I first met Mohana while working with Women On Writing, At the time, she had just published her novel, Love Comes Later. Mohana is now celebrating the release of her new novel, An Unlikely Goddess, which examines how religion and culture define women. Please enjoy the video trailer and an excerpt from An Unlikely Goddess. (Available at Amazon)
Winner of the SheWrites New Novelist competition 2011
Sita is the firstborn, but since she is a female child, her birth makes life difficult for her mother who is expected to produce a son. From the start, Sita finds herself in a culture hostile to her, but her irrepressible personality won’t be subdued. Born in India, she immigrants as a toddler to the U.S. with her parents after the birth of her much anticipated younger brother.
Sita shifts between the vastly different worlds of her WASP dominated school and her father’s insular traditional home. Her journey takes us beneath tales of successful middle class Indians who immigrated to the U.S. in the 1980s.
The gap between positive stereotypes of South Asian immigrants and the reality of Sita’s family, who are struggling to stay above the poverty line is a relatively new theme for Indian literature in English.
Sita’s struggles to be American and yet herself, take us deeper into understanding the dilemmas of first generation children, and how religion and culture define women.
An Unlikely Goddess–Excerpt
By Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar
Winner of the SheWrites New Novelist Award, 2011
…The Hindu goddess, Sita, is said to have been born from the Earth.
King Janaka discovers the beautiful infant and in her beauty, believes in her divinity. He raises her as his own daughter……
Unlike her namesake, Sita’s first mistake was being born.
A girl, her mother thought, eyes dark in abject terror. What if he leaves me? She swallowed, increasing the dryness in her post-delivery mouth, the stiches across her abdomen itching. No water. Only ice chips until her bowels passed the tests. Mythili pressed back against the pillows. She closed her eyes, pushing her fingers into the sockets until the darkness was punctuated by bone-white stars. She wished she could as easily tune out the gurgles of the baby in the bassinet beside her.
Yet, even premature and unwanted, Sita was obliviously happy to enter the world, beaming her infant smile at anyone or anything she saw: the nurse, her aunt, her mother’s back, the noxiously-pink cement walls of the Madras hospital in which she found herself. Several pounds underweight, she was otherwise fine—a petite, brown-skinned baby with tufts of black hair crowning a smooth scalp. How could she be expected to know that from her first breath she was, and always would be, a living reminder of her mother’s failure to produce a first-born male heir?
Though swaddled and placed in the bassinet immediately after delivery, her eyes were alive with motion. She blinked up at the faces of passersby, but they were admittedly few, so instead, she followed the blinking lights, the creeping shadows and the occasional appearance of a nurse. Everything about the world kept her busy with delight until sleep washed over her little body
“Look at that smile,” the young nurse said, cradling Sita against her flat bosom.
“Aamam,” Priya, the childless aunt, agreed, rubbing a forefinger across the baby’s somewhat wrinkly face.
Instead of replying, Mythili, Sita’s mother, pulled a see-through blue sheet up to her chin and turned her face away.
About the Author
Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar is a South Asian American who has lived in Qatar since 2005. In addition to being featured in several magazines, Mohana has published seven e-books including a mom-ior for first time mothers, Mommy But Still Me; a novel about women’s friendships, Saving Peace; and a novel set in Qatar which explores if this current generation believes that Love Comes Later.
Mohana was a winner of the SheWrites We Love New Novelists competition. She writes because words can help us understand ourselves and others. Read more about her on her website, www.mohanalakshmi.com.