News about Correctional (forthcoming 2021)
Dear friends - as the leaves crimson in the dread of election season, I wanted to share some news with you. First, thank you for your regard and care over the years. As you might know, I went through an excruciating personal moment nearly a decade ago which resulted in the loss of my job, home, marriage and community. I have since been unraveling those decisions, examining myself and the America I have grown up in – healing personal wounds that have lingered in the margins of my work, unnamed, for far too long. In the process, I was fortunate enough to win an international research fellowship at the University of Sydney which allowed me time and space to complete work on a doctorate, which consists of a critical history of the racialization of American prisons and a portion of my memoir. Through the lens of a sudden and unexpected incarceration, I dig deeply into my ancestry and bicultural identity, a duality that delivered me unto a cell at the height of my academic career. Beginning with the story of my parents’ intercontinental journey as first-generation immigrants from South India to Washington DC to spending a year in Chennai during my childhood, the story encompasses my days at Columbia and in the publishing industry pre- and post - 9/11, arriving at the moment where I am told to leave behind my keys and shoelaces to enter the cinderblock hell of the Hartford Correctional Center. There I saw firsthand the dark secret our country would rather have us ignore and the men I met there, mainly brown and black, begged me to tell their stories.
I’m so pleased to tell you that "Correctional" is now under advance contract with University of Wisconsin Press and due out in 2021. I humbly think it’s the most important work I’ve ever done - and I know it’s been the most difficult. Given the occasion, I thought I might provide you with some periodic news of what I am up to and keep you updated of the progress of the book (if you’d rather not be interrupted, please don’t hesitate to say so). Even in the face of the discord in our democracy, there is so much good work happening around the world, and I’m glad to share some of that with you.
Stay safe and inspired.
The first excerpt from the book appears in the current issue of the Michigan Quarterly Review, as part of a folio edited by Reginald Dwayne Betts. Another excerpt about spending a year of my childhood in South India will be forthcoming in The Common.
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Check out Correctional's social accounts for updates and a resource tool to learn more about the state of incarceration on BIPOC as we all dive deeper into our roles as both creatives and humans striving for equity.
I urge you to please read along and join me on this complex, timely journey of navigating the criminal justice system and understanding its implications for us all. #Vote2020 #Staysafe #blacklivesmatter #humanrights
Vanakkam! as we say in Tamil. Hello and glad to see you here! This website represents a small portal into some of the work I've done over the years, and here, in this blog, I plan to explore many things, from reflections on my many voyages to investigations of contemporary trends in literature, politics and culture. I hope this space pushes the boundaries of perception and shakes up the orthodoxy on what we consider to be the right way of doing this. Over the years, in the classroom and out in the wider world, I've learned that there are multiple ways of engaging with one other and I hope that you will take this invitation to respond to my own ideas with questions and comments of your own, even if you disagree with what I have to say. I'm a huge proponent of dialogue and disagreement as instrumental in helping us refine our own sense of self and our place in the world. I'll always do my best to respond to you and would love to see you out at a reading or festival. If you do see me, please come and say hello. I believe wholeheartedly in the redemptive power of creativity and have faith that the small acts of daily awareness and creation we undertake can help make this a better, richer, more colorful place to be alive. Thanks so much for joining me on this voyage and may you go forward with greater illumination and inspiration in your own life!
Pushcart-Prize winning author Ravi Shankar is the author/editor/translator of over 15 books and the founding editor of one of the world’s oldest electronic journals of the arts, Drunken Boat. His latest book is “The Many Uses of Mint: Selected Poems 1998-2018.”