Blending myth with interviews and first-person narrative, California-based writer Amarnath Ravva’s American Canyon (Kaya Press, 2015) uses prose, documentary footage and still photos to recount the fragmented and ever-evolving story of one person’s apprehension of the ghosts of history. This narrative of a son’s love for his mother and the ritual he performs for her takes us from California to Rameswaram, the southern tip of the Indian peninsula. It is a meditation on the moments in history that placed him in front of a small bright fire, a lament for the continual loss of those who, by remembering, let us know who we are. American Canyon was a finalist for the 2015 PEN USA Literary Award in Non-Fiction and the 1913 First Book Prize. He has an MFA in Creative Writing/Integrated Media from Calarts and a BA in Comparative Literature from UC Berkeley. He is currently working on a book about Victorian era botanical expeditions called The Glass House.
Often, we attempt to place tragedy by location, by coordinates; we draw a chalk outline of our victims, we memorialize the place with photos, the flames of candles, plucked flowers. We write the history of our ‘others’; we gather what happened on that day, at that moment, at that place. We write elegies, not just for lives, but for how we have lived. What lies beyond the coordinates we choose? Is it any less tragic even if masked by the plain and necessary operations of an orderly life? I chose to gather, virtually, at the coordinates found in Curb, Google satellite imagery and video, in conversation with Divya’s poetry.