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It’s a pleasure to welcome Sweta Srivastava Vikram to Diary of an Eccentric today. I’ve read several of her poetry collections and found them to be quite powerful, so I am looking forward to finding time to read her latest release, the very timely novel Louisiana Catch. Please give her a warm welcome!

Louisiana Catch is a novel about a grieving daughter and sexual abuse survivor from New Delhi who must summon the courage to run a feminist conference in New Orleans, trust a man she meets over the Internet, and unravel the mystery of an online predator in order to find her power. While the female protagonist is Indian and both the male protagonist as well as antagonist are American, the story is relatable and universal because it represents the tales, trauma, humanity, and relationship of our times.

Louisiana Catch is layered. It touches on woman’s rights and violence against women, multicultural romance, journey to female leadership, the impact of grief, and online predators, amongst others. Every layer was added over a period of time after tons of research. And, sometimes, conversations with psychotherapists. I started to think about the book in late 2011/early 2012. And started to write the book in early fall of 2012. There were several conversations simultaneously going on around me: Role of social media in mobilizing people and bringing the world together during the Arab spring and the trials and triumphs of online dating my friends had shared. I teach yoga to rape and domestic violence survivors, so some of what I had witnessed in my class lingered in my subconscious.

Vulnerability—it can put us in spaces we never expect to find ourselves. When I was working on Louisiana Catch, a woman at a party walked up to me, “You come across as a happy and sane person. Your husband seems like a decent guy. Why are you a social issue advocate then? Why do you go out looking for ‘such’ stories? And making your family miserable? Write happy stories and get another drink.” Mind you, this conversation was a part of nothing. The lady was inebriated and felt the need to lash out and dictate what I should write about. I don’t talk about my projects until they are completed—the fear of absorbing other people’s opinion through osmosis and in the process, ruining my work, scares me? But people make their own deductions given what they believe about you. As this woman poured wine into her glass and words into my ears, I stood still. The sharpness of her words hurt. But her questions made me think.

Yoga has taught me to be an observer of thoughts and ideas without judging them—so, I watched where these thoughts were leading me. Here is what I’ve learned: You don’t have to be a victim or a survivor of violence to join the fight against ending it. For the most part, stories choose their writers. I, for one, will not explain my voice or stories to anyone.  I am just a messenger and a storyteller. My stories pick the vessel—fiction, nonfiction, poetry—how they want to be conveyed. First, there is a seed. I water it with ideas and time. Slowly, there is a bud and then the fully blossomed flower of a solid idea. Some stories take very long to shape-up, like Louisiana Catch; and, other times, they take a few weeks—like some of my poetry collections. Ultimately, “Stories are a communal currency of humanity.”

It’s a sheer coincidence that the book is coming out at a time when the #MeToo movement is creating space for women to publicly share the abuse they have endured. No Excuse, the Conference that Ahana, the female protagonist organizes in the book, takes it a notch further: the fact that there should be “no excuse” for sexual abuse, in short, zero tolerance.

Louisiana Catch is a humane book about actual human beings, and I hope the readers enjoy it.

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About Louisiana Catch

Ahana, a wealthy thirty-three-year-old New Delhi woman, flees the pain of her mother’s death and her dark past by accepting a huge project in New Orleans, where she’ll coordinate the Annual Women’s Conference to raise awareness around violence against women. Her half-Indian, half-Irish colleague and public relations guru, Rohan Brady, who helps Ahana develop her online presence, offends her prim sensibilities with his raunchy humor. She is convinced that he’s a womanizer. Meanwhile, she seeks relief from her pain in an online support group, where she makes a good friend: the mercurial Jay Dubois, who is also grieving the loss of his mother. Her work in the U.S. and the online medium brings the two men into her life, and Ahana learns that neither is what he seems. With their differing sensibilities on a collision course, Ahana finds herself in a dangerous situation—and she discovers a side of herself that she never realized she had.

Louisiana Catch is an emotionally immersive novel about trust and who we project ourselves to be in the world. It’s a book about Ahana’s unreliable instincts and her ongoing battle to determine whom to place her faith in as she, Rohan, and Jay shed layers of their identities.

As Ahana matures from a victim of domestic sexual abuse into a global feminist leader, she must confront her issues: both with the men in her life and, ultimately, with her own instincts. Whom can she rely on to have her best interests at heart?

