A Dinner Party in the Home Counties
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About the Author
In recent years, Reshma Ruia's novels and short fiction have established her credentials as an Indian British writer, who explores the themes of belonging and identity against a backdrop of social mores and conventions. As such, I now invite readers to join me in welcoming Ruia's debut poetry volume, A Dinner Party in the Home Counties, a collection that continues her exploration with all the robust zeal of an Indian diaspora writer lightly treading multiple cultures.
The issues are contemporary and the language is gritty. With a no-nonsense directness and a flair for narrative, Reshma Ruia presents a host of characters - many flawed and larger than life, but all with distinctive voices. Memorable among them is the assertive Mrs Basu, the 'illegal alien' who remains defiant even as she is deported: 'I have a name!' Mrs Basu shouts. 'I am Kamala Basu, tenth class pass.' ['Mrs Basu Leaves Town']
Then there is Xian Chrysanthemum Xu, whose 'name means freshly cut flowers', but who is casually renamed 'Sally' by an anonymous shop assistant. The latter tells her that she looks like a Sally, and adds: 'Nah, I can't call you Mrs Zoo.' ['In which Mrs Xu Becomes a Sally']
This is an energetic book by a writer who deserves to be heard and asks for a centre stage platform: 'I have earned my right to claim this slice of sky as my own. To plant my flag.../ Don't push me to the edges of a faded pink map.' ['A Dinner Party in the Home Counties']
Dr Debjani Chatterjee MBE
It is highly unusual, and therefore incredibly exciting, to read post-colonial poetry that can best be described as quirky, even playful. In this strange, provocative and often powerful collection, form, content and style create difference and otherness; they don't just explore it thematically. Every time you think you're reading yet another poem about identity or the shape of current Britain, you realise you're simultaneously in the presence of a witty, clever and original writing-mind. I found myself wanting to simply say, despite the humour, important messages, and striking imagery, I really like this - because it's the exact opposite of whatever stale, obvious, is.
Reshma Ruia has an enviable knack of finding the telling detail in the scenes she so vividly portrays: the overheard fragment of conversation, the image creeping into the eyeline, the interaction that lasts a moment and yet a lifetime too. In deceptively simple language, Ruia's poems remind us how often we are strangers to others - and ourselves as well.