V.V. Ganeshananthan

 

The South Asian Women’s Creative Collective (SAWCC) presents its Fifth Annual Asian Literary Festival. Titled “Electric Ladyland,” the two-day event featured a series of readings, panels, and workshops at the Asian American Writers’ Workshop and the New School for Social Research. Photo by Preston Merchant.

Interviewed by Seema Amin

“We must go on struggling to be human

though monsters of abstraction

police and threaten us.     

~   Robert Hayden

V.V. Ganeshananthan is a novelist, short story and non-fiction writer, as well as a journalist and poet. Her debut novel, Love Marriage (Random House, 2008), received widespread acclaim; it was named one of Washington Post World’s Best of 2008 and a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection, and was also longlisted for the Orange Prize. Spanning the fraught margins of war, diaspora, ethnicity, identity, nation and geopolitics, her work has been distinguished as passionate, and continues to be unrelenting, lucid, and fierce. Tracing the political and personal genealogy of a Sri Lankan Tamil American girl called Yalini, whose immigrant family’s move from the US to Toronto acts as a catalyst for the unravelling of secrets, both familial and national, personal and transpersonal as Yalini grapples with an ex-militant uncle, a link to the 25 year war still raging (at the time) in Sri Lanka, Love Marriage is the seemingly innocuous title of a courageous debut novel that had its origins as a series of vignettes composed while Ganeshananthan was still a student finishing her Bachelor thesis at Harvard in 2002.  In the years between, Ganeshananthan had established herself as a journalist and non-fiction writer.

Since then, she has continued writing across genres, though themes and areas of interest, whether intellectual, personal, aesthetic or regional, certainly overlap and reinforce each other.  Formerly Vice President of SAJA (South Asian Journalists’ Association), her articles, reviews and essays have regularly appeared in The New York TimesThe Atlantic MonthlyThe Washington PostColumbia Journalism ReviewThe San Francisco ChronicleHimal Southasian, and The American Prospect, among others. Her short stories have appeared in Granta, Ploughshares and Best American Nonrequired Reading 2014.  She has served on the board of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop and is presently part of the graduate board of The Harvard Crimsonas well as a contributing editor for Copper Nickel. A graduate of Harvard College, the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a Bollinger Fellow at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, she was Delbanco Visiting Professor of Creative Writing at Helen Zell Writers Program at University of Michigan from 2009 to 2014 and has been teaching at University of Minnesota since 2015, with a stint as visiting assistant professor at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in fall of 2016 as well. Earlier, she was awarded fellowships by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard, Philips Exeter Academy, Yaddo and the MacDowell Colony. She is a founding member of Lanka Solidarity and serves on the board of the American Institute for Sri Lankan Studies.

How has your sense of place and childhood (where you grew up) and school experiences influenced your decision to pursue journalism, write novels? I know you later worked with Jamaica Kincaid in Harvard, who supervised your thesis, what was that like?


I grew up outside Washington, D.C., in Bethesda, Maryland, and my friends and I talked about politics all the time. We read the newspaper voraciously and liked to dissect things going in the White House and on Capitol Hill. It makes some sense to me now that this might have contributed to my political interests in storytelling. I always thought and was taught that life and politics were intertwined. And I saw people tell stories to gain political power, or to take it from others. 

Jamaica Kincaid was a generous editor and teacher; she used to have me read my work aloud to myself, and then she would help me edit as I was reading. Being her student was a transformative experience.

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André Picard

Globe and Mail business journalist Andre Picard poses in the Montreal offices on September 6, 2012. For Promotions (Christinne Muschi for The Globe and Mail)

Interviewed by Vanessa Hrvatin

André Picard is a health reporter and columnist at the Globe and Mail where he has worked for 30 years. Over this time, he has established himself as a leader in the field of health journalism, being named Canada’s first “public health hero” by the Canadian Public Health Association. He has won many prestigious awards, including a National Newspaper Award—Canada’s top journalism prize—for column writing. Mr. Picard has also written several non-fiction books, his most recent Matters of Life and Death: Public Health Issues in Canada set to hit bookstores in April.

When I spoke to Mr. Picard, he was in Quebec City covering the recent mosque attack. I managed to catch him at a quiet moment where he filled me on his long-standing career as a health reporter.

Was being a journalist always what you wanted to do?

No, not at all. I actually studied accounting. I only got involved in my student newspaper because I’m a big music fan, so I ended up being a record reviewer—that’s how my stellar career began. But the funny thing is because I was a business student I sort of got drawn further and further into the paper because student newspapers always have money problems. So I got drawn in in an odd fashion and never became an accountant.

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Andrea Canning

DATELINE NBC -- Season: 24 -- Pictured: Andrea Canning -- (Photo by: Virginia Sherwood/NBC)

DATELINE NBC — Season: 24 — Pictured: Andrea Canning — (Photo by: Virginia Sherwood/NBC)

Interviewed by Stephanie Hungerford

Andrea Canning is a correspondent for NBC’s Dateline and contributes to all NBC News platforms. She has reported on major crime stories, high profile trials and breaking news, including the Boston Marathon Bombing, Hurricane Sandy, the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and the terrorist attack at Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Since arriving at Dateline, she has also reported hour-long documentaries on campus sexual assault and adoption fraud.

Prior to joining NBC News in 2012, Canning served as an ABC News correspondent for eight years where she covered the White House, Congress, the Supreme Court and the Iraq War, reporting on everything from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and the Casey Anthony case, to her 2011 headline-making interview with actor Charlie Sheen. Long before that, Canning was a reporter and evening news anchor for CKVR Television in Barrie, Ontario. A graduate of the University of Western Ontario, she also studied radio and television arts at Ryerson in Toronto. Canning is married to Lt. Col. Tony Bancroft, a former F-18 fighter pilot with the U.S. Marine Corps. They have five young daughters. She is on Twitter @CanningAndrea.

I reached out to her because she is an inspiration to me, not only as a writer, but also as a working mother in the highly competitive television industry. Canning’s dedication to her work and family is more than just admirable. When I met with her in New York a few years back, she walked me through her daily schedule. I’ll never forget it. The hours were grueling. She was up at the crack of dawn, sometimes earlier, and back at the studio late into the evening. Every minute was accounted for, including making sure she had dinner with her daughters, regardless of whether or not she had to go back to the studio to burn the midnight oil. Hard working and determined, Canning’s real gift is her way with words. Her investigations are thorough yet empathetic; kind yet inquisitive. The way she unravels a story is so intuitive that she’s able to guide the viewer on an effortless journey. If that isn’t the mark of a great storyteller, I don’t know what is.

You’ve had a very successful career as a correspondent working for major American networks. How did you land your first job?

There was no internet, so I paid for this service called Medialine that cost about 10 dollars a month. It listed local news job openings across the country on its telephone hotline. I sent out my VHS resume reels to 60 stations. I got two calls. One from Nebraska and one from Mississippi.  Nebraska passed. Mississippi gave me a pop quiz on the phone. I passed and was hired as their morning anchor. I had made a very amateur reel that thankfully made enough of an impression. Times have changed!
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