In My Hands Today…

Jasmine and Stars: Reading More Than Lolita in Tehran – Fatemeh Keshavarz

In a direct, frank, and intimate exploration of Iranian literature and society, scholar, teacher, and poet Fatemeh Keshavarz challenges popular perceptions of Iran as a society bereft of vitality and joy. Her fresh perspective on present-day Iran provides a rare insight into this rich culture alive with artistic expression but virtually unknown to most Americans.

Keshavarz introduces readers to two modern Iranian women writers whose strong and articulate voices belie the stereotypical perception of Iranian women as voiceless victims in a country of villains. She follows with a lively critique of the recent best-seller Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books, which epitomizes what Keshavarz calls the New Orientalist narrative, a view marred by stereotype and prejudice more often tied to current geopolitical conflicts than to an understanding of Iran.

Blending in firsthand glimpses of her own life–from childhood memories in 1960s Shiraz to her present life as a professor in America–Keshavarz paints a portrait of Iran depicting both cultural depth and intellectual complexity. With a scholar’s expertise and a poet’s hand, she helps amplify the powerful voices of contemporary Iranians and leads readers toward a deeper understanding of the country’s past and present.

In a direct, frank, and intimate exploration of Iranian literature and society, scholar, teacher, and poet Fatemeh Keshavarz challenges popular perceptions of Iran as a society bereft of vitality and joy. Her fresh perspective on present day Iran provides a rare insight into this rich culture alive with artistic expression but virtually unknown to most Americans. She warns against the rise of what she calls the New Orientalist narrative, which thrives on stereotype and prejudice and is often tied to current geopolitical conflict rather than an understanding of Iran. Keshavarz offers a lively critique of the best-seller Reading Lolita in Tehran, which she says epitomizes this New Orientalist attitude. Blending in firsthand glimpses of her own life, Keshavarz paints a portrait of Iran depicting both cultural depth and intellectual complexity.

In My Hands Today…

Three Thousand Stitches: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives – Sudha Murty

Two decades ago, when Sudha Murty approached a group of devadasis for the first time, determined to make a difference to their lives, they threw a chappal at her.

Undeterred, she went back, telling herself she must talk to the devadasis about the dangers of AIDS. This time, they threw tomatoes.

But she refused to give up. The Infosys Foundation worked hard to make the devadasis self-reliant, to help educate their children, and to rid the label of the social stigma that had become attached to it.

Today, there are no temple prostitutes left in the state of Karnataka. This is the powerful, inspirational story of that change initiative that has transformed thousands of lives.

In My Hands Today…

Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning – Cathy Park Hong

Poet and essayist Cathy Park Hong blends memoir, cultural criticism, and history to expose the truth of racialized consciousness in America. Binding these essays together is Hong’s theory of “minor feelings.” As the daughter of Korean immigrants, Cathy Park Hong grew up steeped in shame, suspicion, and melancholy. She would later understand that these “minor feelings” occur when American optimism contradicts your own reality—when you believe the lies you’re told about your own racial identity.

Hong uses her own story as a portal into a deeper examination of racial consciousness in America today. This book traces her relationship to the English language, to shame and depression, to poetry and artmaking, and to family and female friendship in a search to both uncover and speak the truth.

In My Hands Today…

Roads To Mussoorie – Ruskin Bond

Roads to Mussoorie is a memorable evocation of a writer’s surroundings and the role they have played in his work and life.

With an endearing affection and nostalgia for his home of over forty years, Ruskin bond describes his many journeys to, from and around Mussoorie, and then delves into the daily scandals surrounding his life and friends in the (not so) sleepy hill town. The pieces in this collection are characterized by an incorrigible sense of humour and an eye for ordinary-and most often unnoticed-details that are so essential to the geographic, social and cultural fabric of a place.

In My Hands Today…

Me Talk Pretty One Day – David Sedaris

David Sedaris’ move to Paris from New York inspired these hilarious pieces, including the title essay, about his attempts to learn French from a sadistic teacher who declares that every day spent with you is like having a caesarean section. His family is another inspiration. You Can’t Kill the Rooster is a portrait of his brother, who talks incessant hip-hop slang to his bewildered father. And no one hones a finer fury in response to such modern annoyances as restaurant meals presented in ludicrous towers of food and cashiers with six-inch fingernails.