Splainer

Sunday, May 1 2022


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Hiding one aspect of your identity is like leading a double life. You don't feel like you belong anywhere. You create masks to wear in each of your lives, and switch artfully between the two. Eventually, the two blur together and you no longer remember who you were.

That’s author Yashica Dutt in her book ‘Coming Out As Dalit’, a memoir of her relationship with her caste identity, and an indictment of casteism that exists in India and around the world. Both a personal memoir and a narrative history of the Dalit movement, this is a moving and important read. This April, during Dalit History Month, we recommend reading works by, and about, Dalit voices—and continuing to through the year, no matter what month it is. 

 

Editor’s note: This excellent newsletter is part of splainer’s partnership with the wonderful bookstore Champaca. Founded by Radhika Timbadia, this women-run enterprise epitomises all the values we advocate: integrity, independence, a genuine investment in quality, and great care for their customers (read more about their philosophy here). In a world ruled by Amazon, we need more Champacas! We’ve come together to champion each other’s businesses, and help serve each other’s patrons better! Do let us know what you think of their newsletter—which you receive one Sunday every month as a splainer subscriber. PS: splainer does not make any revenue if you buy from Champaca. This isn’t about money.

 

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We Recommend

From page to screen

Soaring celsius and sweat has had all of us at Champaca wanting to curl up at home, sipping on something cold, and waiting for mangoes and summer rain. If you want to avoid the heat and can stay put at home, you might be tempted to binge on another series. We thought we’d bring you a collection of books that were adapted into TV shows or films. Rediscover your favourite stories in another medium, unearth nuances that the adaptation may have missed, or equip yourselves to spot the details when you catch their on-screen avatars!

 

Cobalt Blue

Aspiring writer Tanay and his free-spirited sister Anuja fall in love with the same enigmatic man who comes to stay in their house in Pune as a paying guest. What ensues is a story that deals with the themes of family, sexuality, and love. Sachin Kundalkar’s novel ‘Cobalt Blue’ was originally published in Marathi and was translated into English by Jerry Pinto in 2013. Kundalkar has helmed the movie version too! 

 

Normal People

At school Connell and Marianne pretend not to know each other. He's popular, the star of the school soccer team, while she is lonely, proud, and intensely private. A strange and indelible connection grows between the two teenagers that irresistibly draws them together through the years that follow—years of exploration, self-destruction, and impending adulthood. Sally Rooney’s ‘Normal People’ brings her brilliant psychological acuity and spare prose to a story that explores the subtleties of class, the electricity of first love, and the complex entanglements of family and friendship. Her debut novel, ‘Conversations With Friends’, is also the source of a recent adaptation by the BBC!

 

Manto: Selected Short Stories

Nandita Das’ 2018 film ‘Manto’ is a unique blend of biography and fiction. It is the true story of Saadat Hasan Manto, including his friends in the Progressive Writers’ Association, his relationship with his wife, growing political worries, and endless court trials on charges of obscenity in his short stories. Seamlessly weaved in are some of Manto’s most famous stories. Discover the writer in this collection, which brings to us some of his most impactful stories in English translation.  

 

Dune

One of science fiction’s most famous epics, Frank Herbert’s ‘Dune’ has been the basis of a number of adaptations. Denis Villeneuve’s 2021 movie swept the Oscars, bagging prizes for music, editing, and production design. Make sure you don’t forget to read the sequel before the next film drops! The ‘Dune’ trilogy is an epic tale set in the future, as young Paul Atreides is tasked with the stewardship of the desert planet of Arrakis, home to the most valuable material—melange—in the universe. This series sits at the intersection of technology, ecology, politics, and religion.

 

Heartstopper

One of Netflix’s latest offerings is ‘Heartstopper,’ a gentle and sensitive coming-of-age story about young love, as its lead characters navigate high school and questions of identity. It’s based on Alice Oseman’s best-selling graphic novel, featuring simple illustrations that speak volumes.

 

Station Eleven

Emily St John Mandel’s book was picked up for a TV adaptation much before our world went into a global pandemic—lending the book, and its adaptation, a newfound gravity. It’s hard to imagine a life-affirming novel about a pandemic, but both book and show are suffused with hope, and a strong sense of humanity. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, following a devastating pandemic, a small theatre group travels across North America. Story strands connect across time and space in a non-linear narrative, combining to form an expansive, beautiful meditation on the nature of art (celebrating everything from Shakespeare to Star Trek) and connection. 

 

Bullet Train

In this Japanese thriller by Kotaro Isaka, translated by Sam Malissa, five different assassins find themselves on a bullet train hurtling towards its destination, seemingly brought there for different reasons—until their storylines begin to intersect. Fast-paced and exhilarating, this is a delight to read—pick it up before watching the movie adaptation, set to release later this year.

 

The Underground Railroad

Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer-Prize winning novel ‘The Underground Railroad’ reimagines the secret network of abolitionists that worked together across the length of America to help free enslaved people. In this novel, the ‘railroad’ becomes literal—a system of safe houses connected by a secret transport system. This expansive, moving novel has a stunning TV adaptation helmed by Barry Jenkins, director of the Oscar-winning ‘Moonlight’. 

 
Book of the month

‘Eat the Buddha’ by Barbara Demick

This May, we travel to Tibet in the Champaca Book Subscription, with ‘Eat the Buddha’ by Barbara Demick. In this work of nonfiction, Demick takes us to the Tibetan town of Ngaba to stitch together the history of the territory. She traces the story of the region, from the invasion of the Chinese Red Army and the Tibetan resistance movement to contemporary Tibet.

 

We come to know about the social, political and cultural history of the place through the lives and struggles of the people who inhabit the land. The book is an intimate account of lived experiences, and nuanced, personal stories, while also conveying well-researched and historical facts—a fine balance that Demick strikes just right.  These evocative life histories help us understand the complex and difficult history of Tibet, and what led to it becoming a place of much ambiguity and mystique. 


Read this unique story with us in the Champaca Book Subscription, and discover the stories of a place and people that we do not normally hear. 

 
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In today’s edition

From Our Shelves

  • This Dalit History Month, we remind ourselves to engage with writings about caste, from different perspectives

 

Life at Champaca

  • We have new bookshelves! Check them out by visiting us in Bangalore or browse through them at our online store
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