Check out Louisiana Catch on Goodreads | Amazon

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About the Author

Sweta Srivastava Vikram

 

Sweta Srivastava Vikram is a best-selling author of 11 books, a wellness columnist, and a mindfulness writing coach.  Featured by Asian Fusion as “one of the most influential Asians of our time,” Sweta writes about women, multiculturalism, and identity. Her work has appeared in The New York Times and other publications across nice countries and three continents. Louisiana Catch (Modern History Press 2018) is her debut U.S. novel. Born in India, Sweta grew up between the Indian Himalayas, Northern Africa, and the United States collecting and sharing stories. Exposure to this vast societal spectrum inspired her to become an advocate for social issues and also to get certified as a Holistic Health Counselor. In this avatar, Sweta is the CEO-Founder of NimmiLife through which she helps people elevate their productivity and creativity using Ayurveda and yoga. A certified yoga teacher, Sweta also teaches yoga and mindfulness to female survivors of rape and domestic violence. She lives with her husband in New York City.

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Giveaway

Sweta is generously offering a copy of Louisiana Catch as part of the blog tour. To enter, you must use this Rafflecopter link. Good luck!

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For more about Louisiana Catch and to follow the blog tour, click the button below.

Thank you, Sweta, for being my guest today and for your thought-provoking guest post. Congratulations on your latest release!

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One year ago, Sweta Srivastava Vikram’s most emotional poetry collection Saris and a Single Malt was on tour with Poetic Book Tours.

Chick with Books said of the collection, “Heartfelt, raw, honest and thought-provoking.”

Jorie Loves A Story said, “Vikram bleeds her emotions through words.”

Diary of an Eccentric said, “Saris and a Single Malt is a touching tribute to Vikram’s mother, a love song from a grieving daughter.”

This is a poetry collection that is raw and beautiful. And as part of the celebration, Vikram is offering 4 copies of the book to some lucky U.S. residents.

SARIS AND A SINGLE MALTAbout the book:

Saris and a Single Malt is a moving collection of poems written by a daughter for and about her mother. The book spans the time from when the poet receives a phone call in New York City that her mother is in a hospital in New Delhi, to the time she carries out her mother’s last rites. The poems chronicle the author’s physical and emotional journey as she flies to India, tries to fight the inevitable, and succumbs to the grief of living in a motherless world. Divided into three sections, (Flight, Fire, and Grief), this collection will move you, astound you, and make you hug your loved ones.

IMG_2240About the Poet:

Sweta Srivastava Vikram, featured by Asian Fusion as “one of the most influential Asians of our time,” is an award-winning author of 11 books, five-time Pushcart Prize nominee, mindfulness writing coach, and wellness columnist. Sweta’s work has appeared in The New York Times and other publications across nine countries on three continents. Louisiana Catch (Modern History Press, 2018) is her debut U.S. novel.

Born in India, Sweta spent her formative years between the Indian Himalayas, North Africa, and the United States collecting and sharing stories. A graduate of Columbia University, she also teaches the power of yoga, Ayurveda, and mindful living to female trauma survivors, writers and artists, creative types, busy women, entrepreneurs, and business professionals in her avatar as the CEO-Founder of NimmiLife. You can find her on: Twitter (@swetavikram), Instagram (@SwetaVikram), and Facebook.

Enter to win 1 signed copy and a $15 Amazon gift card or 1 of 3 other signed copies of Saris and a Single Malt.

Entrants must be U.S. residents.  Giveaway ends on Aug. 28, 2017, at 5 p.m. EST

Click to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway.

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Sweta Vikram and her father

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saris and a single malt

Source: Review copy via Poetic Book Tours
Rating: ★★★★☆

Saris and a Single Malt is a moving collection of poems written by a daughter for and about her mother. The book spans the time from when the poet receives a phone call in New York City that her mother is in a hospital in New Delhi, to the time she carries out her mother’s last rites. The poems chronicle the author’s physical and emotional journey as she flies to India, tries to fight the inevitable, and succumbs to the grief of living in a motherless world. Divided into three sections, (Flight, Fire, and Grief), this collection will move you, astound you, and make you hug your loved ones.

(publisher’s summary)

There are so many poignant lines throughout Saris and a Single Malt, and Vikram does a fantastic job of portraying the depth of her grief and her love for her mother in just a few short lines, emphasizing the value of writing as a coping strategy.

This is my mom’s favorite travel breakfast.
If I can’t fight for her life,
I am going to fight for her memory.

