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Suri Channels Conflicted Female Voice in 'Shiva'

Author Manil Suri is called an "N.R.I" back in the country of his birth. That stands for "Non Resident Indian." His first novel, The Death of Vishnu, thrust readers into the complex social microcosm of a Bombay apartment building. Vishnu was based on a real man — who lived on a landing between the first and ground floors. Sur never got to know him and always wondered who he was, and how he died. When he began to write the novel, which won a Pen Faulkner award, Suri drew upon another Vishnu — the Hindu god who preserves the universe.

When it came to writing his follow-up novel, The Age of Shiva, Suri turned again to the rich symbolic possibilities of Hindu cosmology. Set in an India newly independent — and bitterly divided — Shiva is a symbol of religious upheaval in this story of a woman's journey in love, motherhood and family. Critics have praised Suri's imaginative leap into the intense believable voice of a female narrator caught between identities, faiths and ideologies.

Suri is also a professor of applied mathematics at the University of Maryland in Baltimore County. He has said he wants to help close the divide between math and creative writing. To that end, his classes often seek to inspire young writers to explore the intrigue and drama of concepts such as infinity.

This reading of The Age of Shiva took place in February 2008 at the Politics and Prose book store in Washington, D.C.

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