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Landscapes of Writing

Collected Essays of Bapsi Sidhwa

Series:

Bapsi Sidhwa

Edited By Teresa Russo

This book is a collection of essays by international writer Bapsi Sidhwa gathered for the first time in one edition by Teresa Russo, with a foreword written by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Deepa Mehta. Landscapes of Writing: Collected Essays of Bapsi Sidhwa provides a writer’s perspective on issues of South Asian literature, linguistics, poetry, and views of political events and globalization. In the first part of the book, Bapsi Sidhwa discusses her childhood, family life, and how she became a writer. There is also a revised essay detailing how her book Cracking India became a film by Deepa Mehta. The second part of the book focuses on her thoughts concerning war, terrorism, and how to achieve peace. This collection includes two letters, demonstrating her local and nationalistic perspectives to a larger view of an interconnected world.

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Chapter 8. Two-Way Culture Shock

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← 60 | 61 →

· 8 ·

TWO-WAY CULTURE SHOCK

June 18, 2015

I am often asked, “As a recent migrant how comfortable are you writing about America?”

It is not so much a question of how comfortable I am: it is a compulsion to define my experiences in America and to include these in my fiction.

The impulse to translate personal experience into fiction, to convey a personal vision, and to imbue this fabricated vision with legitimacy, is what makes one write in the first place. My assessment of what is striking in America, and of how my family and I have coped in our new circumstances is bound to insinuate its way into my writing. Of course, it is not easy to portray the nuances of a culture one is not born to, and it entails a risk of getting under the skin of a character who is shaped by another culture.

I do not yet have the measure of the country’s tolerance. I don’t quite know what can be expressed and what cannot be, without transgressing the perimeters of what is still for me unfamiliar sensibility. No culture is simple; and America, despite the surface uniformity imposed on it by its McDonald’s and its identical shopping malls, suburban housing and television, has startling deeps that are not easily sounded, and are only gradually inferred. ← 61 | 62 →

I realized this when a mom in Florida tried...

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