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Love Marriage by V. V. Ganeshananthan

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Reviewed by Gail Tsukiyama

Ms. Magazine

In spare, lyrical prose, V. V. Ganeshananthan's debut novel tells the story of two Sri Lankan Tamil families over four generations who, despite civil war and displacement, are irrevocably joined by marriage and tradition. At the heart of the story is American-born Yalini, 22, the only child of Tamil immigrants. Her father eventually becomes a doctor, her mother a teacher; they make their new life in the United States. Even so, Yalini feels bound to "the laws of ancestry and society."

Born during "Black July" of 1983, the beginning of the civil war between the Tamil and Sinhalese, Yalini is haunted by Sri Lanka's political turmoil, caught between the political and social traditions of her ancestors and the modern world in which she lives. She can't forget that in a Sri Lankan family there are only two ways to wed, in an Arranged Marriage or a Love Marriage, even though she knows that "in reality, there is a whole spectrum in between, but most of us spend years running away from the first toward the second."

Uncertain what to do with her life, Yalini takes time off from school and travels to Toronto to help her parents care for her dying Uncle Kumaran, her mother's older brother, who immigrated to Canada. He was once a militant Tamil Tiger rebel who killed many people, including other Tamils, and seeing him brings Yalini face to face with the political strife in Sri Lanka. With him is his 18-year-old daughter, Jenani, who has chosen to marry a Tamil operative in Toronto and continue the struggle for a Sri Lankan separatist state. While Jenani is determined in her beliefs and goals, Yalini still struggles to find her way.

Through conversations with her uncle and parents, Yalini transcribes the many stories of her family and their political allegiances through each generation of marriage. Doing so, she begins to understand the spectrum that fills the void between Arranged Marriage and Love Marriage. She learns of her Uncle Neelan, who espoused the "enemy," a Sinhalese girl who protected him when the Sinhalese-Tamil riots began; of her Great-Aunt Harini, who was abused in a marriage to a "wrong" man; of her Aunt Uma, who was too "special" to get married. Above all, it's her Uncle Kumaran, who found love "under the strain of politics," who helps her see that she can only "cure the future by knowing the past."

Love Marriage covers the decades of these family stories in brief vignettes, a style that can feel fragmented and cause some character confusion. Still, this is a minor complaint about an otherwise powerful story. Ganeshananthan shows us that most of us live in the "whole spectrum in between." While Yalini may or may not find a love marriage, it's in understanding her family history that she's finally free to choose.

Source: Powell’s Books

Big book fest

Sunday, May 18, 2008

ON May 24, the country's biggest book fair will begin at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre. For nine days, until June 1, there will be author appearances – including Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad! – and a gamut of book-related events, as well as a whole lot of books on sale at great prices, of course.

To get into Popular bookstore's BookFest@Malaysia 2008, you need to buy a BookFest catalogue (RM2 each) from any Popular or Harris bookstore outlet around the country.

Here's a brief list of what's happening when in the areas featuring English language books and events. For information on Chinese language-related events and for a complete listing, go to bookfestmalaysia. com. The Star is a media partner in BookFest@Malaysia 2008.

May 24: Appearances by best-selling authors like James “Mr Midnight” Lee; The Star's Food Safety columnist and author of You Are What You Eat, Chia Joo Suan; True S’pore Ghost Stories author Russell Lee; The Unmaking of Malaysia author Ahmad Mustapha Hassan; and a sharing session with popular feng shui master Joey Yap.

May 25: Mr Midnight and Russell Lee appear; hair salon maven Winnie Loo shares her success story; the popular Senze shares secrets of How to Use the Internet to Make Money; and Zainal Abidin Rahman shows how to Catch the Coaching Moment.

May 26: Teen author Lim May-Zhee makes an appearance; indie filmmaker and author of the highly entertaining Malaysian Politicians Say the Darndest Things Amir Muhammad appears; a session for all graduates would be Pass Your Job Interview Within 30 Minutes, surely; and celebrity interior designer Eric Leong makes his debut as an author with his book, Design Fast Forward.

May 27: Authors of What Would You Do, Sia Leng Suan and Ng Khoon Lay, will make an appearance; Kevin Zahri shares his Fitness 24/7; The Star's Mind Our English editor, Kee Thuan Chye, will talk about Common English Errors; and there’s the intriguingly entitled Blind Fold Reading.

May 28: Story-telling sessions and colouring contests for the kids; Sony puts up its Show Time; Dr Kong Voon Sin shares his Zest for Life; and author Zhang Su Li shares from her travel book, A Backpack & A Bit of Luck.

May 29: Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad makes an appearance to sign his books; Jeff Keow, author of Think Out of the Block with SUDOKU, makes an appearance and there's a Sudoku fun time session; also, a session on how to make your children high achievers as well as story-telling sessions.

May 30: This is Healthy Living Day with exercise demonstrations as well as cooking demonstrations by celebrity authors/chefs like The Star's Cook's Nook columnist Amy Beh as well as Florence Tan and Su Chan (of Su Chan restaurant fame); Pauline Yong makes sure your money remains healthy too by sharing from her I Love Stocks; and for the children, there'll be a fun session with the mascot from Kuntum, The Star's children's magazine.

May 31: Manoj Kaimal shares from her yoga book, Celebration of Asanas; Dr Yeoh Phee Liang shares important info about Cataract & Refractive Surgery – all you want to and should know.

June 1: Detoxification the Way to Go says author Patricia Loh; popular authors Norzalina Nordin and Damya Hanna make appearances to sign books; Carol Yip shares from Charting Your Retirement Plan; and Jacinta Chan shows you How to Benefit From the Current Market Scenario Using Technical Analysis.

Source: The Star Online