Poems from the new book, Her Skin Phyllo-thin, were featured on WYPR’s radio program, The Signal this Thursday morning. Listen to Aaron Henkin conversation with Lalita here.
I have been an absentee blogger for almost two years–ever since I left New Zealand. Much has happened since then. I went to India for a couple of months (more about that later,) returned to the US for my son’s wedding, became a first-time grandmother, got a chapbook of poetry published (Finishing Line Press) and re-wrote the novel I’d been working on in New Zealand.
This blog is about my poetry chapbook–appropriate for Mother’s Day. The title of this work, Her Skin Phyllo-Thin is a line taken from a poem entitled “Sponge Bath.”
My mother first came to America at the age of 59 to take care of her first grandchild, the one who just gave me my first grand child. She was 86 when she died in India. As she grew older, the distance between our two countries grew too, especially after she had a stroke on the heels of her last flight from the US back home to India. Flight times between Bombay and Baltimore range from a minimum of 18-22 hours depending on the route and stop-overs. My mother was 83 when she came to America for the last time. She was the family historian; her memory was razor-sharp with details Time couldn’t blunt; she was a much loved, dedicated teacher. She was also a perceptive critic, using her magic pen to edit my short story collection, Where Monsoons Cry, even after I was certain it was perfect.
Her Skin Phyllo-thin is in her honor. I can best describe my mother in words Maya Angelou wrote of her own mother.”To describe my mother would be to write about a hurricane in its perfect power.”
This book also contains other poems of separation–immigration, divorce, youth, Time–things we lose and must learn to live without.
There are links to some of these poems on this website (under Publications and Media) so you can read and/or listen to a few poems at your leisure. You can also buy a copy of my book directly from Amazon, or Finishing Line Press, or if you want me to sign and address a copy for you, please visit the book’s page. Happy Mother’s Day Everyone.
Lalita, on incorporating Indian culture into her stories:
“I was born and raised in small towns in India, and only came to the US in my early twenties, so India runs in my blood, and seeps naturally into narratives. It’s easy because I have authentic experiences of the basic elements of fiction–setting, characters, plot, and so on. But I feel the same way now that America is my home. My novel (in the agent-seeking stage) is set in Bombay and Baltimore. My short stories and poems often deal with separation, dislocation and cross-cultural issues. I feel blessed that my readers relate to my work because ultimately these are human issues. After all, home isn’t a physical space and in that sense everyone leaves home.”