Posts Categorized: Book Reviews

Akil Kumarasamy’s “Half Gods”

A Début Collection Explores Strife, Trauma, and “a Lifetime Loving Strangers” by Katie Waldman, ‘The New Yorker,’ July 7, 2018  The dinner party is for fiction writers what the étude is for pianists: a high-stakes showcase for their many talents. Authors must stage-manage a large number of characters brought together into one enclosed space; they must… Read more »

Debut Stories Trace the Aftershocks of the Sri Lankan Civil War

by Tania James, ‘The New York Times,’ July 5, 2018 HALF GODS By Akil Kumarasamy 224 pp. Farrar, Straus & Giroux. $25. In Tamil, farewells are never final. As Akil Kumarasamy pointed out in a 2017 interview, the Tamil equivalent of goodbye is poyittu varen, meaning “I’ll go and return.” These are parting words especially suited… Read more »

Melancholic Mythologies: “Half Gods” and the “Mahabharata”

by Kalyan Nadiminti, ‘Los Angeles Review of Books,’ June 16, 2018 EARLY IN Half Gods, the debut story collection by Sri Lankan-American author Akil Kumarasamy, Muthu, a Sri Lankan refugee-patriarch, narrates the melancholic reality of surviving the Sri Lankan Civil War. As an exile, he engages in games of “word memory,” compulsively absorbing text as a… Read more »

SL Tamils Built an Online Library to Replace One Torched in 1981

Sri Lankan Tamils around the world have built an online library to replace one torched in 1981 Among the Noolaham Digital Library’s 16,000 documents are four volumes of one of the oldest Tamil grammar books, and copies of over 24 palm-leaf manuscripts. by Smriti Daniel, ‘,’ Feb 18, 2016 Seran Sivananthamoorthy is only 25… Read more »

An Ethnic Conflict & an Accord

by Press Trust of India on Shruti TV, May 10, 2018 Discussion of T. Ramakrishnan’s book ‘Or Inapprachinaiyum Or Oppandhamum,’ ‘An Ethnic Conflict and An Accord’ at Asian College of Journalism, Chennai.  With Prof. V Suryanarayan, & Chandrahasan. Moderated by Col. Hariharan. Most interesting is the Q & A starting at 1 hr. 12+ min…. Read more »

Did the GoSL Win the War of the Tigers Lose?

A review of Peter Stafford Roberts’ “The Sri Lankan Insurgency: Rebalancing the Orthodox Position” and Stephen Battle’s “Lessons In Legitimacy: The LTTE End-Game Of 2007–2009” by Peter Alphonsus, ‘The Sunday Observer,’ Colombo, May 13, 2018 It is a truth universally acknowledged that in May 2009 the Government of Sri Lanka won the war. This extraordinary… Read more »

The Island Story: A Short History Of Sri Lanka

by Charles Sarvan, ‘The Island,’ Colombo, May 5, 2018 Book Review: K. M de Silva, The Island Story: A Short History of Sri Lanka, International Centre for Ethnic Studies, Kandy, Sri Lanka, 2017. EPIGRAPH: Sri Lanka in the first few centuries after the early settlement was a multi-racial, multi-ethnic society: a conception which emphasises harmony and a… Read more »

Half Gods

by Akil Kumarasamy, to be released June 5, 2018 A startlingly beautiful debut, Half Gods brings together the exiled, the disappeared, the seekers. Following the fractured origins and destines of two brothers named after demigods from the ancient epic the Mahabharata, we meet a family struggling with the reverberations of the past in their lives. These ten… Read more »

‘War, Denial and Nation-Building in Sri Lanka’ Book Launch

by ‘Tamil Guardian,’ London, April 30, 2018 Rachel Seoighe launched her book ‘War, Denial and Nation-Building in Sri Lanka’, which explores how political discourse has been utilised to deny and re-engineer state violence in Sri Lanka, at an event in London last week. “People were dying in their hundreds, we still don’t know how many people… Read more »

Buddhism, Politics, and Violence

If You Meet the Buddha on the Road by Michael Jerryson, Oxford University Press, May 2, 2018 It is said that the famous ninth century Chinese Buddhist monk Linji Yixuan told his disciples, “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.” The deliberately confounding statement is meant to shock people out of complacent… Read more »

