Monday, August 4, 2014

Interview on LitJuice

The site Lit Juice interviewed me a few months back about a whole lot of things, including where, why and how I write, the 'writing community in India', and what I'd be if I weren't a writer. You can read it here.

Not Only The Things That Have Happened has been renamed Lost Boy and is now available on Kindle outside of South Asia for a very good price. You can find it on Amazon US here. For links to reviews about the book and about how Kindle works, go here.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Writing and Rewriting the Northeast

Please come for the panel discussion Writing and Rewriting the Northeast that I am moderating on Tuesday. I have spent the last few days immersed in the panelists' books. The themes I've encountered in their writing and the context in which they write tells me this will be a compelling discussion. 

For details, see the flyer at right, or go to the FB event page.

And in case you haven't heard, Not Only The Things That Have Happened has been renamed Lost Boy and is now available on Kindle outside of South Asia for a very good price. You can find it on Amazon US here. For more details about how Kindle works, go here.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Lost Boy available outside South Asia

The electronic version of my book, Not Only the Things That Have Happened, is now available outside the subcontinent. It's been re-titled 'Lost Boy' and is available at Amazon in Kindle format for a very good price. The beautiful cover was designed by my son, Akshay. 

If you have a Kindle reader, you know what to do. If you read e-books on devices that use Android, IOS, or Windows, those also work. All you need to do is download the free Kindle app from the App Store or Google Play, then you buy the book on Amazon and log-in to your new Kindle App using your Amazon email ID. There are some instructions here. A friend of mine who has an IPad but had never used Kindle, said he was able to figure this out in less than ten minutes.  

For those of not familiar with the book, the print version was reviewed widely in the Indian press.  A few of my favorite snippets are below. You can read longer excerpts and find links to the full version of the reviews here
Koshy manages to touch upon the politics of adoption, language, exile, identity. Such a novel could easily have fallen into the trap of being dull and worthy. That it doesn't is something of a triumph; this is a fantastic book.  --Aishwarya Subramanian, Hindustan Times.

Koshy is a deft literary seamstress, intricately weaving a tapestry of voices and offering us a rich, layered glimpse into the workings of memory, community and family.--Janice Pariat, The Sunday Guardian.

The result is a novel that is complex, yet so elegantly written that it manages to read lightly and pleasurably, without ever showing its inner workings.--Anvar Alikhan, India Today.
Koshy’s writing is dense and layered in the way of an onion: peeling involves tears and eating involves pungency, but the stinging rawness of the process is ultimately rewarding, if disquieting.-- Manasi Subramaniam, Biblio.

In prose that is layered and complex... the novel draws you in the way an epic does. --Anupama Raju, The Hindu
The immersion in the lives of the people of this region is almost Faulknerian in its intensity, along with the milieu against which they have come of age: The influence of Catholicism, the grip of caste, trade union and Left movements and the distance between the impoverished village and the bustling city. --Sanjay Sipahimalani, Mint Lounge.
Motherhood looms very large – and in many forms – in the book as well... Not Only the Things That Have Happened is far from schmaltzy, rather feeling its way through the kinds of lack that cannot be blotted out. The novel retains Koshy’s characteristically measured, poetic voice with its undertow of unease. --Naintara Maya Oberoi, Time Out India

Monday, October 21, 2013

those who have a stake in the adoption narrative

As I wrote in an earlier post, one of the central ideas of Not Only The Things That Have Happened is the complex and inherently problematic nature of inter-country adoption. That idea has not been explored by most Indian reviewers to the extent I might have liked, but I have been pleased to see several US birth mother and adoptee rights blogs taking a serious looks at the book from that perspective.

Marijane Nguyen, a Taiwanese American adoptee and music therapist, had this to say in her review on her blog, Beyond Two Worlds:
Mridula Koshy’s debut novel, Not Only the Things That Have Happened, is not a tale for the faint-hearted. It is a story that explores the impact of adoption, oppression, loss and identity. Koshy’s prose and storytelling is hauntingly beautiful and speaks directly to the heart. It is not a quick read, but one that invokes thought, and as such, is an important and compelling work... An element of grief seeps heavily into much of the story, as most of the characters experience a great loss. I didn't mind the sadness, quite the opposite. There was an underlying rawness that pulled me deeper into the story and gave it a true sense of realism. (full review is here.)
Marijane followed up by interviewing me. You can read that exchange here

Suz Bednarz, a reunited birth mother and  founder of, a site and support group that provides reunion assistance to those separated by adoption, reviewed the book on her blog, Writing My Wrongs. Here's an excerpt:
I finished reading Mridula Koshy’s book Not Only the Things That Have Happened. I definitely recommend it, particularly for individuals experienced with trans-racial adoption. Koshy’s writing is thick and rich from the very first page. (full review is here.)
Jane Edwards wrote a lengthy review of the book at [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum. Her review also includes an interview. You can read the whole thing here.

