Review: White Dancing Elephants -Stories by Chaya Bhuvaneswar

white dancing elephants

Pub. date: 09 October 2018 I Page count: 208 I Imprint: Dzanc Books I CW: Miscarriage, violence, rape, infidelity

 

Summary:

“A woman grieves a miscarriage, haunted by the Buddha’s birth. An artist with schizophrenia tries to survive hatred and indifference in small-town India by turning to the beauty of sculpture and dance. Orphans in India get pulled into a strange “rescue” mission aimed at stripping their mysterious powers. A brief but intense affair between two women culminates in regret and betrayal. A boy seeks memories of his sister in the legend of a woman who weds death. And fragments of history, from child brickmakers to slaves in Renaissance Portugal, are held up in brief fictions, burnished, made dazzling and unforgettable.” (GR)

Review:

White Dancing Elephants is Chaya Bhuvaneswar’s powerful debut collection of short stories, which won the 2017 Dzanc Short Story Collection Prize. Collecting 17 stories, this volume puts women of color, especially South Asian women in the diaspora, at the center.

These are stories about pivotal moments in women’s lives. These are stories about women in the diaspora, women in a colonialist, racist, classist, cis-hetero patriarchy. These are stories about what is done to women and the things women do to each other.

I really enjoyed all of the stories, but of course I have some favorites:

  • In “White Elephants Dancing,” the titular story, the I-narrator moves through London, reeling from a recent miscarriage and talks to her lost baby.
  • “Talinda,” is a story about infidelity, friendship and queer awakening.
  • “A Shaker Chair,” gives us a biracial character! It’s about a therapist and her patient and tension between Asian and Black communities.
  • In “Adristakama,” the narrator reflects on her move back to India, her marriage there and the what-might-have-been of her relationship with her ex-girlfriend Lauren.

Bhuvaneswar ‘s stories often focus on children and motherhood and they delve deep into painful topics (heed the content warnings!), but she does them justice and her writing is haunting and beautiful. White Dancing Elephants is out TODAY in print, e-book and audiobook! I highly recommend it, especially for short story fans!

Disclaimer: I received a free e-copy of this book from the author, in exchange for an honest review.

*****

About the author:

Chaya Bhuvaneswar is a practicing physician and writer whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in Narrative Magazine, Tin House, Electric Lit, The Rumpus, The Millions, Joyland, Large Hearted Boy, Chattahoochee Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, The Awl, jellyfish review, aaduna and elsewhere, with poetry in Cutthroat, sidereal, Natural Bridge, apt magazine, Hobart, Ithaca Lit, Quiddity and elsewhere. Her poetry and prose juxtapose Hindu epics, other myths and histories, and the survival of sexual harassment and racialized sexual violence by diverse women of color. IN addition to the Dzanc Books Short Story Collection prize under which her debut collection WHITE DANCING ELEPHANTS will be released on Oct 9 2018, she recently received a MacDowell Colony Fellowship and a Henfield award for her writing. Her work received several Pushcart Prize anthology nominations this year as well as a Joy Harjo Poetry Contest prize. Follow her on Twitter at @chayab77 including for upcoming readings and events. (GR)

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