Tag Archives: prostitution

The Parcel: When a novel might be journalism

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Anosh Irani’s The Parcel follows Madhu, a transgender prostitute in Bombay’s red-light district, as she delivers on an assigned responsibility to prepare a captured girl, Kinjal, for induction into the sex trade. Woven onto this plot line is a thread documenting the history and culture of the hijra – those of the third sex – in Bombay, including the complex system of governance and authority in this community including what kinds of work are permitted, what kinds of allegiances are owed and how members of this community joined or are exiled. Layered, too, is an exploration of gentrification of this particular city (but cities more broadly) and the economic and social consequences for those displaced by this gentrification (a particularly compelling thread for me as I’m writing from a city that is currently grappling with how these displaced populations are represented both figuratively and literally in the sense of their political representation). Continue reading

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Filed under Canadian Literature, Fiction, Governor Generals, Prize Winner

Fourth of July Creek: The Unexpected Delight of Rural Montana

Rural Montana Storm Clouds

With a name like Smith Henderson, you’re probably thinking, this author is mixed up. He has a last name for a first name. How could he possibly write a compelling, gripping and fascinating novel about rural Montana in 1980? Probably he made up the name Smith Henderson to sound more rugged. Whatever. It works. Fourth of July Creek is a brilliant novel.

The novel opens with Pete Snow, a social worker, arriving at the home of one of his clients. Pete’s initial characterization as a man who cares deeply about the welfare of children remains consistent throughout the novel. What changes is the initial impression of him as a wholesome, got-his-shit-together-even-if-no-one-else does man. As the novel unfolds we explore the complexities of Pete’s past, his fraught relationship with his ex-wife and daughter, the degree to which we are all in need of some kind of support, even (and perhaps especially) those in care-giving roles.

You’re thinking *yawn* we don’t care about another fascinating character study, E. Well, fine. Fourth of July Creek just happens to also have a fascinating plot delivered through detailed, show-don’t-tell description in a realist fashion that somehow leaves room for experiment and play (thinking specifically here of the chapters with Rachel and… discuss). So what do we have? A libertarian/fundamentalist family living in the mountains. Threats on the president. Crime. The chance to save them all. The slow and steady build to a climax of sweeping proportions. A deep care for the characters involved.

Arg. It’s just so unexpectedly good. I really thought setting out that I wasn’t interested. But heck but if this isn’t why we read fiction I don’t know what is: I don’t have to have (or think I have) any relationship to the plot/character/setting/ideas of the novel in order to be utterly absorbed and enriched. So for what it’s worth, Smith Henderson, you have a silly name, but an incredible first novel.

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Filed under American literature, Bestseller, Fiction, Prize Winner