Hazel Creek Americans: A Fiction Reading
For the last few years, while teaching New York City art and design students how to write critically about visual culture, I have been working on a novel set in suburban Chicago during the year 1983. The book is centered around the family of Varkey Kurathela. Varkey is an Indian immigrant who, unable to find a new job after he’s laid off from the insurance firm where he worked as an electrical engineer, battles severe depression -- until he discovers a cause. To the bafflement of his wife, he decides he won’t mow their lawn for environmental reasons. Worse still, instead of paying the tickets sent by the County Board for violating its beautification ordinance, he intends to challenge them at the public Board meeting.
I will be reading from the first chapter, about Varkey’s 12-year-old daughter, Annamol. Annamol’s neighbors, white American twins of the same age, whom she has lived next door to since she was 4-years old -- and who were once her best friends -- have suddenly taken to calling her a racial slur at school. One summer morning, despite her best efforts, she finds herself face-to-face with her tormenters when they cross from their backyard into hers.
I would like to end the session by opening a discussion about how our experience of race and class have changed, especially in relation to our public discourse, since the 1980s.
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