Discover more from Madhushree’s Slightly Irregular #GirlGab Newsletter
11. On Publishing, Supply Chain, & Other Pandemic Concerns
Did you hoard (toilet) paper? Be honest.
It’s the same ole, same ole, isn’t it? But hey, we have vaccines, boosters, flu vaccines and many options that can help us stay alive. It’s up to us on how much common sense we have to want to stay alive, don’t you think? And yes, we’ve heard about the pros and cons of vax/no-vax and frankly, we all have COVID and Zoom-fatigue so I won’t subject you to that.
It Only Took Two Decades
Instead, I thought to give you some pub news for my book, Khabaar: An Immigrant Journey. The print galleys are here! What does that mean, you ask? It’s the step before the publishers give the go-ahead to print and a pub date. Is this amazing? YES! Is this fantastic? DOUBLE YES! I mean, you only are a debut author once, so why not now? Why not in a pandemic? Why not, eh? So, yup, the pages showed up on my birthday —my second in this wonderful pandemic—and it was a treat. Here it is below alongside Diaspora Co’s amazing kitchen towels (you need to get them stat and I’ll talk more about them in the next newsletter).
Every writer has a different reaction to seeing their words in print. I can’t say I jumped up and down with joy, perhaps because this road to being published has taken me two decades. Is it because I am a scientist first, and then moved into writing? No—I come from a family of journalists. I had to make a choice of getting a degree that would pay, and keep writing because that is what I am. Was I grateful to see the words? Of course, but again, this was a long time coming. We don’t have to be grateful immigrants all the time. Sometimes we do deserve success, and joy and it’s okay to claim it.
Six years ago, Mira Jacob talked about discrimination in the publishing industry. Her exact words were: “Here is the thing about how discrimination works: No one ever comes right out and says, “We don’t want you.””
South Asian writing and acceptance of that is very small in this western world. We have been told that we have to compete with each other in order to get published. In fact, that’s what’s said to pretty much all people of color. No wonder we are angry. You wonder why!
So yes, my peeps. I’m excited. Incredibly happy that my book will be published. Grateful that the University of Iowa Press took a chance on me. But I also am aware that I am one of a very few who have had the opportunity to get my work out there TO BE PUBLISHED. And it took me two decades to get that. I don’t ever want to forget that—because much like in the biotech world where I get my paycheck from—I have to work twice as hard to get half as far each time.
All I can do is continue to amplify work of my fellow South Asian authors. Jenny Bhatt is doing amazing work with her Desi Books podcast and as an author—check out her books, Ratno Dholi and Each of Us Killers and my conversation with her. Activist, author, teacher and all-round amazing human, Anjali Enjeti’s books, Southbound and The Parted Earth both arrived this year and I’ve written about her here. Sejal Shah’s words are magic and if you haven’t yet read her This Is One Way to Dance, you’ve missed out a whole lot. Bhaswati Ghosh’s Partition novel, Victory Colony, 1950 brought me to tears and made me miss Chittaranjan Park even more so. Sayantani Dasgupta’s Women Who Misbehave is delicious, warm, intelligent and spectacular, and again, you’re not living your best life if you don’t read her work. I am currently reading Rajiv Mohabir’s Antiman and devouring every sentence, it’s that good and informative of my people who traveled under indenture to the Caribbean and what they left behind (and what they took with them in memory). Kavita Das’s Poignant Song showed us the life of musician Lakshmi Shankar, a world I learned so much about from her. Gayatri Sethi’s Unbelonging pulls us into asking the questions of unlearning, and reflecting on where do we belong. I can’t wait to read Namrata Poddar’s Body Less, out next year Spring, and then there’s Hasanthika Siresena’s spectacular essay collection, Dark Tourist, that is @LGBTQReads Most Anticipated books of 2021.
I wanted to end this section by repeating myself and to remind myself that we are surrounded by good South Asian writing. Surrounded.
May we embrace their work. May we support them. May we relentlessly champion them.
The Question of Supply Chain
So while we talk about books and such, did you know we have a global supply chain issue? Yes! Apparently we have no paper. According to Supply Chain Dive (yes, it is a legit pub!), slowed exports of raw material like wood pulp presents a challenge for companies looking to ramp up supply.
And do you know why those shipments have been delayed? Because there’s port congestion and higher demand for break bulk vessels. I don’t even know what that means. All I know is that when the pandemic hit, I bought a pallet of toilet paper—yes, I was one of those people! And yes, 108 rolls, that were versatile and could even be used in the woods, that’s how degradable they were—they showed up. I am STILL using them, damn you, Georgia Pacific. Actually no, damn me for my hoarding panic.
Anyway, so now both Georgia Pacific AND Procter & Gamble have increased production, because heaven forbid we don’t have toilet paper.
So what does that have to do with books? Well, it’s paper, dummy! A publishing person emailed me today—"“supply chain issues” has become the latest buzz phrase for 2021.”
If there isn’t wood pulp, there’s a printing paper shortage. If there aren’t enough workers to transport the pulp to the port, there’s a paper shortage. If there is a higher demand for other vessels, there’s a paper shortage. Isn’t that something when we find out that we are all connected? Who would have thunk it?
All this to say, my book will be out Spring 2022. I hope it will be, and I hope you get to read it. I’ll give you details when I get more info. But publishing during a pandemic has given us challenges none of us anticipated. We can get upset about it, rail and rant over it or just ride the wave, wherever it takes us. And that’s what I’m trying to do.
And now, Food
I wanted to share some comfort food with you. Why? Why not, it’s Fall! Also, this desi khana is very North Indian. Meaning, Ma made it but being Bengali, she never could match the masala skills my school friends’ moms (from UP, Rajasthan or Punjab) managed. Each home had different combos of amchur, pomegranate seeds with nutmeg, cinnamon, garlic, ginger, cumin/coriander. Each version was spectacular. I made mine with Rancho Gordo’s beans and I must say, it turned out quite nice. Almost like desh, and that was sufficiently comforting.
Here is the Rajma dish:
I hope we hold onto ourselves the next few months. It’s been 19 long months and I need to say this to myself daily and I think it’s true for all of us—every day I wake up to the alarm I set the night before, reflects the hope that I will wake up, so I am grateful. If not anything, this pandemic has taught me patience. And gratitude. Maybe a bit of grace.
If not anything, this pandemic has taught me patience. And gratitude. Maybe a bit of grace.
Thank you for being here. I appreciate you.