The mission of the Good Thunder Reading Series is to promote literature, inspire creativity, and foster lively discussions about why writing matters. They bring renowned authors from various backgrounds and literary traditions to Mankato. Each gives a morning workshop, an afternoon talk and an evening reading followed by a book signing during their visit.
Last week’s Good Thunder author was Aruni Kashyap, a former Maverick and an associate professor of English and creative writing and the director of the creative writing program at the University of Georgia, Athens. He has published several novels and academic papers. He writes in both English and Assamese, an Indo-Aryan language spoken mainly in the north-eastern Indian state of Assam.
“My work has been embraced by academics and literary critics. That has been the most inspiring thing because they’re also one of the most discerning readers right there. They are not going to like you if they don’t like you and, and they really are very frank about their opinion,” said Kashyap.
Kashyap taught students at the workshop about narrative tension. He discussed some examples from renowned novels and movies. He told the writers how to “Stretch the tension as much as possible to make the stories interesting.”
“There is power and relevance to writing. Writers have a lot of power even though writers don’t often have a lot of money,” said Kashyap. “If they write well, think well and they teach well, they can actually change societies. And this is something that I really focus on my craft talk.”
Kashyap used examples from “The Jungle” by Upton Sinclair which talks about the horrors of the meatpacking industry and “The Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck which is about the story of a destitute family that fled the Oklahoma Dust Bowl and made its way to California, only to be brutally taken advantage of by an agricultural economic system. He said he hopes these novels helped show the power of writing.
“Novels, stories have real power, and we can definitely do a lot if you write responsibly with empathy and care and respect,” said Kashyap. “I hope that people believed or went back and believed in their ability to write in their power.”
One of Kashyap’s novels, “His Father’s Disease,” is a collection of short stories and explores how political violence affects day-to-day living in the Assamese state.
“I mostly write about the way the tension and the conflict between the state and the individual, where the state is constantly trying to reduce our rights and interfere in our lives,” said Kashyap. “There’s a story where the main character, who is brown and Indian and Assamese. He faces racism as he goes to his boyfriend’s house from the very conservative father who disowned his boyfriend long ago.”
Write to Lauren Viska at firstname.lastname@example.org
Header Photo: Aruni Kashyap is the author of His Father’s Disease: Stories and the novel The House With a Thousand Stories. Kashyap edited a collection called How to Tell the Story of an Insurgency and has also translated two novels from Assamese to English. (Nate Tilahun/The Reporter)