Drunk on Ink with S J Sindu and ‘Marriage of a Thousand Lies’
SJ Sindu was born in Sri Lanka and raised in Massachusetts. Sindu is the author of the novel Marriage of a Thousand Lies, which is a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award and the Publishing Triangle Award, and which was selected by the American Library Association as a Stonewall Honor Book. Sindu is also the author of the hybrid fiction and nonfiction chapbook I Once Met You But You Were Dead, which won the Split Lip Press Turnbuckle Chapbook Contest. A 2013 Lambda Literary Fellow, Sindu holds a PhD in Creative Writing from Florida State University, and currently teaches at Ringling College of Art & Design.
Lucky and her husband, Krishna, are gay. They present an illusion of marital bliss to their conservative Sri Lankan–American families, while each dates on the side. It’s not ideal, but for Lucky, it seems to be working. She goes out dancing, she drinks a bit, she makes ends meet by doing digital art on commission. But when Lucky’s grandmother has a nasty fall, Lucky returns to her childhood home and unexpectedly reconnects with her former best friend and first lover, Nisha, who is preparing for her own arranged wedding with a man she’s never met.As the connection between the two women is rekindled, Lucky tries to save Nisha from entering a marriage based on a lie. But does Nisha really want to be saved? And after a decade’s worth of lying, can Lucky break free of her own circumstances and build a new life? Is she willing to walk away from all that she values about her parents and community to live in a new truth? As Lucky—an outsider no matter what choices she makes—is pushed to the breaking point, Marriage of a Thousand Lies offers a vivid exploration of a life lived at a complex intersection of race, sexuality, and nationality. The result is a profoundly American debut novel shot through with humor and loss, a story of love, family, and the truths that define us all. A necessary and exciting addition to both the Sri Lankan-American and LGBTQ canons, SJ Sindu’s debut novel Marriage of a Thousand Lies offers a moving and sharply rendered exploration of friendship, family, love, and loss.
First author/book you read/fell in love with?
I grew up reading, and have had a lot of obsessive loves for certain books, but I’ll say that these two were special. Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, and Tanuja Desai Hidier’s Born Confused. Each of these reflected experiences I’d had and had never thought I could write about.
To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?
Beer! Though I love tea as well.
A novel, short story, poem, essay, anything you believe should be mandatory reading?
That’s so tough! I would say, right now, with the world the way that it is, Octavia Butler’s Kindred should be required reading. For Americans, it’s important to know about our horrific past with slavery in respect to the present. For non-Americans, it’s still important to know the awful things the U.S. has done on its own soil, and where the current race tensions come from.
Any classic you wished you’d pushed through in your teens?
A favorite quote from your book J
“Most people think the closet is a small room. They think you can touch the walls, touch the door, turn the handle, and walk free. But when you’re inside it, the closet is vast. No walls, no door, just empty darkness stretching the length of the world.”
Your favorite book film?
I could name a lot of hoity-toity titles, but honestly the only films I end up watching over and over that are based on books are the Harry Potter movies.
Favorite Indie Book Store/s?
I have a soft spot for the Harvard Bookstore in Cambridge, MA.
The one thing you wish you’d known about the writing life?
It’s not so much I didn’t know this but that I didn’t believe it when someone told me. I wish I’d believed that everything does not magically become clouds and rainbows after you sign your first book contract. There’s still so much plodding, important, hard work that follows. There are highs and lows, and the only difference now is that you’ve published a book—which, to be fair, is still an accomplishment to be celebrated.
Does writing/publishing/marketing get any easier with each story/novel published?
Yes. Definitely. The longer your cred list, the easier it is to get people to take you seriously, whether they be publishers or readers. And as far as writing, it gets easier and easier for me to put my butt in the chair, but the actual writing? That’s always a carrot on a stick—you never reach your ideal, and that’s the point. That’s what makes it worth doing.
Dog, Cat, Or?
Favorite book cover?
I love the little silver dots on Exit West by Mohsin Hamid. I don’t know why, but there’s something about the blues and the silver that I just love.
