Source : The New Indian Express
The book focuses on ten interlinked stories that try to reimagine the world.
Identity-Based politics is the word of the hour. With individualism playing a huge role in the lives of modern humans, to be born with identities on the opposite ends of the spectrum can be quite an ordeal. In a world so fixated on identity politics, Akil Kumarasamy’s latest book Half Gods comes as a welcome melody.
The book focuses on ten interlinked stories that try to reimagine the world. Following an act of violence, a baby girl is renamed after a Hindu goddess but is raised as a Muslim; a lonely butcher from Angola finds solace in a family of refugees in New Jersey; a gentle entomologist, in Sri Lanka, discovers unexpected reserves of courage while searching for his missing son. These identities challenge the stereotypes and norms about what a person with a certain background and name is supposed to be like in the contemporary world.
“Identity is an ongoing and endless conversation,” says Kumarasamy. The book reveals human weaknesses, hopes and sorrows in it’s quest to critique the discourse of identity politics.The book derives a lot of its base from mythology as well. “I think narratives often directly or indirectly pull from mythology. Two of the brothers in this book are named after demigods from the Mahabharata. This speaks to the mythic nature of childhood, how we try to create our own original stories,” says Kumarasamy.
She had to make sure each story worked individually as well as collectively. “Short stories allow for variation and experimentation. You can have a story in the second-person, and in another story, you can play with structure, have two different narrators talking to each other indirectly. The stories build on each other,” she says, adding, “A novel is a more forgiving form. You can meander, the second half of the book might sag while in a short story everything needs to come together. You have to nail the ending. I wanted Half Gods to have the accumulative power of a novel but the tightness and flexibility of the short story form.”
Talking about the challenges she faced while writing this book, she says, “I think one of the challenges was figuring out the structure of the book. How do I tell a story that reimagines how we see geography and shows the messiness of identities and borders. I wanted the book to feel sprawling but be tightly constructed.”
Kumarasamy’s writing process varies depending on what she is working on. “Now I have a more expansive view of it. Just going about my life is part of that process. Some days I don’t write and some days I do. When I’m in the middle of the project, I tend to write more regularly and lately I have been writing in the mornings as soon as I wake up. I often sit on an idea for a while and think it through before I get started. Procrastination can at times be helpful in weeding out bad ideas,” she signs off.