Friday, April 10, 2009

# TEA AND OTHER AYAMA NA TALES by Eleanor Bluestein and a GIVEAWAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Publisher: BkMk Press
PubDate: 11/30/2008
ISBN: 9781886157644
Price: $16.95

"Tea and Other Ayama Na Tales" by Eleanor Bluestein is a book of 10 short stories set in a mythical country somewhere in the South-East of Asia. Although Ayama Na is a fictitious land, its characters and their surroundings are vibrantly alive. What the reader gathers quite early on in the book is that Ayama Na used to be a thriving country which was then taken over in a bloody coup. The new tyrants ensured the country became a cultural wasteland by putting to death as many artists, (dancers, playwrights, actors etc.) as they could find. The rest of the people were forcibly taken to labor camps where they toiled day and night in the fields or mines, eventually starving to death. Furthermore, the country was dotted with landmines making it virtually impossible for anyone to escape.

The stories in this book are set in modern-day Ayama Na. The nation is in the process of rebuilding itself emotionally and physically- artists are back at work, American tourists are arriving in the country in droves and the King and Queen have just given birth to an heir - all appears to be good, however, the country is still shackled by poverty, superstition, corruption, tyranny and machismo.

Through these 10 remarkable stories Eleanor B. - winner of the G.S. Sharat Chandra Prize for Short Fiction - has conjured up a wounded country populated by amputees begging in the streets, a pineapple farmer, obnoxious American tourists, an outspoken beauty queen, novice Buddhist monk, a one-legged prostitute with deep red hair and impoverished fisher-folk living in crude houseboats because they can't afford proper houses. Written with a rare sensitivity about ordinary people confronting the anguish of their past while trying to live meaningful lives in the 21st century, the stories in this volume weave a magical web of emotions around the reader. Bluestein is a captivating narrator often using prose so vivid it makes the land breathe...she also also possesses the gift of description and her wonderful use of colors, smells and sounds evoke the full flavor of life in Ayama Na.

In "Tea and Other Ayama Na Tales", Eleanor Bluestein has created for us a country that will not be easily forgotten. At times bewitching and enticing, at times unattractive and charmless, Ayama Na is a nation at a crossroad...which route will it follow? As I read, I was reminded of our visit to Cambodia last year..they are also a nation fighting to throw off the shackles of the past and learning to embrace modernity much to the angst of the traditionalists. I was intrigued enough to ask Eleanor Bluestein if she had Cambodia in mind when she developed Ayama her interview to see what she says!

**Giveaway** I have a copy here (kind courtesy the author) for one lucky reader- all you have to do is leave a comment and you'll be entered in the draw...good luck!

To order your copy from Small Press Distribution click here, or from Amazon click here

For a brief Q & A session with the author, please go here

Blog Tour Stops:

Wednesday, April 1st: The Bluestocking Society
Monday, April 6th: Bookstack
Wednesday, April 8th: Nerd’s Eye View
Friday, April 10th: Lotus Reads
Monday, April 13th: 8Asians
Wednesday, April 15th: 1979 Semi-finalist…
Friday, April 17th: Ramya’s Bookshelf
Monday, April 20th: Feminist Review
Thursday, April 23rd: Trish’s Reading Nook
Tuesday, April 28th: Medieval Bookworm
Wednesday, April 29th: Savvy Verse and Wit

For more reviews of this, and other fine books, visit TLC Book Tours

April 20,2009

****** I want to congratulate Zibiliee,winner of the giveaway...thanks, all of you, for participating, stick around for there will be more! Zibilee please contact me privately with your mailing address, thank you!**********


nimrodiel said...

This sounds like a fantastic book!

I would love to be included in your giveaway drawing.

iselldreams said...

The topic line of the book sounds quite attractive plus i am sure it would be an interesting task to capture a vivid image of this mythical country in mind while reading. And thank you for providing such a nice interview :)

Lotus Reads said...

@nimrodiel ~ Your name's in the box..good luck! And yes, this is a wonderful book....the characters and stories are so're in for a treat!

@iselldreams ~ Yes...I was thinking the same thing as I read the book! What might it be like to invent a new country for a story? Would I be able to convince readers it actually exists? E.Bluestein does such a remarkable job of making Ayama Na come alive! I'm putting your name in the box as well...I absolutely do not mind mailing a copy out to you in Istanbul if you win!

