Category Archives: Tara L Masih

Book Review: The Chalk Circle: Intercultural Prize Winning Essays: Edited by Tara L. Masih

Title: The Chalk Circle: Intellectual Prize Winning Essays
Editor: Tara L. Masih
Publisher: Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing
ISBN: 978-1936214716
Genre: Non-Fiction, Essays
Pages: 224
Rating: 5/5

I never thought I would enjoy a collection of essays that much. I had read Tara’s collection of short stories earlier and was immensely impressed by it. The collection was varied and simply written and that’s what I have loved about her essays as well. Though the essays since written on multi-cultures and races; tend to get a little intense, however they are brilliantly penned by various writers.

Global communities need to be understood more today than ever. The need is not to be tolerant but to be aware of differences and may be at some level embrace them than shunning without a thought.

“The Chalk Circle” by Tara L. Masih (editor) is one such attempt to bring communities together and work on understanding them. The essays are prize-winning pieces and written by various people from various backgrounds to be able to build the barrier between races and thought processes. This collection is a result of a call, the editor put out in 2007, for Intercultural Essays dealing with subjects of “culture, race, and a sense of place”.

The sense of place is very strong in the book – for instance when I read, “Finding Center” and “Connections”, I could not help but wonder about Home and what does it take to call it that. What makes culture? What is the spirit behind it? Is there anything more to it than people? Identity plays a major role in these essays.

The book is divided into the following sections: The Chalk Circle: Identity, Home and Borderlands, As I Am: Letters of Identity, The Tongue of War: A Clash of Cultures, The Tragedy of the Color Line, Eyewitness: As seen by another, The Other and the Culture of Self and Spirit. Each essay is written with a lot of life and magnanimity. It is the emotions lying at the surface – what if things had been different, what if circumstances were to change, and what if identity was as clear as most things in life.

Each essay is a story that opens to the life of the writer, the theme being the same – sometimes displacement, and sometimes loss of a voice. The writing is varied, after all as the case normally is in a collection.

It isn’t easy compiling a collection of this nature. Tara L. Masih as an editor has done a fantastic job using keen insight and not being biased while selecting the essays from a lot of them that appeared for the contest. After finishing, The Chalk Circle, I could make sense of culture, race and a sense of place, in a way evolved manner than I did earlier.

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Book Review: Where the Dog Star Never Glows: Stories by Tara L. Masih

Where the Dog Star Never Glows
Author: Tara L. Masih
Publisher: Press 53
Genre: Short Stories
ISBN: 9780982576052
PP: 143
Price: $14.00
Source: The Author
Rating: 5/5

So here is the deal: I think it is very difficult to write a short story than a novel and it is true. A Novel probably has more life than a story and for an author to successfully manage to engrain a story in the reader’s head is a task of great proportions. I for one love the short story reading as a genre. What I most enjoy is the writer’s capability to say it all in a span of say three pages or sometimes even lesser than that. Someone once asked me if I had read Ulysses by Joyce and I promptly said “No”. Well I was given the scorn of the century, and yet my thoughts on “The Dead” as a story saved my skin in that discussion. It isn’t easy to write a short story and with this thought I start my review of “Where the Dog Star Never Glows” by Tara L. Masih.

The first thing that struck me about the collection of stories was that Tara’s voice was so precise and clear. She can make you sense the crickets cricketing away in the night, a stream that is rushing close  by and also mingle the thoughts of two people in a disspirited marriage in “Champagne Water” and that is just one of the strokes from this look-forward-to writer. The stories remind you of a different time, life being simpler and yet complicated. People wanting more for instance in the story, “Memsahib” that is about a young boy who is trying to understand an Englishwoman. The story is set in India and you can almost smell the earth while you read the story. Tara makes it look so easy – the stories that are so clear in what they want to say and how it is being said. The beauty of language is hard to come by and Tara does a fantastic job of conjuring words and stringing them to meaningful sentences  – almost like a magician.

But do not be fooled by the writing and the wordsmith yarn she spins, there is a lot more to the stories than just pretty and appropriate words. There are raw and hidden emotions, ones that sometimes cannot be spoken about, the ones that are said aloud anyway and the ones that yearn to have a voice and do not. The stories will reach deep in the recesses of the heart and may be if you are lucky enough pluck on those heartstrings as well. For instance in a story titled, “Say Bridgette, Please” she follows a lonely schoolgirl’s discovery which could either result in knowing oneself or knowing too much. I could almost hear Carson McCullers speaking to me aloud while I was reading this story. And then my favourite collection in the entire story has to be a very short piece titled, “Suspended” which suggests that the kindness of strangers as Tennessee Williams put it is also hard to come by but it does eventually. I almost wept a little at the end of this story and you will only know why when you read it.

For me the book was a revelation. Each of the stories in this collection focus on the loneliness and the longing of the human heart and the roads one has to take in situations probably one didn’t want to be in. There are no forced happy endings in this collection. Tara says it the way she feels it and wants to. I loved this collection and probably that is an understatement. I am at a loss of words. You have to read it to feel the way I do.

You can buy the book  on Flipkart or also on Infibeam