essays

Natural Born Drivers

The Rumpus

    

We vacationed by car, mainly because it was cheap and private and we were poor and strange, but also because we each loved driving. After five grueling attempts even my mother acquired her driver's license, the first amongst all the Indian aunties, some of whom never got theirs, spending their American days being chauffeured by grumbling relatives. After obtaining her license my mother promptly began getting into accidents.

Malcolm X and the Model Minority

The Millions

When I was seventeen, I stole a painting from high school. It was the climax of a pretty standard adolescent awakening: I read The Autobiography of Malcolm X. In the book’s characterization, Malcolm X is the kind of impeccable hero teens go for: brilliant charismatic tough guy redeemed, only to be martyred by backstabbers (as an adult, I resisted Manning Marable’s brilliant, only slightly defanging biography, so committed was I to this image). I bought the book on a whim; Spike Lee’s new biopic Malcolm X was out. I knew nothing about Malcolm X other than he had been an angry second fiddle to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr...

Dead Bird Stories for Nonbelievers

Southeast Review 34:1

On St. Patrick’s Day, a few months after my father died of a heart attack while jumpstarting a truck in a snowstorm, I left my neighborhood bar too drunk for the brakeless bicycle I rode into rush hour traffic. Weeks later, I had a conspicuous limp from the tiny Toyota that struck me and a $25 moving violation from DC’s Department of Transportation. The accident had been all my fault: I was lost. Despite being a scoffing atheist without a speck of religion in my heart, I asked my friend Vanya, a spiritualist, for help...

A Brown-Skinned Lady and Her Sunblock

River Teeth 14:2

    

In 1984 I, like every other girl in America, wanted a Cabbage Patch Kid. To impress everyone with my logic—I was one of those brats—I asked for the brown-skinned version, a request my Sri Lankan-born parents could only understand as preposterous: dark-skinned dolls were for black children. That this was pitiable for them—the dolls’ homeliness was a given—was no reason for me, however, to get a doll that matched my skin. At Zayre’s, my father held the boxed toy at arm’s length, wondering was I sure I didn’t want a regular doll?

Spring 2009

A Reoccurring Envy

American Literary Review

    

When I first worked at The Lowell School as a teenager, I was uncomfortable. This wasn't because I was lousy with kids or lazy--which I was-- but because I was like many  poor kids simultaneously full of loathing and lust for the rich. DC is a choleric place to wrestle with class, succumbing as it does to the main ugliness of capitalism: the lurid proximity of the rich and the broke. In fact, the convergence was visible at The Lowell School: while we excised teary three year olds from Benzes in the front, the homeless lined up for free groceries in the back.

Ghetto Proclivities

Massachusetts Review 45:2

    

Spying a pedagogical opportunity I ask my English 110 students to read Jamaica Kincaid's "A Small Place" and tell me what they make of  her animosity towards the colonizing British on the island of her birth, Antigua, and more specifically, what they make of her line, "Do you ever wonder why some people blow things up?"

Discovering Emerson in the Golden Age of Sneakers

Literary Hub

    

I grew up during the dawn of the sneaker era, the genesis of which was not only concurrent with the golden age of hip-hop but constitutive of it. In the same poor neighborhoods that spawned rap music, sneakers were a kind of vocabulary for abundance, a way to undercut poverty while underscoring style and toughness. It wasn’t long before the first major hip-hop endorsement deal was signed: in 1986 Adidas partnered with Run DMC.

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podcasts

May 17, 2015

Dead Bird Stories for Nonbelievers

Fiction is First: A Storyview

A reading of this essay which first appeared in Southeast Review along with interview with Fiction is First curator, Ben Forstenzer.

March 06, 2006

Model Minority Privilege

Addicted to Race Interview

Interview with Jen about model minority privilege and how it impacts Black Americans in silent ways.

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I have a Phd in American Studies from the University of Maryland where I was the Bode Wise Fellow and an MFA in Nonfiction from The Ohio State University where I was a graduate fellow. I love sports, science, and feminism. And animals.

I have a motorcycle license but I don't ride.

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essays

April 11, 2019

Discovering Emerson in the Golden Age of Sneakers

Literary Hub

    

I grew up during the dawn of the sneaker era, the genesis of which was not only concurrent with the golden age of hip-hop but constitutive of it. In the same poor neighborhoods that spawned rap music, sneakers were a kind of vocabulary for abundance, a way to undercut poverty while underscoring style and toughness. It wasn’t long before the first major hip-hop endorsement deal was signed: in 1986 Adidas partnered with Run DMC. 

