cover image Curry: Eating, Reading, and Race

Curry: Eating, Reading, and Race

Naben Ruthnum. Coach House (Consortium, U.S. dist.; PGC, Canadian dist.), $13.95 trade paper (144p) ISBN 978-1-55245-351-3

Ruthnum, whose short fiction has won the Journey Prize, makes a ponderous contribution to Coach House’s Exploded Views series of cultural critiques, using curry as a focus for his ruminations about place, belonging, and multiculturalism in Canada. Ruthnum uses the elusive definition of curry (“Curry isn’t real. Its range of definitions, edible and otherwise, rob it of a stable existence”) as a jumping-off point to discuss what he calls “curry books,” books that he argues are defined by being written by South East Asian authors living in diaspora, such as Salman Rushdie, Shilpa Somaya Gowda, and Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. Like the dish, Ruthnum argues that these books defy categorization. Ruthnum’s explorations of both food and literature include insightful forays into nostalgia, authenticity, belonging, and the sense of in-between worlds in which the children of immigrants live. He argues that “there’s typically also a generational divide, a bridge littered with pakoras and Reese’s Pieces that cannot be crossed except with soulful looks and tangential arguments.” Ultimately deciding that audience expectations engendered by past literary (and culinary) success are a heavy burden on present authors (and chefs), this essay seeks to push industry and audience alike to make space for the lost narratives, the ones that “go unread because of the dominance of the story we’ve heard before.” This work serves as a rallying cry for emerging writers (including the author) to write those new, different stories. Agent: Samantha Haywood, Transatlantic. (Sept.)