Media@Sydney Webinar: Correctional: on the making of a creative memoir and critical exegesis
“Correctional”: on the making of a creative memoir and critical exegesis
Completed during his time as an international research fellow in the University of Sydney’s MECO program, Ravi Shankar’s forthcoming memoir “Correctional” (University of Wisconsin Press, October 2021) frames his unexpected encounters with the law and American criminal justice system through the lenses of race, class, privilege, and his bicultural upbringing as the son of South Indian immigrants. At once the story of what led to Shankar becoming the first American academic to be promoted while incarcerated and the revelations—both personal and societal—that arise from spending a 90-day pretrial detention at Hartford Correctional Center, a level 4 high-security urban jail in Connecticut. There Shankar met predominantly men of color who shared intimate stories that, like Shankar’s, revealed the persistence of structural racism at the same time they shed light on mental health policies that perpetuate inequality and harm. “Correctional” challenges us to rethink the way we view and treat the previously incarcerated, and to reexamine the justness of our criminal justice system.Vignettes from his life, as a child in colorful Chennai; an angsty adolescent fighting against the model minority myth in Washington, DC; an emerging writer in Brooklyn; and, later, an accomplished academic, set the scene for his spectacular fall and subsequent struggle to come to terms with his own demons. Many of them, it turns out, are also our own.
Called the work of “an absolutely brilliant writer” by an advance reviewer, excerpts have appeared or are forthcoming in The New York Times, The Common, The Hartford Courant, The Michigan Quarterly Review, The Daily Beast and The Marshall Project’s Life Inside. During his time at the University of Sydney, he also wrote a critical exegesis under advance contract with Routledge University Press on prison memoirs written by American men of color. In this talk, he will discuss the countervailing pressures of writing creatively and critically simultaneously and how each practice enriches the other.
DR RAVI SHANKAR is a Pushcart prize-winning poet, translator and professor who has published 15 books, including the Muse India award-winning translations Andal: The Autobiography of a Goddess and The Many Uses of Mint: New and Selected Poems 1997-2017. Along with Tina Chang and Nathalie Handal, he co-edited W.W. Norton’s Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia & Beyond called “a beautiful achievement for world literature” by Nobel Laureate Nadine Gordimer. He has taught and performed around the world and appeared in print, radio and TV in such venues as The New York Times, NPR, BBC and the PBS Newshour. He has won awards to the Corporation of Yaddo and the MacDowell Colony, fellowships from the Rhode Island and Connecticut Counsel on the Arts, founded one of the oldest electronic journals of the arts Drunken Boat, and recently finished his PhD from the University of Sydney. His memoir “Correctional” is forthcoming in 2021 with University of Wisconsin Press.
Free event delivered via Zoom. Register here.