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Anu Kumar speaks to managing editor Emily Everett about her essay “The Woman in the Well,” which appears in The Common’s spring issue. Anu talks about the vivid memories from childhood that inspired this essay about ghosts, fear, family dynamics, and violence against women in India. She also discusses the revision process for the essay, her interest in writing women’s untold stories, and her current writing projects.
On growing up in India, where she and her brother were treated very differently:
“Women carry these fears, these insecurities. Each one of us has to live with them. But there’s a big difference between how the emotions of men are treated and taken more seriously, while women’s fears are dismissed as something minor, something they just have to deal with, something perfectly ordinary. It happens every time.”
On writing and exploring a ghost’s untold stories:
“The ending came quite naturally because I’d been sitting with this story for such a long time. I tried to look for the story behind the ghost, and for a resolution to her story, and the other stories that I’ve heard about women over the years. I try to look for the back story, the inside story, what people are not able to articulate. That’s one way I’ve found as a writer to tell a story—to really go deeper than what’s on the surface. Women’s stories really are like that; they seem perfectly ordinary, everyone living the same pattern and existence, but the inchoate feelings, the seething emotions inside, that’s much more interesting to me these days. I want to find out more and write more about that. To me as a writer, there’s no life that is uninteresting.”
Anu Kumar’s most recent works are the novel The Hottest Summer in Years and the collection A Sense of Time and Other Stories. Her nonfiction work on the lives of early South Asians in America appears this year from Simon & Schuster India and Yoda Press. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Maine Review, Chicago Quarterly Review, Numéro SANK, Past Ten,TheJuggernaut.com, Atlas and Alice, and elsewhere. She lives in New Jersey and has an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts.
Read Anu’s essay “The Woman in the Well” in The Common at thecommononline.org/the-woman-in-the-well.
Follow Anu on Twitter @anuradhakumar01.
The Common is a print and online literary magazine publishing stories, essays, and poems that deepen our collective sense of place. On our podcast and in our pages, The Common features established and emerging writers from around the world. Read more and subscribe to the magazine at thecommononline.org, and follow us on Twitter @CommonMag.
Emily Everett is managing editor of the magazine and host of the podcast. Her debut novel is forthcoming from Putnam Books. Her stories appear in the Kenyon Review, Electric Literature, Tin House Online, and Mississippi Review. She is a 2022 Massachusetts Cultural Council Fellow. Say hello on Twitter @Public_Emily.