Raising South Asian Voices

Cynthia Dettman:  Author

My Novel Summaries- Writers, you might do this for your book!

Here are my novel summary statements, following Sandra Scofield’s directions:

About

This novel is “about” what happens when a modern Indian woman tries to find her own voice in the face of caste-based family violence, pressure to accept an arranged marriage, and her own homosexuality.

This novel is “about” the right to love, regardless of caste, gender and sexual orientation.

This novel is “about” a woman’s right to be herself, no matter what.

Vision

Being true to oneself is extremely difficult, particularly in a traditional society, yet a powerful force for happiness and good.

The World of my Story

My story takes place in a semi-rural suburb of Chennai, a huge city in Tamilnadu.   The protagonist and her family live in a small house next to agricultural lands but travel regularly by scooter or bus to traffic-jammed, polluted city streets.  Scenes take place in and outside their small, 6 room concrete house with a roof patio and back garden.  Other scenes take place at the protagonist’s law school, in a small rural village, at a police station, and at the local High Court.  The protagonist lives with her elderly father, younger mother and an elderly cook.  It is 2017-2018.

The Scope of my Novel

The story takes place over a period of 1 ½ years as the protagonist tries to persuade the police to re-open the honor killing case, struggles with her love for Meena, learns to stand up against an arranged marriage, participates in a lawsuit, and completes her final year of law school. Is that too much in 1.5 years?  Maybe the story needs to take longer for all this to happen and for Satyam to grow so dramatically?

The rules of my Story World

Women must follow the rules and accept arranged marriage at least by their late 20s.  Women should be feminine.   Homosexuality is unacceptable.  Lesbians don’t exist.  People should marry within their caste and not marry a lower caste person.  Servants are lower than their employers and can be hit it needed to keep them in their place.  Outcaste people are poor, uneducated and powerless.  Parents and extended family members should be respected and listened to.  Times are changing; technology is fine; but family rules are changing too fast.

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Hey girl, I’M having a blast with this project- interesting, challenging, scary, creative, independent, eek, India!, etc.

Keep commenting as I go along my Yellow Brick (or should I say Saffron Brick) Road. Cynthia

HEY stephanie, I know you and remember your face! Greetings – to Canada? Yes, I’m having a very interesting time both learning how to write well and get to know way more about intimate adult Indian life than I knew as a white kid in Madurai. I thank my parents that they encouraged friendships and allowed us Dettman kids to spend as much time as we wanted in the “servants quarters” (doesn’t that sound like a damn plantation?)- which me and my sis Joanna did a lot. Picking lice out of each other;s hair, dancing and singing under a big shade tree in front of our cook’s house; telling stories on the flat roof of our house under tropical sunsets and screeching frogs in the monsoon season. doing all sorts of ironic things such as our annual mission’s Thanksgiving gathering – with turkey, mashed potatoes, and canned cranberry from Singapore- we lived in two rather different worlds, and I really loved the underclass world more than the world of my parents and their fellow faculty and administrators and middle class, sometimes corrupt Christians. I have SO MUCH TO LEARN ABOUT MODERN CHENNAI and about caste and crows and Catholicism – lots of people to interview. it’s going to be a lovely adventure, and sister Jo and her Man will be there for a month as well. Will stay with Bob Granner towards the end for a lovely hilltop writing retreat- Keep in touch! Cynthia

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