Hello and welcome to Episode 53 of Desi Books—news and views about desi literature from the world over. I’m your host, Jenny Bhatt. Thank you for tuning in.
In today’s #DesiCraftChat, we have SJ Sindu discussing their new novel, Blue-skinned Gods. In this conversation, we talked about the use of Hindu mythology in contemporary fiction, the loss of religion, and more.
#DESICRAFTCHAT WITH SJ SINDU — INTRODUCTION
SJ Sindu is a Tamil diaspora author of two literary novels, two hybrid chapbooks, and a forthcoming graphic novel. The first novel, Marriage of a Thousand Lies, won the Publishing Triangle Edmund White Award and was a Stonewall Honor Book and a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award. Sindu’s second novel, Blue-Skinned Gods, is out in November 2021, and a graphic novel, Shakti, is forthcoming. Sindu’s hybrid fiction and nonfiction chapbook, I Once Met You But You Were Dead, won the Turnbuckle Chapbook contest, and a hybrid nonfiction and poetry chapbook, Dominant Genes, won the Black River Chapbook Competition and will be published in February 2022. Sindu teaches at the University of Toronto, Scarborough.
Traveling from the ashrams of India to the underground rock scene of New York City, Blue-Skinned Gods explores ethnic, gender, and sexual identities, and examines the need for belief in a fractured world. In Tamil Nadu, India, a boy is born with blue skin. His father sets up an ashram, and the family makes a living off of the pilgrims who seek the child’s blessings and miracles, believing young Kalki to be the tenth human incarnation of the Hindu god, Vishnu. Kalki is confronted with three trials in his tenth year—tests of his power that will prove his divine status and, his father tells him, spread his fame worldwide. Over the next decade, as the story of his family unravels, his relationships with everyone—his dominating father, his beloved cousin, his cancer-stricken aunt, and the young woman he imagines he will marry—threaten to fall apart.
What interested me about this novel is that it’s not about religion in the usual sense but about the loss of religion and what that might mean for a person and their world. And I appreciated Sindu discussing how they approached the Hindu mythology aspects of the story as objects of study and cultural artifacts. Myths have always been used universally in all cultures and since ancient times to explain patterns in our lives. And we need patterns to help us make sense and order from confusion and chaos. But, oftentimes, we see desi writers leveraging Hindu mythology in contemporary fiction to point to certain life patterns for their characters with, well, mixed results. That’s not what Sindu has done with this novel, which is, for me, refreshing.
Enjoy this chat. Here’s Sindu now.
#DESICRAFTCHAT WITH S J SINDU
You’ve been listening to episode 53 of Desi Books—news and views about desi literature from the world over. I’m your host, Jenny Bhatt. Thank you for tuning in.
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