Ravi Shankar speaks to managing editor Emily Everett about his essay “The Five-Room Box,” which appears in The Common’s spring issue. In this conversation, Shankar talks about constructing this essay on identity, family, and fitting in from an excerpt of his memoir, Correctional, about his time spent in prison. He also discusses how that time changed the course of his academic work, what it’s like to transition from poet to prose-writer, and the privilege and profiling Asian-Americans experience as the ‘model minority.’
We’re celebrating a successful spring issue launch by showcasing book recommendations from our Issue 21 contributors. Their picks, which range from a poetry collection exploring Latino identity to a memoir documenting incarceration in the 1850s, are diverse in form yet collectively poignant and timely. Make sure to read the April installment of Friday Reads, featuring more picks from our Issue 21 contributors, and pick up a copy of the spring issue.
Tomorrow is Amma’s seventieth birthday, and I’m wondering what to buy her. She’s told me that the only thing she wants from her children is a new toilet seat, a pair of sensible black shoes, or a replacement floormat for her decade-old Honda Civic. None of these gifts seem particularly appropriate to such a consequential birthday, but then again, Amma has always been practical. When she tells the story of her arranged marriage to my father at nineteen, a decade younger than this man she had only met once before, she recalls bringing a griddle and leaving behind stamp albums as she embarked upon a permanent journey from her home in Coimbatore, South India, to Northern Virginia.