I cycle through favorite songs on a weekly basis. This week, it’s “Mama Said” by The Shirelles.
Literary Festival Anecdote?
I think this was at AWP Minneapolis a few years ago—I went to my first South Asian American writers’ meetup, and it was mind blowing. I’d been so cut off from this community for so long, and had no idea how much I actually needed it. I’m so, so happy I went and met some amazing people.
Tropical beach house with a bunch of friends, and easy access to queer-friendly bars and dance clubs.
Favorite work of art?
What is your favorite Austen novel and film adaptation?
Favorite novel is Emma. I used to love the Bollywood version of Pride and Prejudice– Bride and Prejudice — the one with Aishwarya Rai. It’s not great art, in terms of acting or writing, but there’s something so subversive about brown people appropriating an English novel.
Favorite Small Press and Literary Journal?
Last impulse book buy and why?
Soniah Kamal is an award winning essayist and fiction writer. Her novel Unmarriageable: Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan, a parallel retelling of Pride and Prejudice and set in contemporary Pakistan, has received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Library Journal. NPR calls it ‘thought provoking and deliciously readable’ and People Magazine says “This inventive retelling of Pride and Prejudice charms.” Unmarriageable is an Amazon Best Books pick, a People Magazine’s Pick, a New York Post Best Book pick, a Library Reads pick and more. Soniah’s debut novel An Isolated Incident was a finalist for the Townsend Award for Fiction, the KLF French Fiction Prize, and is an Amazon Rising Star pick. Soniah’s short story ‘Jelly Beans’ was selected for the Best South Asian Short Stories Anthology 2017. Her TEDx talk is about regrets and redemption. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, Buzzfeed, Catapult, The Normal School, Literary Hub, and has been widely anthologized. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Georgia State University where she was a Paul Bowles Fellow in Fiction. She currently teaches creative writing at Rhineheart University and reviews books for the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Soniah will be giving a keynote address at the Jane Austen Summer Program Conference (2019) and she is a Jane Austen Literacy Ambassador. She was born in Pakistan, grew up in England and Saudi Arabia, and currently resides in Georgia.
More Drunk on Ink Interviews:
Mike Chen: Here and Now and Then, a novel
Ruth Franklin: Shirley Jackson A Rather Haunted Life, biography
Colleen Oakley: Before I Go, a novel
Emily Midorikawa: A Secret Sisterhood: The literary friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolf, biography
Shabnam Samuel: A Fractured Life, memoir
Elise Hooper: The Other Alcott, a novel
Anne Boyd Rioux: Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters, non fiction
Devoney Looser: The Making of Jane Austen, non fiction
Kristen Miller Zohn: The Currency of Taste- Gibbons Georgian Silver, coffee table book
Vanessa Hua, A River of Stars, novel
Chaitli Sen, The Pathless Sky, novel
Sonya Huber, Pain Woman Take Your Keys, memoir
Kathy Wilson Florence, Three of Cups, a novel
Sara Luce Look, Charis Books and More, independent book store
S J Sindu, Marriage of a Thousand Lies, a novel
Rosalie Morales Kearns, Kingdom of Men, a novel
Saadia Faruqi, Meet Yasmin, children’s literature
Rene Denfeld: The Child Finder, a novel
Jamie Brenner, The Husband Hour, a novel
Sara Marchant, The Driveway has Two Sides, memoir
Kirsten Imani Kasai, The House of Erzulie, a novel
Thrity Umrigar, The Secrets Between Us, novel
John Kessel, Pride and Prometheus, novel
Lisa Romeo, Starting with Goodbye: A Daughter’s Memoir of Love After Loss
Rachel May, An American Quilt: Unfolding a Story of Family and Slavery
Rebecca Entel, Fingerprints of Previous Owners, novel
Jamie Sumner, Unbound: Finding from Unrealistic Expectations of Motherhood
Falguni Kothari, My Last Love Story, novel
Tanaz Bathena, A Girl Like That, YA novel