Join us for a virtual event with Rajiv Mohabir, author of Antiman, on Thursday, June 24th at 7pm! The author will be joined for a conversation by Priyanka Champaneri, author of The City of Good Death!
About the book:
Winner of the Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing, Rajiv Mohabir's Antiman is an impassioned, genre-blending memoir that navigates the fraught constellations of race, sexuality, and cultural heritage that have shaped his experiences as an Indo-Guyanese queer poet and immigrant to the United States.
Growing up a Guyanese Indian immigrant in Central Florida, Rajiv Mohabir is fascinated by his family's abandoned Hindu history and the legacy of his ancestors, who were indentured laborers on British sugarcane plantations. In Toronto he sits at the feet of Aji, his grandmother, listening to her stories and songs in her Caribbean Bhojpuri. By now Aji's eleven children have immigrated to North America and busied themselves with ascension, Christianity, and the erasure of their heritage and Caribbean accents. But Rajiv wants to know more: where did he come from, and why does he feel so out of place?
Embarking on a journey of discovery, he lives for a year in Varanasi, on the banks of the Ganges, perfecting his Hindi and Bhojpuri and tracing the lineage of his Aji's music. Returning to Florida, the cognitive dissonance of confederate flags, Islamophobia, and his father's disapproval sends him to New York, where finds community among like-minded brown activists, work as an ESL teacher, and intoxication in the queer nightlife scene. But even in the South Asian paradise of Jackson Heights, Rajiv feels like an outsider: "Coolie" rather than Desi. And then the final hammer of estrangement falls when his cousin outs him as an "antiman"--a Caribbean slur for men who love men--and his father and aunts disown him.
But Aji has taught Rajiv resilience. Emerging from the chrysalis of his ancestral poetics into a new life, he embraces his identity as a poet and reclaims his status as an antiman--forging a new way of being entirely his own. Rapturous, inventive, and devastating in its critique of our own failures of inclusion, Antiman is a hybrid memoir that helps us see ourselves and relationships anew, and announces an exciting new talent in Rajiv Mohabir.
About the author:
Rajiv Mohabir is the author of The Cowherd's Son (2017, winner of the 2015 Kundiman Prize) and The Taxidermist's Cut (2016, winner of the Four Way Books Intro to Poetry Prize and finalist for the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry in 2017), and translator of I Even Regret Night: Holi Songs of Demerara (1916) (2019), which received a PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant Award. His essays can be found in places like Asian American Writers Workshop's The Margins, Bamboo Ridge Journal, Moko Magazine, Cherry Tree, Kweli, and others, and he has a "Notable Essay" in Best American Essays 2018. Currently he is an Assistant Professor of poetry in the MFA program at Emerson College and the translations editor at Waxwing Journal.
About the book:
Winner of the Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing, Priyanka Champaneri's transcendent debut novel brings us inside India's holy city of Banaras, where the manager of a death hostel shepherds the dying who seek the release of a good death, while his own past refuses to let him go.
Banaras, Varanasi, Kashi: India's holy city on the banks of the Ganges has many names but holds one ultimate promise for Hindus. It is the place where pilgrims come for a good death, to be released from the cycle of reincarnation by purifying fire. As the dutiful manager of a death hostel in Kashi, Pramesh welcomes the dying and assists families bound for the funeral pyres that burn constantly on the ghats. The soul is gone, the body is burnt, the time is past, he tells them. Detach.
After ten years in the timeless city, Pramesh can nearly persuade himself that here, there is no past or future. He lives contentedly at the death hostel with his wife, Shobha, their young daughter, Rani, the hostel priests, his hapless but winning assistant, and the constant flow of families with their dying. But one day the past arrives in the lifeless form of a man pulled from the river--a man with an uncanny resemblance to Pramesh.
Called "twins" in their childhood village, he and his cousin Sagar are inseparable until Pramesh leaves to see the outside world and Sagar stays to tend the land. After Pramesh marries Shobha, defying his family's wishes, a rift opens up between the cousins that he has long since tried to forget. Do not look back. Detach. But for Shobha, Sagar's reemergence casts a shadow over the life she's built for her family. Soon, an unwelcome guest takes up residence in the death hostel, the dying mysteriously continue to live, and Pramesh is forced to confront his own ideas about death, rebirth, and redemption.
Told in lush, vivid detail and with an unforgettable cast of characters, The City of Good Death is a remarkable debut novel of family and love, memory and ritual, and the ways in which we honor the living and the dead.
About the author:
Priyanka Champaneri received her MFA in creative writing from George Mason University and has been a fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts numerous times. She received the 2018 Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing for The City of Good Death, her first novel.