Remixing cultural heritage and spiritual tradition from South Asia to Southern California

MehfilMassive_Postcard-1-670x502While writer Amar Ravva and I sat chatting about his new book at the Echo Park Boathouse the other afternoon, a woman approached us with a colorful pamphlet. In broken English, she smiled and said something about God.

photoIt was an appropriate exchange, given that Ravva’s new work is about a religious ritual he undergoes in India, at his mother’s request.

“American Canyon,” published by Southern California-based Kaya Press, is not so much a spiritual quest as it is a lyrical chronicle of Ravva’s search for identity. Born in the United States to parents who emigrated from India, Ravva spent five years there as a child.

For this book, he packed up a video camera and trekked to the southern India town of Rameswaram. The resulting work in an inventive, poetic memoir, drawing on images from the footage he shot.

Ravva wanted to understand where his family came from, given that his heritage is diffused by his own birth in this country, while his parents cling to old traditions from back home.

“It had to do with my displacement, my fractured identity, having one foot in the past in India, and another in America, and never knowing who I was,” he said.

We talked about “American Canyon” (and what the title means) in advance of an event Ravva is participating in tonight at USC: Mehfil Massive: South Asian Religions Remixed Through Poetry and Music.