exhibited in the United States and Canada and across the Arab World and Europe, in venues that include the San Jose Museum of Art, Berkeley Art Museum, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and the Tehran Biennale.

Ranbir Sidhu is a winner of the Pushcart Prize and a New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship in fiction. His stories appear in Fence, The Georgia Review, The Alaska Quarterly Review, and other journals. He is the author of the plays “Conquistadors,” “True East,” and “Sangeet,” and the recipient of a 2010/11 new theater commission from the New York State Council for the Arts. Learn more at

$5 suggested donation. This event is open to the public.

Negative Space

Nathacha Appanah, Youmna Chlala, Ranbir Sidhu
Saturday, April 30, 2011
7:00 PM
Asian American Writers’ Workshop
112 W27th Street, 6th Floor
New York City
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