English Lessons and Other StoriesBook - 1996
Shauna Singh Baldwin's passionate stories dramatize the lives of Indian women from 1919 to today, from India to Canada to the US. Through the eyes of these women adjusting to change, we see a world whose familiar rhythms mask dissonance and discordance. More overt is the ongoing struggle for the Sikh women in these stories to keep their identity and assert it - the massacres of Partition and 1984 are never far away. More subtle is the cost of integration into the new world, how colonialism survives in the minds of the colonized, and how these women confront the twin fear of freedom and fear of "the other." Moving from the inner sanctums of the family to the world of the office, subway and university, Baldwin lingers sensuously on the mundane surface of her characters' lives: the jewel-like colours of turbans in the wash water, the shimmering bowls of cashews and almonds on a table, the worn magic of an abandoned house in Shimla. Slowly, almost innocuously, Baldwin reveals the unseen country her characters inhabit, only to allow this world to withdraw and emerge once again. However modern or westernized they might be, Baldwin's characters are always outsiders who inhabit silence and learn to use it, sometimes as a refuge, sometimes as a weapon. Some remain prisoners of silence, choking on their own knowledge. Some use silence as a weapon against their oppressors. Others harness its power to seize their freedom. In "Jassie," an aging, dying Indian grandmother, a foreigner in her adopted country, helps another woman come to terms with death; in "A Pair of Ears," a servant-woman wreaks revenge on an old woman's feckless son; in "Nothing Must Spoil this Visit," western and eastern women find unexpected candour and passion.
Publisher: Frederiction, NB, Canada : Goose Lane, 1996
Characteristics: 176 p. ; 22 cm