Parameswaran, Uma 1938-
Parameswaran, Uma 1938-
Born 1938, in Madras, Tamil Nadu, India; immigrated to Canada in the 1960s; married; children: one daughter. Education: Jabalpur University, B.A.; Nagpur University, M.A. (journalism); Indiana University, M.A. (creative writing); Michigan State University, Ph.D., 1972.
Home—Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Office—University of Winnipeg, 515 Portage Ave., Winnipeg, Manitoba R3B 2E9, Canada. E-mail—[email protected]
University of Winnipeg, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, professor of English. Founder of PALI: Performing Arts and Literatures of India. Worked as newspaper reporter in India.
Writers' Union of Canada (regional representative)
Fulbright scholar; Lady Eaton Award, 1967, for The Door I Shut behind Me; Caribe Playwriting Competition Award, 1980; New Muse Award, 1999, and Jubilee Award, 2000, both for What Was Always Hers.
Cyclic Hope, Cyclic Pain, Writers Workshop (Calcutta, India), 1973.
A Study of Representative Indo-English Novelists, Vikas Publishing House (New Delhi, India), 1976.
(Editor) The Commonwealth in Canada: Proceedings of the Second Triennial Conference of CACLALS, University of Winnipeg, 1-4 October 1981, Writers Workshop (Calcutta, India), 1983.
Rootless But Green Are the Boulevard Trees (play), TSAR (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1987.
Trishanku (poems), TSAR (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1988.
The Door I Shut Behind Me: Selected Fiction, Poetry and Drama, Affiliated East-West Press (Madras, India), 1990.
SACLIT: An Introduction to South-Asian Canadian Literature, EastWest Books (Madras, India), 1996.
(Editor) SACLIT Drama: Plays by South Asian Canadians, IBH Prakashana (Bangalore, India), 1996.
(Editor) Quilting a New Canon: Stitching Women's Words, Sister Vision (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1996.
(Editor) Rahul Varma, Land Where the Trees Talk, and Other Plays, Prestige Books (New Delhi, India), 1998.
(Editor) Rana Bose, Five or Six Characters in Search of Toronto and Other Plays, Prestige Books (New Delhi, India), 1998.
Sons Must Die and Other Plays, Prestige Books (New Delhi, India), 1998.
Trishanku and Other Writings, Prestige Books (New Delhi, India), 1998.
What Was Always Hers, Broken Jaw Press (Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada), 1999.
Kamala Markandaya, Rawat Publications (Jaipur, India), 2000.
The Sweet Smell of Mother's Milk-Wet Bodice, Broken Jaw Press (Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada), 2001.
Mangoes on the Maple Tree, Broken Jaw Press (Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada), 2002.
Sisters at the Well (poems), Indialog (New Delhi, India), 2002.
Riding High with Krishna and a Baseball Bat (stories), iUniverse (Lincoln, NE), 2006.
The Forever Banyan Tree (novella), Larkuma (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada), 2007.
Fighter Pilots Never Die (stories), Larkuma (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada), 2007.
Salman Rushdie's Early Fiction, Rawat Publications (Jaipur, India), 2007.
Writing the Diaspora: Essays on Cul[t]ure and Identity, Rawat Publications (Jaipur, India), 2007.
Editor of Prairie Gold, University of Winnipeg, 1980-99.
Uma Parameswaran has written extensively about the experiences of South Asian immigrants in Canada. Her plays, fiction, poetry, and criticism explore such issues as cultural difference, assimilation, family relationships, and women's lives. According to Herizons writer Maya Khankhoje in a review of Parameswaran's first novel, Mangoes on the Maple Tree, Parameswaran explains India to the rest of the world "without either idealizing India or treating it as an exotic fruit. And most importantly, she never patronizes her readers."
The story of two Indian families that immigrate to Canada to ensure better opportunities for their children, Mangoes on the Maple Tree is set during the devastating Winnipeg flood of 1997. As with most narratives about immigration, the plot includes generational conflict, racism, and culture clash. Reviewing the book for World Literature Today, James Gerein observed that despite its unconvincing dialogue, the novel "is largely a success, for it gives us a glimpse into the lives of a recent immigrant family and how they feel about their new home as well as the tensions among themselves." At the same time, however, Gerein pointed out that the theme of dislocation is common to most Canadians, not only recent immigrants.
What Was Always Hers, a collection of five short stories, was particularly well received, winning the New Muse Award and the Jubilee Award. In the title story, an Indian immigrant in Canada obtains a wife from his native country, only to divorce her after she arrives. His second wife, another India-born Canadian, befriends the first wife after the husband dies in a car crash. According to World Literature Today contributor Susheela N. Rao, the story is overly contrived. The critic felt that Parameswaran's novella The Sweet Smell of Mother's Milk-Wet Bodice offers a more skillfully-crafted depiction of a woman's experience of immigration. The book tells the story of Namita, a sheltered Indian girl who is overwhelmed by her new environment in Canada and by her manipulative husband and in-laws. In a Herizons review, Wendy Robbins described the book as "activist literature, woman-empowering fiction" with a "political edge."
Parameswaran's plays, according to World Literature Today contributor Rao, "are an expression of the symbiosis of cultures and the aspirations of the [Indian] immigrants" in Winnipeg. In her critique of the title play in Sons Must Die and Other Plays, about a son who dies in battle in Kashmir during the partition of 1947, Rao observed that "in her eagerness to show the intermingling of cultural influences, Parameswaran lets her imagination override her reason." Contrived plot elements, according to Rao, undermine the play's realism.
Sisters at the Well, a collection of poetry, explores themes similar to those in Parameswaran's fiction. In a World Literature Today review, John Oliver Perry observed that the "provenance of this poetry, like its writer, is distinctly Canadian"—a perspective that "properly qualifies and gives a special excitement to the whole poetic experience."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Canadian Book Review Annual, January 1, 2000, review of What Was Always Hers, p. 181; January 1, 2001, review of The Sweet Smell of Mother's Milk-Wet Bodice, p. 176; January 1, 2002, review of Mangoes on the Maple Tree, p. 177.
Herizons, summer, 2000, review of What Was Always Hers, p. 30; summer, 2002, Wendy Robbins, review of The Sweet Smell of Mother's Milk-Wet Bodice, p. 36; fall, 2003, Maya Khankhoje, review of Mangoes on the Maple Tree, p. 35.
World Literature Today, summer, 1989, John Oliver Perry, review of Trishanku and Other Writings; January 1, 1990, Feroza Jussawalla, review of The Perforated Sheet: Essays on Salman Rushdie's Art, p. 200; spring, 1999, Susheela N. Rao, review of Sons Must Die and Other Plays; summer, 2000, B. Hariharan, review of Kamala Markandaya; January 1, 2002, Susheela N. Rao, review of What Was Always Hers, p. 136; April 1, 2003, John Oliver Perry, review of Sisters at the Well, p. 96; July 1, 2003, James Gerein, review of Mangoes on the Maple Tree, p. 91.
University of Winnipeg Faculty Page, http://io.uwinnipeg.ca/˜parmswrn/ (June 25, 2007).