I saw this definition of a multicultural novel in the paper a while ago... ‘Postcolonial novels explore the cultural bouillabaisse: characters of various national origins...living in an international capital queasily negotiating...cultural transition.’ Queasily is important, I think--like the main character in The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears.”
Though the quote refers to a book review by Darryl Wellington in The Washington Post about The Opposite House, by Helen Oyeyemi, our reader is talking about Dinaw Mengestu’s book. The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears shows that immigration is more than movement. Speaking about his main character, the author said in a Tavis Smiley interview, “…he also doesn't connect fully to the community around him. He knows that he is almost invading it, to some degree.” A happy ending is not guaranteed.
At Rediff.com, Samina Ali talks about her novel, Madras on Rainy Days, in which not only American-raised Muslims are seduced by Western ideals of independence and romantic love; her characters, a bride who is not a virgin and a groom who is gay, must come to an understanding. “Indian writers have been the biggest wave of immigrant literature for some years. Yet each of us is speaking in a distinctive voice whether it is Bengali Brahmins or Bombay Parsis or Kerala Christians. My book is about Hyderabadi Muslims. My tale is simply one of the thousands that make India the dynamic country it is. I hope Indian readers in America recognize and embrace that.”
American writers, too--the premise of Mike Stocks’ White Man Falling is that “a white man falls out of the sky into a small South Indian town, causing all kinds of curious ramifications – spiritual, romantic and domestic – in the complicated lives of the main characters and their wider community… (the story) exemplifies how sometimes in life meaningless events can produce meaningful effects.”
Order out of chaos? A worthy goal. In Shiva’s Arms, Alice is the least likely candidate to bring the family together. It's all the more triumphant when she manages just that.