Being Here by Manini Nayar
Contemporary Poetry And Prose
“We are all now writing stories. Sometimes in memory, sometimes in air. The wind lifts and passes us in gusts. Our stories scatter over continents, camouflaged histories we cannot share.”
In Being Here, Manini Nayar brings together a finely crafted collection of interconnected stories that follow “the daily miracle” of her characters’ inner lives. Nayar brings to the forefront immigrant women making their way in the world as mothers, as wives, as outliers, and as rebels. She writes about their insistence on autonomy, the absurdity of the struggles they face, and their occasional triumphs.
These stories loop and double back across time and locales, linking characters through memory while illumining lives forever changed by an offhand phrase, an act of will, or an unsought encounter. Readers will meet a wide array of characters, but it is Nina with whom they will become most familiar, as she appears throughout the collection: first, as a young wife brought to the US by her husband, Siddharth Vellodi; second, as an older sister; and third, as a divorced mother whose daughter’s fateful rebellion remains the mysterious and incandescent center of the stories. Nayar’s exploration of inward lives as the locus of dramatic action and events allows both characters and readers to grapple with simply being. In doing so, Nayar reveals the performative aspects of language—particularly its ability to create, destroy, and heal connections.
In poetic and eloquent prose, Being Here constructs a luminous collage of restless immigrants united by their shared deference to a brave new journey. In their burgeoning voices another America is found, both latent and radiantly alive.
Year first published: 2022