“Where the Water Is” book manuscript

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

Overview

How does the grandson of a freedom fighter become a Trump supporter? Growing up in the 1980s as a half-white, half-Bengali girl in a southern California community that didn’t know what to do with our biracial family, I didn’t know the story of my great grandfather and revolutionary editor Kali Nath Roy until I started trying to make sense of how my dad could be so conservative. He’d emigrated from India in 1950, grew up in the segregated American south, and gone to white schools. As I worked through my complicated relationship with him, I launched a hunt for buried family histories that revealed the enduring presence of ancestors in our lives, the connection between hereditary illnesses and intergenerational traumas, and the mystery of why some stories and values get passed down while others are suppressed.

This creative nonfiction collection features stories of growing up ambiguously brown in southern California, chronic illnesses that connect us to long-gone family members, the narrow threshold between birth and death, and a roots journey to India to recover the story of a great-grandfather turned freedom fighter who was at risk of being forgotten. These stories ask how family narratives define us, what happens when stories are buried and 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. “Where the Water Is” suggests that rebuilding familial connections through learning the truth of these stories may be the key to healing.

Note: This manuscript was 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; the 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.

Contents

Prologue

I. Telling Stories on You

Where the Water Is
Heads On
Gray Woman
What Babas Are For
Little Red BMW
Revolution
What We Lose in the Fractures
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
Arrival
Dear Delhi
The Thing about Being a Nosey Writer
Love Letter to Kurseong
Finding Yourself in the Story
Mixed in India
The Only Copies We Have
Chasing Datta
Shadow Children
What Waits at Beadon Street
Everything I Know

Coda

 

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