Stranger Love

SAWCC’s Sixth Annual Literary Festival

Friday, March 6 and Saturday, March 7, 2009

A two-day series of readings, panel discussions, and writing workshops featuring South Asian writing that explores love between strangers and love that is strange.

This year’s festival, Stranger Love, calls to mind accidental encounters and provocative attractions that defy the boundaries of social expectation. From guerilla movements in Sri Lanka to the suburbs of New Jersey, South Asian women examine journey and memory, war and conflict, and race and sexuality, spanning the genres of poetry, memoir, travelogue, and fiction.

Friday, March 6, 7pm
Reading and Conversation featuring Pulitzer Prize–winning author Jhumpa Lahiri (Unaccustomed Earth, Knopf 2008), with author V.V. Ganeshananthan (Love Marriage, Random House 2008). Book signing to follow.

@ Wollman Hall
The New School
65 West 11th Street, 5th Floor
New York, NY

After Party, 9pm
@ Sunita Bar
106 Norfolk Street (btwn Delancey and Rivington)
(btwn Delancey and Rivington)
New York, NY

… and head out to Desilicious afterward!

Desilicious: Hai Hai Holi Party!
@ Highline Ballroom
431 West 16th Street (btwn 9th and 10th Aves)
$5 cover for Lit Fest attendees

Saturday, March 7
Writing Workshops, 10am–noon

@ The New School
6 East 16th Street, 9th Floor (at 5th Ave)
New York, NY

$10 registration fee, advance sign up required.
Both writing workshops are full.

To sign up, email us a letter of interest specifying which workshop you would like to attend and briefly describing your writing background to

Object Desire: Poetry Workshop with Purvi Shah

“None ask whether healing has a catalyst,
where ache can be converted
to desire. Did my heart fall
or did the heart fall apart? Did you lose
me or did I lose? Where is the object
to be found?…”

(from “Attack. Sudden. Heart.” —Terrain Tracks, Purvi Shah)

Roses. Rings. Truffles. Perfumed notes. How do we signify love? What are the objects we use to communicate desire? This poetry workshop will focus on writing related to the objects of our desire. We will investigate desire’s materiality while plumbing emotions and the complexities of love and longing. The workshop will include a group activity, independent writing, and a lightning exercise in order to produce a polished draft of a poem by the end of the session. The goals of this workshop include ruminating on object desire, sharing writing with workshop attendees, producing a poem, and having fodder to continue writing for weeks to come.

Purvi Shah, executive director of Sakhi for South Asian Women, a community-based anti-domestic violence organization, is the author of Terrain Tracks (New Rivers Press 2006), which won a Many Voices Project prize. Her debut poetry collection, recognized across Asian American and women’s communities, explores migration as potential and loss.

Two Truths and a Lie: Writing Autobiographical Fiction with Bushra Rehman
Writing from life can be a tricky business. There are people to protect, faulty memories of events, and the pitfalls of self-censorship and self-aggrandizement. Autobiographical fiction employs techniques of both memoir and fiction. It recognizes that our lives are too rich not to write about, but that our imaginations are too strong to ignore. In this workshop, we will write by drawing upon the truths and lies of our lives and will cover literary techniques, such as character, dialogue, setting, and story arc.

Bushra Rehman is co-editor of Colonize This! Young Women of Color on Today’s Feminism (Seal Press 2002) and author of the collection of poetry, Marianna’s Beauty Salon (Vagabond Press 2001). Her work has appeared in numerous journals, and she has been featured in the New York Times, India Currents, NY Newsday, on BBC Radio 4, KPFA, and the Brain Lehrer Show. She was recently a resident at the Headlands Center for the Arts, where she completed her first novel.

Panel Discussions

@ The New School
6 East 16th Street, 9th Floor (at 5th Ave)
New York, NY

Stranger Histories: War and Literature, 1:15–2:30pm
Panelists speak about the way they engage narrative and verse to address issues of civil conflict, terrorism, and protest.

Fawzia Afzal-Khan (Editor, Shattering the Stereotypes: Muslim Women Speak Out, Olive Branch Press 2005)
Meena Alexander (Quickly Changing River: Poems, Triquarterly Books 2008)
V.V. Ganeshananthan (Love Marriage, Random House 2008)
Moderated by Zohra Saed (Ph.D Candidate, CUNY)

Stranger Migrations: Travel and Literature, 2:45–4pm
Panelists discuss nonfiction that takes the form of travelogue and memoir, and their works’ explorations of journey, displacement, and diaspora.

Minal Hajratwala (Leaving India: My Family’s Journey from Five Villages to Five Continents, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2009)
S. Mitra Kalita (Suburban Sahibs, Rutgers University Press 2003)
Suketu Mehta (Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found, Knopf 2004)
Moderated by Pooja Makhijani (Editor, Under Her Skin: How Girls Experience Race in America, Seal Press 2004)

Passing Strange: Race, Gender and Sexuality, 4:15–5:30pm
Panelists consider how their writing reimagines raced, gendered, and sexual identity in unconventional ways.

Abha Dawesar (Family Values, Penguin India 2009)
Farzana Doctor (Stealing Nasreen, Inanna 2007)
Chandra Prasad (On Borrowed Wings: A Novel, Atria 2007)
Moderated by Svati Shah (Postdoctoral Fellow, Duke University)

Closing Night Reading
From dating on Craigslist to undiscovered family histories, South Asian women share their own writing on the theme of “stranger love.” Featuring Fawzia Afzal-Khan, Abha Dawesar, Farzana Doctor, Minal Hajratwala, S. Mitra Kalita, Yesha Naik, Amy Paul, Bushra Rehman, Zohra Saed, and Purvi Shah.

@ Bar 13
35 East 13th Street (at University Pl)
New York, NY
$5 at the door

Stranger Love is cosponsored by The New School’s South Asia Forum, the Asian American Writers’ Workshop, and Sholay Productions. This event was funded in part by Poets & Writers, Inc. through public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs; and by the New York Council for the Humanities.