“Where the Water Is” book manuscript

This manuscript was a finalist for the 2019 2040 Books James Alan McPherson Award.


In 2013, I discovered a family secret that shouldn’t have been a secret at all: my great grandfather’s friendship with Mahatma Gandhi. As I struggled to make sense of this hidden part of my family’s past, navigating my complicated relationship with my conservative Bengali father, my white mother, and a southern California community that didn’t know what to make of our biracial family, this uncovered secret launched a hunt for buried family histories that features the enduring presence of ancestors in our lives, the connection between hereditary illnesses and intergenerational traumas, and the mystery of why some stories get passed down while others are suppressed. This creative nonfiction collection features a roots journey to India to recover the story of a great-grandfather turned freedom fighter who was at risk of being forgotten and asks how family narratives define us, what happens when stories are buried and what happens when they are dug up, and how the legacies of colonization, imprisonment, emigration, participation in the US military, domestic violence, suicide, and racism lodge in descendants’ psyches and bodies. The collection suggests that rebuilding familial connections through learning these stories may be the key to healing.

Submitted in December 2017 to the graduate division of the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of doctor of philosophy in English, this dissertation was chaired by S. Shankar. This dissertation committee included Professors Shawna Yang Ryan, Elizabeth Colwill, Cynthia G. Franklin, and Craig Howes.

For inquiries about the manuscript of “Where the Water Is,” contact Anjoli at anjoli [dot] roy [at] gmail [dot] com.



I. Telling Stories on You

Where the Water Is
Heads On
Gray Woman
What Babas Are For
Little Red BMW
Who Gets to Be American / Dad’ s Thirty Seconds of Fame

II. The Body’s Question

Heart Break Body
Bald Woman
The Folks Who’ll Come to Your Funeral
How the Universe Conspires
Birthing Ancestors
The Body’ s Question

III. Fatherland

First Scent
Dear Delhi
Love Letter to Kurseong
Mixed in India
The Only Copies We Have
Chasing Datta
Shadow Children
What Waits at Beadon Street
Everything I Know