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ISBN: 9781550655797

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My Mother, My Translator

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In 2008, Jaspreet Singh made a pact with his mother. He would gladly give her the go-ahead to publish her significantly altered translation of a story from his collection, Seventeen Tomatoes, if she promised to write her memoirs. After she died in 2012, he decided to take up the memoir she had started. My Mother, My Translator is a deeply personal exploration of a complex relationship. It is a family history, a work of mourning, a meditation on storytelling and silences, and a reckoning with trauma—the inherited trauma of the 1947 Partition of India and the direct trauma of the November 1984 anti-Sikh violence Singh experienced as a teenager.

Tracing the men and especially the women of his family from the 1918 pandemic through the calamitous events of Partition, My Mother, My Translator takes us through Singh’s childhood in Kashmir and with his grandparents in Indian Punjab to his arrival in Canada in 1990 to study the sciences, up to the closing moments of 2020, as he tries to locate new forms of stories for living in a present marked by COVID-19 and climate crisis.

Contributors

Jaspreet Singh

Jaspreet Singh’s non-fiction has appeared in Granta, Brick: A Literary Journal, and the New York Times. He is the author of two novels, Chef (Véhicule Press, 2008; Bloomsbury, 2010) and Helium (Bloomsbury, 2014); a story collection, Seventeen Tomatoes (Vehicule Press, 2004); and a poetry collection, November (Bayeux Arts, 2017). His work has been published internationally and has been translated into several languages. He lives in Calgary.
Chapter Title Abstract Contributors Pages Year Price

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Recounts the story of Singh’s mother translating his first collection of short stories into Punjabi. Their trust over the translation of the fourteenth story prompted Singh to push his … 11 $1.10

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Reveals that Singh’s mother passed away before finishing her memoir, prompting him to undertake a new project. 1 $0.10

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A poem about eyes. 1 $0.10

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Relates the turmoil of Singh’s decision to remove his turban and cut his hair as a teen–the trauma it caused his mom, and the pain he suffered as consequence. Speculates on the … 11 $1.10

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Discusses Partition, Singh’s relationship to and removal from those events as something that occurred before his time that his mother scarcely talked about. 11 $1.10

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Further explores Partition and the unease with which it was talked about. Singh recounts his grandfather’s stories, comparing them with his mother’s, plotting his lineage of storytellers. 19 $1.90

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Talks about the story told within an author’s silence. What is revealed by the stories omitted. Singh illustrates this through the story of his mother’s older sister—a story she … 8 $0.80

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A quattrain about trains in his mother’s dream. 2 $0.20

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Singh shares a folktale told to him by his mother before telling a story from when he first moved to Canada. 9 $0.90

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Discusses Singh’s mother’s family home, its importance to her, its loss, and her return. 13 $1.30

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Recalls Singh’s mother’s introduction to his father. Her status and success were highlighted as she entered into an unhappy marriage. 10 $1.00

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Recounts the time in his childhood that his parents tried to make Singh and his sister taller by hanging from trees. 3 $0.30

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Chronicles Singh’s childhood in India—family trips, dinners, and challenges, including the complexities and division created through language. 18 $1.80

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Poetry about Singh having his fortune told. 1 $0.10

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Explores grief through food, music, and memory. Showcases how these facets of experience intersected with his grief. 16 $1.60

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Tells the stories of the women in his life, from his great grandmother to his sister. 21 $2.10

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Recounts the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, his experience with it, and the connection to those family members lost to the Spanish Flu. 7 $0.70

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A poem about a bus ride to Ludhiana. 1 $0.10

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Revisits the terror of 1984, the trauma it caused, and how that trauma shaped his drive to be a writer. 11 $1.10

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Singh’s studies at McGill are shared. From connections made and lessons learned to the challenges created by unaddressed trauma. 30 $3.00

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Making sense of and solving the mysteries of memories is discussed while chronicling Singh’s battle with suicidal thoughts. 13 $1.30

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Singh’s decision to visit Banff, and the reaction that visit provoked. 2 $0.20

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Singh’s thoughts of his mother and her unfinished memoir, as well as his attempt to finish her project after watching a play with friends. 1 $0.10

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Confronts Singh’s mother’s death and the last essay she left him for her memoirs. 14 $1.40

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A poem about Punjabi being spoken at the Edmonton airport. 2 $0.20

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Conversations with Singh’s father while visiting in Edmonton. The struggle and process of getting him to open up and recount past events. 32 $3.20

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A poem about hearing. 3 $0.30

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Singh’s life in Calgary during the COVID-19 lockdowns. 13 $1.30

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Follows conversations and experiences between Singh and his sister in the wake of their mother’s death. 18 $1.80