Natural Born Drivers

The Rumpus

    

We vacationed by car, mainly because it was cheap and private and we were poor and strange, but also because we each loved driving. After five grueling attempts even my mother acquired her driver’s license, the first amongst all the Indian aunties, some of whom never got theirs, spending their American days being chauffeured by grumbling relatives.

Malcolm X and the Model Minority

The Millions

When I was seventeen, I stole a painting from high school. It was the climax of a pretty standard adolescent awakening: I read The Autobiography of Malcolm X. In the book’s characterization, Malcolm X is the kind of impeccable hero teens go for: brilliant charismatic tough guy redeemed, only to be martyred by backstabbers (as an adult, I resisted Manning Marable’s brilliant, only slightly defanging biography, so committed was I to this image). I bought the book on a whim; Spike Lee’s new biopic Malcolm X was out. I knew nothing about Malcolm X other than he had been an angry second fiddle to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr...

Winter 2017

Hot Dog Curry

Fourth Genre

The first time my brother Alfred heard the word nigger he was with our father, headfirst beneath the hood of some beater, learning how to change its oil. The car belonged to an "uncle"-- the term for any Indian man my parents knew-- and had likely been stationed there, immovable, in our tenement's parking lot for days; no one griped about disabled vehicles in Langley Park. Like kitchen roaches and ice cream trucks, they migrated at there own unpredictable whims, unstoppable...

Dead Bird Stories for Nonbelievers

Southeast Review 34:1

On St. Patrick’s Day, a few months after my father died of a heart attack while jumpstarting a truck in a snowstorm, I left my neighborhood bar too drunk for the brakeless bicycle I rode into rush hour traffic. Weeks later, I had a conspicuous limp from the tiny Toyota that struck me and a $25 moving violation from DC’s Department of Transportation. The accident had been all my fault: I was lost. Despite being a scoffing atheist without a speck of religion in my heart, I asked my friend Vanya, a spiritualist, for help...

A Brown-Skinned Lady and Her Sunblock

River Teeth 14:2

    

In 1984 I, like every other girl in America, wanted a Cabbage Patch Kid. To impress everyone with my logic—I was one of those brats—I asked for the brown-skinned version, a request my Sri Lankan-born parents could only understand as preposterous: dark-skinned dolls were for black children. That this was pitiable for them—the dolls’ homeliness was a given—was no reason for me, however, to get a doll that matched my skin. At Zayre’s, my father held the boxed toy at arm’s length, wondering was I sure I didn’t want a regular doll?

Spring 2009

A Reoccurring Envy

American Literary Review

    

When I first worked at The Lowell School as a teenager, I was uncomfortable. This wasn't because I was lousy with kids or lazy--which I was-- but because I was like many  poor kids simultaneously full of loathing and lust for the rich. DC is a choleric place to wrestle with class, succumbing as it does to the main ugliness of capitalism: the lurid proximity of the rich and the broke. In fact, the convergence was visible at The Lowell School: while we excised teary three year olds from Benzes in the front, the homeless lined up for free groceries in the back.

Ghetto Proclivities

Massachusetts Review 45:2

    

Spying a pedagogical opportunity I ask my English 110 students to read Jamaica Kincaid's "A Small Place" and tell me what they make of  her animosity towards the colonizing British on the island of her birth, Antigua, and more specifically, what they make of her line, "Do you ever wonder why some people blow things up?"

Spring 2005

Several Years Before My Birth

Crab Orchard Review

Several years before my birth my father flees the US because of a visa problem. He adjusts; it is one of his talents. Ontario is colder than he anticipated, but bearable. The snow is not new; he does not marvel at its ubiquitous, muffling coverage the way he had when he first encountered it, upon his arrival in the US the previous winter, 1974...

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podcasts

Story District

August 08, 2017

Natural Born Drivers

Story District's "My Country 'Tis of Thee: Stories about Being American"

Interview with Passenger

May 01, 2017

Interview with Passenger Magazine

May's Writer of the Month

May 17, 2015

Dead Bird Stories for Nonbelievers

Fiction is First: A Storyview

A reading of this essay which first appeared in Southeast Review along with interview with Fiction is First curator, Ben Forstenzer.

March 06, 2006

Model Minority Privilege

Addicted to Race Interview

Interview with Jen about model minority privilege and how it impacts Black Americans in silent ways.

Please reload

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