Sunita De Souza Goes to Sydney: And Other Stories by Roanna Gonsalves-Review

Title: Sunita De Souza Goes to Sydney and Other Stories

Author: Roanna Gonsalves

Publisher: Speaking Tiger

Pages: 296

Price: Rs. 399

It is common to philosophise that we are all immigrants on one plane or the other, but it is more tangible when someone like Roanna Gonsalves discusses the diverse situations (not the plight, let it be noted) that immigrants find themselves in when they land in (in this case) Australia. Her stories smack of the flourishing change in the fabric of this harsh land skillfully marked with mischief and empathy.

Her collection of incisive short stories weaves through the lives of first-generation Indian, particularly Goan, immigrants, offering a startling focus to the layered tales told in measured spaces. Said to be a work of imagination, I’m sure the stories borrow heavily from real-life incidents. Many of her stand-out characters are those of plucky women who grow in the face of adversity and add to the narrative by the sheer dint of their being. She has handed the Indian-Australian woman her identity as a plaque while accepting her individualities, desires and views at the same time. Gonsalves also tackles domestic violence, abuse and racism in the same breath as love and masturbation and deftly at that.

The conscious choice of telling her tales in the first person is interesting and at the same time reflective of Gonsalves’s own person. This choice brings a clear and immediate connection to the intimate and inner reaches of the primary characters’ mind. What does an international student think of and how does she feel when getting off a train around the witching hour? Why would an Indian immigrant family choose to have an Australian Christmas dinner? The questions are bold and steady as are the answers.

Published as The Permanent Resident in Australia, Sunita DeSouza… has won her author the esteemed Multicultural NSW Award. For Gonsalves, who had migrated to Australia as a student in 1998, this award marks a milestone in a long eventful journey in a land with no ready support system.

Gonsalves, laudably, finds a new voice each time she starts a new story and set of characters and their relationships. Her writing is a fine balance between from-the-gut and for-the-intellect. At times shocking, sometimes playful, always ready to pounce on the trail of truth, it is this quality that guarantees her a place on the literary landscape of modern Australia: The key to the knowledge of what it is or takes to be a modern immigrant.

Take a bow, Roanna Gonsalves, take a bow!

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