White Dancing Elephants

Chaya Bhuvaneswar. Dzanc (PGW, dist.), $16.95 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-1-945814-61-7
Bhuvaneswar tackles the intricate interactions of race, class, and sexuality in this enticing debut. Each narrator is drawn into conflict with a character from an opposing segment of society: a South Asian professor conducts an affair with the white husband of her terminally ill, Korean-American friend in “Talinda”; a black psychoanalyst’s feelings for her “slovenly” Indian patient alternate between lust and “revulsion” in “A Shaken Chair”; and a scholarship student is raped by a WASPy classmate after he helps her cheat on an exam in “Orange Popsicles.” The political charge of each relationship is reinforced by Bhuvaneswar’s articulation of the simmering drama created by them. Even as her narrators vary in status and perspective, many share the “hunger to have a child,” an instinct Bhuvaneswar describes as “primordial.” This “baby hunger” proves a source of tremendous anxiety for her characters, as exemplified in the collection’s title story, in which a young woman addresses her miscarriage: “Just two clear stains, understated, as quiet and undemanding as your whole life had been; only enough blood for me to know.” Though a few stories don’t feel as developed as others, the collection is sharp and provocative, and Bhuvaneswar’s voice rings true. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/20/2018
Release date: 10/01/2018
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