In Extended Families: A Memoir of India, award-winning author Ven Begamudré traces the history of both sides of his family, telling a story that is both timeless and universal.
"My grandmother’s house has two gates. The iron from which they were wrought long ago turned to irony.” So begins the story of a South Indian family of high-caste Brahmins, men and women, who guarded a treasury, became electrical engineers, and built dams and power stations. Their stories, told through journal entries, poetry, fiction and photographs, are filtered through the lens of Ven, first as a boy and then as a young adult and finally, a man. At the heart of the work is the relationship between parent and child, Ven and his mother and father, as they continually fight and separate, first in India, and then, later, in Canada and the United States. The book culminates with the death of Ven’s mother in India and the immersion of her ashes.
Stories passed down from generation to generation are intertwined with those of the Hindu gods, beautifully illuminating the eternal bonds of family.
"Begamudré is an excellent storyteller. We hear tales of a singer uncle who was in hiding from the Criminal Investigation Department for his subversive involvement in the Quit India movement, an aunt who was a savvy politician, and Begamudré's mother, who committed suicide by setting herself on fire. The stories that comprise Extended Families are compelling, and the quiet purpose of their telling is revealed slowly. These are Begamudré's life stories-- a saga of immigration and return, divorced parents, powerful family, and belonging and not fitting in.”
“What [Begamudré] found in India was the opposite of belonging or self. Instead, his journal entries from this trip reveal alienation, dispersal, self-annihilation – what a young man with ambitions to become a writer might deem unbearable "gaps." But it is exactly these gaps – and the young writer's attempt to bridge them in fiction (reproduced here) – that makes this material, returned to in 1991, so interesting...Not a memoir of identity but of reinvention."