Chaya Bhuvaneswar in conversation with Louise Aronson
Thursday, December 6, 2018, 7:00 p.m., City Lights Booksellers, 261 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco
presented by UCSF Medical Humanities in conjunction with City Lights
celebrating Chaya Bhuvaneswar's new book
White Dancing Elephants
from Dzanc Books
In luminous, vivid, searingly honest prose, the stories in White Dancing Elephants center on the experiences of diverse women of color—cunning, bold, and resolute—facing sexual harassment and racial violence, as well as the violence women inflict upon each other. One woman's miscarriage is juxtaposed against the story of the Buddha's birth. Another cheats with her best friend's husband, only to discover it’s her friend she most yearns for. In three different stories, three artists struggle to push courageous works into the world, while a woman with an incurable disease competes with her engineer husband’s beautiful android.
Combining the speculative elements and wry psychological realism beloved by readers of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Margaret Atwood, Danzy Senna and Sandra Cisneros, this collection introduces Chaya Bhuvaneswar as an original and memorable new voice. White Dancing Elephants is the winner of the 2017 Dzanc Books Short Story Collection Prize.
Chaya Bhuvaneswar is a practicing physician and writer whose work has appeared in Narrative Magazine, Tin House, Michigan Quarterly Review, The Awl, jellyfish review, aaduna and elsewhere, with poetry forthcoming in Natural Bridge, Quiddity, apt magazine, Hobart and more. Her poetry and prose juxtapose Hindu epics, other myths and histories, and the survival of sexual harassment and racialized sexual violence by diverse women of color. She received the Dzanc Books Short Story Collection Prize, a MacDowell Colony Fellowship, and a Henfield award for her writing. Her work received four Pushcart Prize anthology nominations in 2017. Follow her on Twitter at @chayab77 including for upcoming readings and events.
Louise Aronson is a geriatrician, writer, educator, and professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) where she directs UCSF Medical Humanities. A graduate of Harvard Medical School and the Warren Wilson Program for Writers, Dr. Aronson has received the Gold Professorship in Humanism in Medicine, the California Homecare Physician of the Year award, and the American Geriatrics Society Clinician-Teacher of the Year award, as well as numerous awards for her teaching, educational research and writing. She is the author of the PEN America debut fiction award finalist, A History of the Present Illness, and the forthcoming non-fiction Elderhood: Redefining Medicine, Life, and Old Age in America. Her articles, essays and stories appear regularly in literary and medical journals, newspapers and blogs, including the New York Times, New England Journal of Medicine, JAMA, Narrative Magazine, Bellevue Literary Review, and the Lancet.
PRAISE FOR WHITE DANCING ELEPHANTS:
"A magnificent collection of stories that defy conventions, stereotypes, and reveal the universal complexity we all share as humans—gifted and flawed individuals, who struggle to reconcile the mixed signals of our own hearts."
"Chaya Bhuvaneswar's debut collection maps with great assurance the intricate outer reaches of the human heart. What a bold, smart, exciting new voice, well worth listening to; what an elegant story collection to read and savor."
"Reading Chaya Bhuvaneswar is like receiving Lasik via literature—the world you return to is a little clearer and sharper for the time you’ve spent in her pages. She is a formidable talent, formally accomplished and intellectually alive."
“Bhuvaneswar’s daring mix of ancient, contemporary, and dystopic stories carries us to the heart of rarely exposed longing, loss, and the politics of violence and endurance in remarkable, elegant, heart-stopping prose.”
“From the first page, I was swept away by the riveting undertow of Chaya Bhuvaneswar’s inventive and spellbinding stories, each moment cast in powerfully intelligent prose. White Dancing Elephants is a remarkable debut; we are so lucky to hold this book in our hands.”
“White Dancing Elephants is a searing and complex collection, wholly realized, each piece curled around its own beating heart. Tender and incisive, Chaya Bhuvaneswar is a surgeon on the page; unflinching in her aim, unwavering in her gaze, and absolutely devastating in her prose. This is an astonishing debut.”
“A bold, honest, often provocative first collection from a fresh new voice.”
“Chaya Bhuvaneswar is a master of literary stealth. Seduced by her luminous, intimate voice, I was unprepared for the shattering force of her honesty and insight. Authentic, fearless and wholly original, White Dancing Elephants is a knockout collection.”
“Filled with dark music, nuance, and intelligence, White Dancing Elephants takes readers on a thrilling journey. In sharp takes, Chaya Bhuvaneswar unfolds the complexities of race and gender, tragedy and eros. This unforgettable collection will hold its readers captive to the very last page.”
“Chaya Bhuvaneswar's stories reveal a rare sensitivity to the strange and complicated acrobatics of the human heart. These are astonishing, urgent portraits of people trying to see the world for what it is and what it might be.”
“White Dancing Elephants dazzles from the start. There are so many wonderful stories in this collection that center on female characters of color in all sorts of situations. Readers are treated to deep characters, mesmerizing language, and a story that propels forward across a city and the landscape of a mind effortlessly. This is a new gifted voice in contemporary literature and we are so lucky to have it!”
“The stories in White Dancing Elephants show impressive dexterity and range. The prose can be rich and intricate one moment, then shifts registers into sharp humor; the characterization is many-dimensional; Bhuvaneswar’s ability to take on larger topics, such as Bhopal, and to locate and intensify their complexity within individuals is amazingly fine.”
“Bhuvaneswar's stories are as insightful as they are ineffable and as devastating as they are delightful. As I read these important and hilarious tales about the lives of queer people of color, I kept asking myself, 'You can do this in writing?'”
“Chaya Bhuvaneswar's deft and poignant stories bring the whole damned world into clearer focus. A pure pleasure to read, White Dancing Elephants is a remarkable book that will stay with me for a long time.”