This is the most nervous I've been in reading reviews of this book. I can't say how good it feels to be read seriously by those who I read as I was researching this book--the people who have a stake in this issue. Writing, like politics, is a fundamentally collective project. Developing new narratives for inter-country adoption is a task many, many people have been working on for a long time. I'm glad to see my book is contributing to that work.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Re-writing adoption

In doing the research for Not Only the Things That Have Happened, I read hundreds of news stories, books, articles and blogs about inter-country adoption. Some of what I read was from the point of view of adoptees, some from the point of view of first mothers or birth mothers. And there were blogs by adoptive parents, as well. From my wide reading on the subject I took away an overwhelming sense of the unspoken losses entailed in adoption. And again and again, I ran into the following quote, mostly on adoptee and birth mother sites:
Adoption loss is the only trauma in the world where the victims are expected by the whole of society to be grateful.
- The Reverend Keith C. Griffith, MBE.
My reading led me to conclude the orphan crisis - an oft repeated figure is 163 million orphans worldwide - is so necessary to the adoption industry that the industry has neither hesitated to create the figure in the statistical sense, nor, tragically, in the real sense; i.e., not just by doctoring the figures, but by actually separating children from their biological parents or other members of their biological families, thus making orphans of them. As for the figure, it is very much a doctored figure. Writing on  Fleas Biting, David Smolin, professor of law at Cumberland School of Law and the director for The Center for Children, Law, and Ethicshas this to say:
These global orphan estimates come from UNICEF, which is using a broad concept of “orphans and vulnerable children” which includes children who have lost one parent but are living with their other parent.   90% of these “orphans” are living with a parent, and thus certainly are not in need of a family through adoption, for they already have a family. 
The unequal distribution of economic and political power within the adoption triad - birth parents, the adoptee, and adoptive parents -  is one reason for the sort of corruption that won't hesitate to separate children from parents who very much want to keep them. There is very little acknowledgement of the lifelong trauma this separation can create in the child. There is next to no incentive to promote family preservation. Alleviating poverty, so families can remain intact, is neither lucrative, nor has it the necessary cultural or political mandate. The birth mother, who is lauded for putting the child's interest above all else and giving her child for adoption, thereby performing an ultimate sacrifice such as only a mother can, is banished from her child's life. Isn't this woman exactly the mother this child needs? If one recalls the story of Solomon's judgement, the mother who was brave enough to give up her child is rewarded by having her child returned to her arms.

The work to reform adoption is well underway. In 2010 Korea acquiesced to the campaign by international adoptees for the return of their lost citizenship.

More recently the Australian Government apologized to birth mothers for the forcible adoptions carried out in decades past. 

But the vulnerability of children who enter the adoption stream continues, as illustrated in the horrific practice of 'rehoming,' where adoptive parents hand off guardianship of children they no longer want with the ease with which they might any other transaction unsupervised by the law. Arrangements for the handover are made online between strangers who meet briefly in parking lots to effect the transfer. No one is watching. Megan Twohey has written an extensive series on 'rehoming' for Reuters, which you can read here.

This is not an easy issue. Adoption, like marriage or any other institution involving millions of people all over the world, cannot be summed up simply as  wholly 'good' or wholly 'bad'. But I do believe we need to reform the system of inter-country adoption such that children and their birth mothers have rights the don't currently enjoy. This will require us to be more open, more accountable, and probably more uncomfortable.

Anyone who follows politics knows that bad policies flow from bad narratives   At least in the short run, I think that to understand the complexities and ambiguities of this issue, we need new narratives as much as we need new policies.  Which is why I wrote a novel, not an essay.

I will keep adding to the list of blogs I have collected on the right. All of them were valuable to my research, all of them speak courageously about loss in adoption. In doing so they are all part of the attempt to rewrite the narrative of adoption.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

At The Ladies Finger, you can catch me chortling over Munro's win

 In Munro’s writing, generations live and breathe and die in the span of a few pages. Her short stories are celebrated for achieving what novels are charged with achieving and yet rarely do. They are celebrated for lighting up the landscape of our minds and our times. The contemporary novel – that unbearably bloated creation which confuses its desires with its ideas (think Franzen and Freedom) – has nothing on Munro or her form... full story here