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literature

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South Asian Literatures: Diaspora  
 
page: 1  2  3  4  

Burning Houses (1986), Harvey's best-known novel, is a work that focuses on the complex relationship between Charles, a young English writer, and Adolphe, an aging queen, and their mutual attempt to narrate Charles's troubled relationship with Mark, a married man.

The Web (1987), a sequel to Burning Houses, deals with Charles's struggle to understand Mark's emotional collapse and subsequent disappearance. Charles is clearly an autobiographical character, but he is consistently presented as an "Englishman."

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Hanif Kureishi

In contrast to Harvey, Hanif Kureishi explores the many ambivalences and complexities of his problematic identity as a diasporic post-colonial who is simultaneously an ethnic and sexual outsider in a troubled England.

My Beautiful Laundrette (1986), Kureishi's brilliant screenplay, deals with the gay romance between Omar, a young British-born Pakistani, and Johnny, a working-class Englishman. Through the tensions and conflicts inherent in their relationship, Kureishi traces the interconnections among race, class, and sexuality in contemporary multicultural England.

As much a critique of post-imperial Britain as it is an incisive commentary on the Indo-Pakistani immigrant culture in London, My Beautiful Laundrette is the first text by an openly gay South Asian writer to create a South Asian gay male character. And Kureishi accomplishes it gracefully and unapologetically.

In The Buddha of Suburbia (1990), his first and only novel to date, Kureishi once again explores the interconnections among race, class, and sexuality. A comic-satirical Bildungsroman, the novel tracks the picaresque misadventures of Karim, its bisexual, British-born Pakistani protagonist. But at the heart of the narrative lies a more serious project: Kureishi's systematic attempt to collapse national, racial, and sexual boundaries in order to reimagine the meaning of each.

Suniti Namjoshi

Suniti Namjoshi is the only openly lesbian South Asian writer with significant publications. She began to publish poetry in India during the late 1960s, but her early work can hardly be characterized as "lesbian." She spent much of the following decade in the United States, Canada, and England and became increasingly involved in feminist and lesbian political activism.

Her works published during the 1980s reveal her politicization: a radical lesbian-feminist consciousness informs each of them. Her Feminist Fables (1981), a collection of poems and prose narratives, offers a subversive perspective on patriarchal assumptions.

The Conversations of Cow (1985), an innovative mixture of fiction, fantasy, and fable, is a hilarious novella that examines the relationship between Suniti, a feminist lesbian separatist, and Bhadravati, a lesbian brahmin cow.

What Namjoshi calls "the bloodier aspects of gay and women's liberation" provides the content for her 1984 collection of poems titled From the Bedside Book of Nightmares. Here again she injects her satiric wit and subversive humor into her intensely political musings.

Flesh and Paper (1986)--a poetic dialogue between Namjoshi and her lover, the Australian-born poet Gillian Hanscombe--reveals how profoundly her poetic imagination is shaped by her lesbian-feminist politics.

A more recent work, The Mothers of Maya Diip (1989), is a novel that is set in a mythical South Asian nation with only female inhabitants. The matriarchal arrangement provides Namjoshi with an opportunity to satirize a wide range of contemporary human institutions and ideologies, including Western feminism and lesbian separatism.

The Formation of Support Groups

Since the mid-1980s, hundreds of young gay and lesbian South Asians living in the metropolitan centers of Europe and North America have begun to assert their presence by forming support groups. Begun partly in response to the racism they encounter in the predominantly white queer communities of the West but also in an effort to counter their sense of alienation from the heterosexist South Asian diasporic cultures, these groups provide their members with a sense of community and create safe spaces for them to focus on their individual dilemmas and collective concerns.

Many of the groups regularly publish newsletters, such as Shakti Khabar (London), Trikone (San Jose), Shamakami (San Francisco), and Khush Kayal (Toronto), which have subscribers in many countries. These publications seek to link South Asian gay and lesbian individuals as well as communities scattered around the world and to help forge a global South Asian queer identity.

These newsletters also serve as forums for creative self-expression: Many of them regularly include art work, poems, short stories, and autobiographical narratives by members.

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