(from “Fifty Minutes from New Delhi”)

It’s in our tears
that you see the marks your absence left behind.

(from “It’s Not Easy”)

These poems churned up so many memories for me, as I lost my father nearly 17 years ago. In a handful of words, Vikram brought me back to the phone call I received from my mother telling me my father had died, and as with Vikram’s mother, his death was sudden and completely unexpected. Her poems brought me back to those early days of learning how to move on without my father, how the hardest thing was having news and not being able to pick up the phone and talk to him. And in the very short poem “Crashing,” Vikram sums up how I still feel about my father’s death more than a decade later:

I can’t be a Zen wave in the ocean–
crashing into the shore,
pretending
you never returning is okay.

I appreciated the afterword in which Vikram shares what she learned about the process of grieving her mother, and her advice was something I could have used when I lost my father.

Saris and a Single Malt is a touching tribute to Vikram’s mother, a love song from a grieving daughter. The rawness and the truth in these poems really touched me, and the collection ends with Vikram’s return to New York, but it’s obvious that the story doesn’t end there. Saris and a Single Malt emphasizes the hole left behind after the loss of a parent, how the pain never goes away but just dulls over time. It’s not often that I find a collection of poems that truly speaks to me, but Saris and a Single Malt did, putting Vikram on my short list of favorite contemporary poets.

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About the poet

SwetaSVikram_backcoverphoto_WET SILENCESweta Srivastava Vikram, featured by Asian Fusion as “one of the most influential Asians of our time,” is an award-winning writer, five-time Pushcart Prize nominee, Amazon bestselling author of 11 books, writing coach, columnist, marketing consultant, and wellness practitioner who currently lives in New York City. A graduate of Columbia University, she also teaches the power of yoga, Ayurveda, & mindful living to female trauma survivors, creative types, entrepreneurs, and business professionals. Sweta is also the CEO-Founder of NimmiLife, which helps you attain your goals by elevating your creativity & productivity while paying attention to your wellness.

Follow her on Twitter | Facebook | Website

Check out Saris and a Single Malt on Amazon | Goodreads

Click the button below to follow Saris and a Single Malt on Poetic Book Tours

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Disclosure: I received Saris and a Single Malt via Poetic Book Tours for review.

© 2016 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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Beyond the Scent of Sorrow, shortlisted for the 2011 Indie Lit Awards, is a collection of poems that aims to bring awareness to issues with which women worldwide struggle.  Sweta Srivastava Vikram mainly focuses her writing here on women and nature, going so far as to state in the preface that the goal of the collection is to compare the plight of women to the destruction of the once revered eucalyptus tree.

Vikram’s poetry touches upon such themes as rape and other forms of violence against women, poverty, discrimination, loss, and grief, with many poems depicting the suffering that women endure at the hands of men.

God was seen residing in me once,
just like the tree.
With time, death listens
to the voices of unholy men sitting
on the tip of tongues
satiating desires. (from “Unholy Men,” page 5)

What can I say to a man
who eats pleas for dinner and calls me
the fungus destroying the root of our family’s tree!

Dark are letters that sit on the tip of my tongue.
To climb the mountain of your dreams,
you sent my son to serve the nation, he came back as ashes. (from “Loss,” page 19)

While I mostly enjoyed the imagery and could feel the pain and sorrow in these poems, sometimes they felt preachy and a little too much. However, I think that’s to be expected in a collection in which every poem centers on the same theme. Maybe if I’d read a poem here and there instead of all of them at once, it might not have felt so overwhelming, so stifling. Also, I think my inability to really relate to the poems — coming from a relatively privileged background compared to the women depicted in the poems and not having experienced such oppression and loss myself — may have impacted my reading.

Regardless, Beyond the Scent of Sorrow is a thought-provoking collection of poems, one that aims to empower women and give those without a voice a chance to be heard. Moreover, Vikram stresses that “pro-woman doesn’t mean anti-man” and even dedicates the book to her grandfather. Vikram’s poetry is emotional and powerful, and she exemplifies how the written word can be used to raise awareness about important issues and to educate people in the hopes of sparking change.

Short List - 2011 Indie Lit Awards in Poetry

Hosted by Savvy Verse & Wit

Book 6 for the Fearless Poetry Exploration Challenge

Disclosure: I received a copy of Beyond the Scent of Sorrow from Modern History Press as part of the voting process for the Indie Lit Awards. I am an IndieBound affiliate and an Amazon associate.

© 2012 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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