Anonymous said...

thank you for all of your fantastic reviews...this looks like a great book.

East - West said...

Thanks Angelique for the book review and the Q&A--interesting. I can see why the venue would be South-East Asia as this is perhaps the region of the world that is dealing, as the author has said, with tension between modernity and traditions. A fictitious country does give one more liberty. But in all fiction, there is an element of reality. I would love to receive the book in the drawing. Best.

Lotus Reads said...

@Rebecca~ Thank you for stopping by and reading the reviews! Yup, definitely, your name has been entered in the draw.

@Laju ~ This pull between modernity and tradition is one of the battles India also faced (and is still facing). Some historians argue that one of the reasons China found it so easy to march into the 21st century straight out of the shadow of Mao is because they were able,in one fell swoop, to let go of the ancient traditions that were seen as holding them back. I hope places like Ayama Na are able to strike a happy balance between the ancient and the modern. Thailand seems to have done it quite well and so has India. Laju, thanks for your thoughtful comment!

The Pixy Princess said...

Sounds delightful and intriguing. I loves it! Sign me up!

ikkinlala said...

I'd love to enter the draw if Canadians may.

hellomelissa said...

as usual, a thoughtful and well written review of an intriguing book. your interview was informative and thought-provoking as well. kudos to both you AND eleanor bluestein!

Lotus Reads said...

@Pixy ~ You're signed up...good luck!

@ikkinlala ~ What a nice and unusual name! Welcome! I'm in Canada definitely qualify for the draw! :)

@Melissa ~ Thank you! Glad you enjoyed the review and interview as much as I enjoyed doing it!

Unknown said...

nice review. I'd also like to be part of the draw. Thanks.

Eleanor said...

Thanks to all of you, in USA and other countries, who commented on Angelique's great review and expressed interest in my book. That pull between tradition and modernity you talk about, Laju, exists, I think, even in one's own lifetime in stable countries as the younger generations move to places the older ones have never gone. I'd love to know what you all think about that.

Marilyn said...

WOW! What an incredible concept! I was reminded of my dear professor, Charolette Opfermann, who wrote "The Art of Darkness" of her time in a camp that held artists, writers, actors...during WWII...surrounded as a child by some of the greatest minds in the arts who were often forced to give their final performances before being sent off to Auschwitz.

Just the concept of this work...somehow brought me back to my dialogues with her before she passed away.

For a work of fiction..this work should be incredibly telling about the need to create under such horrific circumstances as conflicts seem to show us. There is often a thin line between fiction and fact...

Great review!

iselldreams said...

Oh how nice of you! Thank you so much:)

karmic said...

Hi there Lotus. Wow! Please accept my congratulations on a truly wonderful review of a very interesting book and your first blog author interview. Truly way to go! I hope you will have an opportunity to do more of these. I think they always make the book review more fun.
I have not read this book and as Laju mentions, a setting in a fictional country does allow for more literary freedom, allowing the author to perhaps combine or separate elements that normally would not be together well.
Did you get a sense of this from reading the stories? Was there anything that did not ring true?
And to speak to your comment.. Some historians argue that one of the reasons China found it so easy to march into the 21st century straight out of the shadow of Mao is because they were able,in one fell swoop, to let go of the ancient traditions that were seen as holding them back.
Was this truly "letting go" in the classic sense? After all Mao was authoritarian, did the masses truly have a choice?
I loved the Q n A with Ms. Bluestein. You ask the most illuminating Qs and I enjoyed reading her responses as well.
Any reason why she used the format of the short story?
Are tourists really this loud? Isn't the very act of their coming to visit mean they are giving back to the country? Certainly most of them shop there too, to carry back with them a part of the place they visited.
And to the author's point I think, even in one's own lifetime in stable countries as the younger generations move to places the older ones have never gone. I'd love to know what you all think about that..
I could not agree more, I think while the nature of change and the tussle between the old and new is more obvious in countries such as India, China. It is also happening in places like the US. It may be more subtle but it is there.
Thank you for a enjoyable review and Q n A.

Lotus Reads said...

@John ~ Thanks!

@Eleanor ~ Thank you for such an incredible book! Each story was precious in its own way and I feel a lot richer for having read them. FOr many of us, especially those of us that live in developed countries, modernity is something we encounter in small doses does not leap out at us from the shadows and all at once, and so I guess we have been able to get used to it. For many people living in developing countries, modernity is coming to them in one big rush and is throwing their lives into disarray.

jenclair said...

