FAULT LINES by Meena Alexander


A Memoir
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 A memoir by Alexander (Nampally Road, 1990), tracing her life from childhood in India through youth and education in Africa and England to marriage and motherhood in Manhattan. Alexander's desire to overcome the ``torment'' of her ``multiple migrations'' in order to tell her story, however, is undercut by overwriting and an oceanic sentimentality. Beginning the story of her life with the story of this book's writing--an editor's pitch in an Upper West Side cafe; sleepless nights in the author's apartment spent assembling the ``fragments of a broken geography''--Alexander weaves back and forth between present and past, mixing metaphors and memories with abandon. ``I sit here writing, for I know that time does not come fluid and whole into my trembling hands. All that is here comes piecemeal, though sometimes the joints have fallen into place miraculously, as if the heavens had opened and mango trees fruited in the rough asphalt of upper Broadway.'' Born in 1951, the first of three daughters of a meteorologist, Alexander was raised in southern India before her father was transferred to the Sudan when she was five. From her summer visits back to her ancestral home, Alexander reconstructs her childhood idyll: There are her adoring and wise maternal grandfather in his garden of mango trees and cashews; her shrewd but affection old ayah (nanny); and the self-contained, genteel world of the joint family household. Forays into the social and political issues raised by postcolonialism and feminism occur throughout the text, but Alexander focuses on her own cultural identity crisis as metaphor for them. In her decision to wear a sari one day and a pair of jeans the next, she implicates the future of cultural difference and the integrity of the nation state. Alexander's view of herself as a sociopolitical microcosm seems far-fetched and self-absorbed; as a result, what might have been a revealing memoir remains a carelessly crafted reverie. (Photographs--not seen.)

Pub Date: April 1st, 1993
ISBN: 1-55861-058-8
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Feminist Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1993