V. V. Ganeshananthan: “When Americans Read Other Countries, Those Countries are Flattened Down to One Point”
In Conversation with Brad Listi on Otherppl
V. V. Ganeshananthan is the guest. Her debut novel, Brotherless Night, is out now from Random House.
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From the episode:
Brad Listi: I will say too, as an American reader, I could not help but feel as I was reading about this Sri Lankan civil war is I could not help but make some comparisons in my head to the political divisions and tensions that we see in the United States right now. It’s not the same. Obviously.
We haven’t broken out into a civil war. But I guess it gave me a deep way to imagine what that kind of thing might be like should it unfold. I guess you’ve been writing this thing for so long it’s almost like America caught up to you, in a dark way. Things sort of deteriorated here as you were finishing the book. Right? Did that ever occur to you or not at all?
V. V. Ganeshananthan: There were moments. Especially late in the writing, 100%. And I’m probably not the first person to think of Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was the president of Sri Lanka, and Donald Trump in kind of the same space in my mind. They occupy similar real estate in my brain. And then late in the writing of the book, George Floyd was murdered. I live in Minneapolis. So I was in a place also where there were the uprisings. There was a lot of like civilian resistance to militarization of society. And that was important and powerful to see.
To see the different ways that people tried to help and contribute to that effort and people’s different capacities and fears about participating. That was a strange and really important place for me to be writing in. I mean, so much has happened in the period of time that I’ve written this book. I mean, that was a moment where, you know, there are like choppers flying over Minneapolis and there’s gas and they’re using all sorts of stuff on reporters. They’re using it in different neighborhoods. There are people leaving their houses because their children can smell things. And I’m like, Oh, I’m right now I’m writing a scene in which this happens. This is strange.
V. V. Ganeshananthan is the author of the novel Brotherless Night, available from Random House. Ganeshananthan is the author of Love Marriage, which was longlisted for the Women’s Prize and named one of the best books of the year by The Washington Post. Her work has appeared in Granta, The New York Times, and The Best American Nonrequired Reading, among other publications. A former vice president of the South Asian Journalists Association, she has also served on the board of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop, and is presently a member of the board of directors of the American Institute for Sri Lankan Studies and the Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop. She teaches in the MFA program at the University of Minnesota and co-hosts the Fiction/Non/Fiction podcast on Literary Hub, which is about the intersection of literature and the news.