A woman grieves a miscarriage, haunted by the Buddha's birth. An artist with schizophrenia tries to survive hatred and indifference in small-town India by turning to the beauty of sculpture and dance. Orphans in India get pulled into a strange "rescue" mission aimed at stripping their mysterious powers. Winner of the 2017 Dzanc Short Story Collection Prize, White Dancing Elephants explores feminist, queer, religious, and immigrant stories.
There will be pain, drama, multiculturalism, unfulfilled desires, and the repercussions of love. Yes, reading this will be painful, but you will enjoy every page ... Bhuvaneswar is a talented storyteller who can take big topics like harassment and racism and illustrate their destructive power by pulling them into the lives of her characters and showing us the results. Although her dark themes can make reading an uncomfortable experience at times, our current political and cultural landscape means White Dancing Elephants is a necessary book — and one that introduces a gifted voice to contemporary literature.
Chaya Bhuvaneswar’s stories are brooding, precise, and painful indictments of patriarchal cultures ... Colorism, homophobia, and racism toward and among women of color are frequent, acid themes. The details here are realistic and sharp: observations of 'sausage-casing cleavage'; of books so fine that 'a good wind would blow away the words'; of gilt frames and expensive fabrics and baubles that never satisfy. Of vicious poison that chokes the lungs, and of storied forests that once knew better times. Radical and searing, the stories of White Dancing Elephants demand and warrant an attentive, listening audience.
Ms. Bhuvaneswar is not always in control of her volatile material and some of the stories seem more like explosions of grief or outrage than crafted dramas. But a pleasingly devious streak, at times reminiscent of Patricia Highsmith, winds through the collection, offsetting the latent melodrama. Shocking late twists and disclosures furnish a sense of unpredictability ... In this erratic but compulsively readable debut, the manipulations extend to the reader as well.