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Room to Fly

A Transcultural Memoir

Padma Hejmadi (Author)

Available worldwide
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Hardcover, 214 pages
ISBN: 9780520215061
November 1999
$47.95, £35.95
Room to Fly is a unique journal—or ongoing memoir—by a woman who traces the elusive contours of cultural perceptions East and West, welcoming us into the intimate geography of individual lives. The book takes its shape and direction from a tenet of Japanese Sumi painting: If you depict a bird, give it space to fly. Padma Hejmadi explores the human spaces surrounding language, landscape, literacy and illiteracy, music, dance, legend, the cadence of ancient craft, and the ceaselessly unfolding layers of family relationships. Part autobiography, part lively meditation, Room to Fly represents a new genre with an old diction. Hejmadi's spare, luminous prose combines lyricism with humor and intellectual rigor, drawing us from Bombay to the Bahamas, from Japan to New England, the Greek Isles to New Mexico.
Padma Hejmadi (who has also written under the name Padma Perera) is the author of "Birthday Deathday" and Other Stories (1985 and 1992); "Dr. Salaam" and Other Stories of India (1978); and Coigns of Vantage (1975). Her work has been anthologized in Mirrorwork: Fifty Years of Indian Writing, 1947-1997 (1997), edited by Salman Rushdie and Elizabeth West. Her shorter work has been published in the New Yorker and other publications. She has also held solo exhibitions of photography and visual art, with her work on the cover of this and other books.
"Room to Fly is a feast of great richness and variety, filled with exquisitely nuanced descriptions of places that have shaped the spiritual growth of the author. She brings to the most fleeting encounters her memories, her reflections, and her deep knowledge of Indian history, all woven with consummate skill on the loom of her own life."—Nancy Willard, author of The Mountains of Quilt

"Room to Fly is unique in both form and content. I know of nothing else with which it might be meaningfully compared. This book is a treasure . . . structured with unobtrusive care to record the liberating moments of space."—Hazel Barnes, author of The Story I Tell Myself

"What makes Room to Fly so unusual is its rendering of memory and of the creative process itself. This book is at once a series of prose poems, a philosophy of aesthetics, and an exploration of cultures, written with such vivid immediacy and a language so beautifully crafted that we keep wanting to return to it again and again for the sheer pleasure of its music."—Marguerite Guzman Bouvard, author of Revolutionizing Motherhood

"This book is a gift of joy—a bright tapestry of perception and meditation, woven from threads of nature and art and friendship. Padma Hejmadi's experience of many years, in many lands and languages, is framed by a rich awareness of human possibility—of what it is to be fully alive in the senses, the mind, the heart, and the imagination."—Aileen Ward, author of John Keats

"Brilliant at catching the transitions between understanding and incomprehension, laughter and loss; at capturing transformations where personal experience opens up the world."—from M. Kay Flavell, author of "George Grosz: A Biography." Professor of Critical Theory, art critic, and Director the The Pacific Bridges Project.
Key Words: Space, place, internal /external landscapes, language, memoir, meditation, travel, feminism, South Asian women, postcolonialism, cross- cultural perceptions, spiritual journey, intimate geography, migration, history, cultural anthropology, sociology, philosophy, aesthetics, education, India.

Room to Fly takes its shape and direction from a tenet of Japanese Sumi painting: If you depict a bird, give it space to fly. The author explores the human spaces surrounding different aspects of experience across cultures. Her themes include language, landscapes, literacy and illiteracy, intelligence, music, dance, legend, the cadence of an ancient craft, metaphors of migration, and the ceaselessly unfolding layers of family relationships. Part autobiography, part travelogue, part meditation, the structural format of this book represents a new genre with an old diction. It uses lyricism, humor and intellectual rigor to move from Bombay to the Bahamas, from Japan to New England, the Greek Isles to New Mexico: tracing the elusive contours of cultural perceptions East and West, and taking the reader into the intimate geography of individual lives.

Note on the format: The subheads -- of locations like "New York," "Delhi," etc. -- are the equivalent of journalistic deadlines. If it weren't for this precise context, a particular event or insight may not have come to birth. The purpose of the format is to acknowledge and bridge these internal/external landscapes. Sections beneath the subheads continue the inner/outer theme by being flexible in expression. Narrative, essay, reflection, poetry, and vignette take their turn, since life doesn't come in symmetrical packages, and our experiences vary correspondingly in kind, length and intensity. For above all, Room to Fly honors the quick of experience: recording, as a matter of spiritual survival, the movement of a life across changing times and contexts.

In the opening chapters the author maintains a fidelity to her own experiences. In the middle section on landscapes, the accent is on what she has witnessed in lives and countries not her own. Coming a full circle, the final chapters deal with four specific individuals whose lives are seen in their own contexts during different decades of India's more recent history.

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