Buddhist Extremists and Muslim Minorities

Religious Conflict in Contemporary Sri Lanka Edited by John Holt, Hargrave Press, October 31, 2016  Proposes an alternative view of Muslims where, unlike in the Middle East, they are the victims of majoritarian politics Discusses events that invert the common stereotypes of Buddhists as pacifists and Muslims as violent jihadists 254 Pages | 5 illus. 6-1/8… Read more »

The Banality Of Evil

by Karthick Ram Manoharan, ‘Outlook India,’ February 5, 2018 The torture of incarcerated Tamils was not a betrayal of the Sri Lankan state’s Sinhala-Buddhist ideal, but that ideal being taken to its logical conclusion, writes Karthick Ram Manoharan. Excerpts from his afterword to Sri Lankan Tamil novelist Kuna Kaviyalahan’s ‘The Poisoned Dream’. Kuna Kaviyalahan’s The Poisoned… Read more »

Tales Of Lankan Tamil Diaspora

Narrated With Poignancy And Hilarity by Sreevalsan Thiyyadi, ‘Outlook India,’ January 28, 2018 It was on this date nine years ago that immigrant Sri Lankan Tamils in Canada intensified protest against a “genocide” of their community in the Northern Province of the island-nation. Appadurai Muttulingam’s stories take a kaleidoscopic view on their everyday lives—and beyond… Read more »

War, Denial and Nation-Building in Sri Lanka

After the End by Rachel Seoighe, Palgrave Studies in Compromise After Conflict, Palgrave MacMillan, Dec. 5, 2017 Abstract This book begins from a critical account of the final months of the Sri Lankan civil war, tracing themes of nationalism, discourse and conflict memory through this period of immense violence and into its aftermath. Using these… Read more »

Democracy and Displacement in Colombia’s Civil War

by Abbey Steele, Cornell University Press, December 2017 ISBN-101501713736 ISBN-139781501713736 Democracy and Displacement in Colombia’s Civil War is one of few books available in English to provide an overview of the Colombian civil war and drug war. Abbey Steele draws on her own original field research as well as on Colombian scholars’ work in Spanish to… Read more »

Tamil Refugee Still Says Nandri

Tortured by police, separated from his family for years, but Tamil refugee still says nandri – thank you Rescued after 22 hours in freezing water, Para Paheer applied for asylum in Australia. An extraordinary friendship with a Victorian woman helped ease the pain of waiting eight years to see his wife and son by Ben… Read more »

Making and Unmaking Nations

War, Leadership, and Genocide in Modern Africa by Scott Straus, Cornell University Press, 2015 “In the end, he concludes, whether interethnic strife results in genocide depends almost entirely on national leadership.” “…Strauss views threat by itself as an insufficient explanation, as elites have multiple options for responding to grave and immediate threats and because these… Read more »

Myanmar’s Enemy Within: The Illusion of Diversity and the Spread of Fear

by Francis Wade, August, 2017 Publisher: Zed Books Ltd ISBN: 9781783605279 Number of pages: 304 [Manufacturing the ‘other’ sound like Sri Lanka, anyone? Ed/] Book review from South China Morning Post here. From the Prologue: …These communal fissures weren’t entirely new, but to man outside observers, they were unknowns.  And before a deeper analysis of their causes began… Read more »

‘The Barrier’

by Shankari Chandran Also author of ‘Song of the Sun God’ From the author’s website: The Barrier is a fast-paced literary thriller, set in a world destroyed by a virulent strain of Ebola and religious wars. It is 2040 and the surviving nations have been reorganized into the Western and Eastern Alliance. One side subjugates… Read more »

‘Tamils & the Nation:’ India & Sri Lanka Compared

by Madurika Rasaratnam, Oxford University Press, 352 pages, published August 15, 2016 ISBN 9780190498320 ABSTRACT Why are relations between politically mobilized ethnic identities and the nation-state sometimes peaceful and at other times fraught and violent? This book sets out a novel answer to this key puzzle in world politics through a detailed comparative study of… Read more »