Anita Anand’s stories explore raw emotions revealing actualities of an array of Canadian lives. Fearless of pinpointing the disappointment felt in life, Anand’s evocative stories touch on experiences that include battles with mental illness, racism, perishing marriages, and coping with loss. Anita Anand’s collection of stories are cross-sections of different realities demonstrating how experiences shape a person and what they will do to gain meaning from each experience.
In “Between Black and White,” Anand shares a story of a Indian school-aged girl moving from a Jewish enclave in Montreal to the Bronx, a predominantly black community, with her well-educated immigrant parents. This story discusses the constraints felt as an immigrant—being the only brown girl in her community who is viewed as privileged—struggling to fit into a neighborhood that is plagued with poverty, racism, and violence. It highlights the normalcy of people on welfare and ignorant attitudes towards race in the Bronx along with their lack of effort in progression needed to move forward.
This piece might be an autobiographical story of Anand’s as the moving back-and-forth between Montreal and the Bronx are mentioned in her author’s description and the name of the Indian girl character is unknown. Anand is trying to emphasize the desire to belong no matter what your ethnic or socio-economic background is wherever she lives. The character shows this by wanting to be invited to a welfare lunch where she brings her own food to as her mother feared what might be served. Meanwhile, when living in Montreal’s Jewish neighborhood she writes about willingly immersing herself in their culture so as she moves elsewhere less privileged she applies the same approach to feel as if she can adapt to those around her.
In “Something Steady,” an isolated boy named Michael with an intellectual disability grapples socially and in turn takes out his uncontrollable anger on a coworker. As a twenty-something young man who has not been on a date, he is frustrated with going unnoticed wherever he goes. As you read about Michael getting teased, you notice he grows more and more angry with himself and with who he is. Anand evokes sadness and frustration writing to put you in the shoes of someone battling with their self-perception and overall self-worth.
In the feature novella-length story, “Swing in the House,” Anand writes about a deteriorating marriage from the voice of a wife who tries to fill her void by exploring the possibility of having an affair. Purposely delving into dark topics some may view as taboo, Anand illustrates the unprecedented emotions that can come out of a person when faced with a challenging experience.
I believe her intent behind the array of topics she’s chosen to write on are to give us a glimpse into experiences outside of our own showing emotions that we in many cases, might try to hide if we are not hiding it already. This book is intended for an adult audience as it is best read when one can grasp the emotional dimensions of each story to appreciate her work’s intent. The topics covered in Anand’s collection are not spoken of commonly and to read them in the same book, makes the journey through each story avowedly honest, intriguingly dark and intelligent.
Reviewed by Milena Petrovic