Friday, July 20, 2007

Preeta Published!

So ... would you like to hear about yet another Malaysian author, award winning, published overseas?

I knew last year (thanks to an accidental stumble upon of the googlish kind) that Preeta Samarasan had been signed up by literary agency Lyons and Pande International and had already begun to garner awards - even before her first novel was published.

I just heard (thanks Raman!) that her first novel Evening is the Whole Day is to be published by Houghton-Mifflin.

Here's the low-down:
The already acclaimed debut of a promising young Indian-Malaysian author, this masterful gothic novel transports us to Malaysia circa 1980, as the prosperous Rajasekharan family of Big House, Ipoh, slowly peels away its closely-guarded secrets.

Winner of the University of Michigan's Hopwood First Novel Award, Preeta Samarasan's spellbinding first novel opens with the Rajasekharan family's dismissal of Chellam, a rubber-plantation servant girl, for unnamed crimes. We soon learn that this is their third loss in a matter of weeks: Paati, the family's aging grandmother, has died under mysterious circumstances, and Uma, their golden child, has escaped to Columbia University with no plans to return. As the novel gradually moves backward in time to tell the story of the years leading up to these events, we learn how the Rajasekharan family came to occupy the Big House, and how Oxford-educated Appa, the family patriarch, courted Amma, the humble girl-next-door, and what happened to Appa's big dreams for his family and his country. Along the way, we begin to uncover the answers to the many questions that haunt this damaged family: What was Chellam's unforgivable crime? Why did Uma become so withdrawn in the months before she left home? How and why did Paati die? What did six-year-old Aasha see? And most pressingly for Aasha, why is Amma, her mother, so angry at Appa, her father?

Beginning with Chellam's firing and circling through years of family history to arrive at the moment of Uma's definitive departure— stranding her worshipful younger sister in a family, and a country, slowly going to pieces— EVENING IS THE WHOLE DAY illuminates in heartbreaking detail the family's layers of secrets and lies, while exposing the sordid underbelly of post-colonial Malaysia itself, a country where the Malay majority rules in favor of its own and where no matter how "big" and Indian you are, you're still just an Indian.

A piercing indictment of the many ways parents fail their children, the wealthy fail the poor, EVENING IS THE WHOLE DAY is a mesmerizing and vital achievement sure to earn Preeta Samarasan a place in the postcolonial pantheon. It is also the very first novel to explore the Indian experience in Malaysia. Like Kiran Desai, Zadie Smith and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Preeta Samarasan represents a new generation of young women writers—ones inspired by the earlier writings of Graham Swift, Chinua Achebe and Salman Rushdie--who bring their own distinct and critical sensibilities to their postcolonial subjects.

Preeta Samarasan was born and raised in Malaysia, but moved to the United States to finish high-school and to complete her education. She recently received her M.F.A. from the University of Michigan, where this novel received the Hopwood Novel Award; she also recently won the Asian American Writer's Workshop short-story award (judged by Monique Truong).
More news as soon as I have it!


It is also the very first novel to explore the Indian experience in Malaysia.
Ermm ... Rani Manicka's The Rice Mother?


Anonymous said...

I think K.S. Maniam would certainly count in as well.

But this is very exciting thing. There is most certainly a kind of writing revolution going on, not in sudden surging movements, but the sort with accomplishments here and there and a whole lot of ripples. Malaysians have already claimed English as their own language -- now, for it to be recognized!


Sharanya Manivannan said...

Firstly, congrats to Preeta S!

"It is also the very first novel to explore the Indian experience in Malaysia."

How could Rani Manicka be left out? And there are other writers who have done the same but who have not yet become known in the west, including Aneeta Sundararaj and Devika Bai. Can't the publisher market this book without having to deny the existence of the ones that came before it? Hmm.

The novel's title is from an ancient Tamil poem. I wonder if she/her publisher knows?

Madcap Machinist said...

off topic, but perhaps of interest to you: it's nice to see Lat getting some international attention, and recognition; quote: "Long before indie comix in North America developed the autobiographical comic genre, Lat was doing it about his childhood in Malaysia." On Drawn!

bibliobibuli said...

karcy and sharanya - very true about the other authors esp. k.s. maniam ... i guess they are only thinking about the books available in the west?

there are some other indian writers "bubbling under" who i know will be important voices too (*nudges sharanya*)

i do think there is a revolution happening bit by bit author by author. and it makes me very happy.

machinist - thanks for the link. lat is wonderful and deserves recognition. what better embassador for malaysia is there? i think we have long suffered from the mentality that a cartoonist isn't a literary figure ... but now there is renewed respect for the graphic novel (it took time for me to get my head around this category)

Ted Mahsun said...

Ipoh! Yay! (again)

bibliobibuli said...

it must be all that pomelo eating ... or something they put in the beansprouts

Chet said...

It's the water.

Madcap Machinist said...

that's a great perspective on it, pictography is alive and well--tell a story any which way you can, right? :-)

__earth said...

Michigan rocks!


Amir said...

Greetings from New Delhi! One of my favourite places for book-buying :-)

My purchases so far include THE LOVED FLAW by KS Maniam (a collection released only in India).

animah said...

Ted, Chet, Have you noticed how flawless the Ipoh girls' complexion is?

mel said...

"and a country, slowly going to pieces ... a country where the Malay majority rules in favor of its own and where no matter how "big" and Indian you are, you're still just an Indian."

Does this mean the book will most likely be banned in this country? Will she be labeled a traitor for her "malicious lies"?

Chet said...

Animah - are you from Ipoh?

bibliobibuli said...

mel - should be interesting to see!!

amir -why was maniam's book only released in india? one of these days i must make a book buying trip to new delhi ... preferably with someone who knows all the best places! i've not even been to india yet

lil ms d said...


Preets said...

Hello everyone, I'm Preeta. Sharon, thanks so much for this post. Just so you all know, I didn't write that description or have anything to do with it -- actually I've never even seen it before. Sharon, where did you find it? I'd never in a million years have claimed to be the first writer to describe the Malaysian Indian experience -- I'm a big fan of K.S. Maniam, for one thing, and I read Rani Manicka's first book too and have great respect for what she set out to do in it. They're not the only two out there, either. I know :-) . I'll see what I can do to track down the author of that blurb and correct its misrepresentations -- thank you for bringing it to my attention.

Oh -- Sharanya, yes I do know the poem. It's a deliberate quotation. Glad someone recognised it!

bibliobibuli said...

thanks Preeta! great of you to drop by and congrats. think your blurb writer got a bit carried away and i seem to remember that i got this from your agent's website ... but couldn't check as the link appears to be down. either that or it was the publisher's site ... (i just googled parts of the quotation and it doesn't appear to be online anymore - did i dream the whole episode??)

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Preeta! When does the book go to print? I'll be the first in line!