“We can forecast nothing. It arrives when it arrives. It disappears when it disappears.” (from ‘Take the Weather With You’)
The stories in this collection by Sharanya Manivannan (Harper Collins India, 2016) undulate – this book is a sea of women, each voice honoring the collective memories, hearts, and bodies of women. Earthbound, the voice of each character rises up from the pages like wind – arriving and departing, breath-giving, season-changing. We see them facing their deepest selves. We see them give space to their rawness and their desires. Fierce and utterly unforgettable.
“It’s like someone aimed a rubber band at my heart and didn’t miss. I have waited my whole fucking life for someone to call me kannamma.” (from ‘The High Priestess Never Marries’)
The woman who wonders, the woman who wants more, the woman who turns loneliness into a lover, the woman who chose love then chooses love again. The woman who lifts storm-ridden dirt with her palms, earth pulled towards her mouth as if that would fill up the hunger left over by her grief. These are women who find ways to belong to themselves while navigating their longings and unbelongings. They own the missing spaces inside them, and as I read through each story of this collection, they were teaching me how to do the same.
“Here in this house I built, here in this life I salvaged, here I am. And nowhere in my dominion will I be spoken to that way. And there is nowhere – listen close, for this is the great secret that evades them all, all who submit to the logic of others, and all who entrap another in their own – there is nowhere that is not within my dominion.” (from ‘Cyclone Crossing’)
I finished reading this book just a few days before my brother’s death. I had been planning to write about it and about the movements I felt stirring deep within me that was allowing me to – finally – let go of a map that held some of my oldest desires hostage for a long time, had me obsessed over memories of those who can only offer mutually turbulent expectations.
Reading this book was like hosting tidal waves in my guts and I had to let them move through me to find solid ground again. The pain or warmth my heart felt over a too-relatable scene or dialogue or sentence was that of growth and I enjoyed every flower-scented moment of it. I had been planning to write about all this. I had all the words and some of the notes brewing and brewing – then everything, like time, stopped.
Some books stay with you even as grief pushes you into a subliminal molting, tearing up the places inside you. Making space inside. Like all the quietest disasters in this world – if a tree falls here, if an apartment catches on fire there, why does my body feel like it’s on the moon, now? No air, can’t breathe, must breathe. But what air. Some books guide you through it, these stages of terraforming or terra-surviving or just terra-being.
In the major arcana of a tarot deck, the High Priestess is a master sitting between the domains of light and dark, life and death, the waking and dreaming. She looks like a woman bounded by duty but really, she knows her shit and won’t be challenged for it. She arrives, sometimes, as a reminder for us to acknowledge the shadows – these hidden places where difficult iterations of selves get pushed into, where some of us make homes out of. Where, even under the heaviest fogs of darkness, we remember the light within us. We don’t forget to learn how to love.
“Something is always burning. You will tell me I am hallucinating but I can only know the world through my own senses.” (from Salomé)
Dhiyanah Hassan is an artist and writer based in Malaysia. She is the Art Editor of Burning House Press. She works with images and words to map out the terrains between memoir-building and healing, with a focus on centering femme/women of color narratives. She has written reviews for Star2 (local newspaper) and Critics Republic. Her poetry has appeared in BACCARAT Malaysia, The Arsonist Magazine vol. 01 and Rambutan Literary. Find out more about her work on Instagram, Twitter, and her website.
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