I love the sound of this one (and the title!). I'm adding it to the TBR list. Thanks, Lotus!

Lotus Reads said...

@Marilyn ~ Thanks for your thoughts! "The Art of Darkness" sounds like an incredible book, I will need to get my hands on it. Artists and dancers suffered terribly during the Cultural revolution in China and also in Cambodia during Pol Pot's regime. When we visited Cambodia last year I found people there were desperate to forget their immediate past and yet yearned to remember a more ancient past...Cambodia's golden age, when the great temples of Angkor Wat were built. You will enjoy "The Cut the Crap Machine" from Bluestein's collection of tales of Ayama Na...look for it!

@Iselldreams ~ You are welcome!

@Jenclair ~ I love the title was what attracted me to Eleanor's book in the first place. The stories are just as wonderful, if not more!

Lotus Reads said...

Hey Sanjay!

Yes, it was a lot of fun doing this review and the interview. As you know already, South-East Asia is very close to my heart and the similarities between Ayama Na and Cambodia were so real and beautiful that it kept me hooked to every page. To answer your question, everything about Ayama Na was completely I said in my review, the author's prose made it breathe.

Re: China and letting go. Exactly, they had no choice. When the Chinese govt. deigned that the hutongs had to make way for skyrises, the people that lived in the hutongs were displaced overnight to areas far away from anything they had ever known. Imagine something like that happening in India...there would be riots!!!

No, not all tourists are loud. But American tourists are usually typecast, fairly or not, as loud, crass vacationers! As for giving back, yes, it is wonderful that tourists visit, but most of us book our hotels, tours and cars online with well-known international tour agencies. How much of the money we spend actually goes to the local people? I don't know. This is why I feel better if I am able to spend money locally..supporting local eateries, artists etc.

Sanj, thanks for reading the review and for articulating your thoughts...most appreciated!

gs said...

hi lr
what a review! wow!! makes me jump out and go to the nearest bookshop at taj or oberoi or oxford and grab a copy if it is available.thanks for including the interview with the author.that makes understanding the context better.have you read 'still alice' by lisa genova?

Betty Ann said...

Interesting and then intriguing after the Q and A with the author. New to your site but know I will return often.

Eleanor said...

Again, thank you to all who commented on this great review and expressed interest in the book. I knew when I did the interview that I was out on a limb with my answer to the "obnoxious tourist" question. The story to which the review refers is really the story of a tour guide who has made a decision to give up a rather degenerate life and become virtuous, which includes seeing the good in everyone. He is sorely tested in this decision by some difficult tourists, but finds a kind of perfection in them. In a sense, he is battling for his very soul.

To reassure you, I am an appreciative tourist with good behavior, but I did look deep inside and examine my own attitudes for this story.

What wonderful, thought-provoking comments on this site!

Unknown said...

Wow! Your review is really great as it made me want to read the book. I bet it is hard to read such vivid depictions of poverty but at the same time, I am a great lover of descriptive language. I'll try to find it here.

BTW, it is quite cool that a former science teacher/editor wrote such a book. It's also quite lovely that she works as an advocate for foster children. I wonder if being close to such emotional pain influenced her writing.

Madeleine said...

Angelique, I left you some awards on my blog.

Lotus Reads said...

@gs ~ How absolutely wonderful to "see" you! Only this morning I was wondering where you were...been busy travelling I guess? You are most welcome for the review and the book is available on No, I haven't read "Still Alice"...would you recommend it?

@Betian ~ Warm welcome! Thank you so much for stopping to leave me a comment. Would love to see you again soon!

@Eleanor ~ What I loved about your stories is that aside from being entertaining and interesting, they also made me think! That is truly a hallmark of a good storyteller.

@Angela ~ Thank you so much for your thoughts. You ask a very interesting question of Eleanor, I hope she stops by again as I, too, would would love to know what influenced these stories.

@Madeleine ~ THank you! I'll be right there!

Eleanor said...

Angela, thanks. The difficult issues in the story "Hamburger School," might have been influenced by problems foster children and their families face.

But more than that, I'm continually blown away by how accurately--even brilliantly--these children and teenagers size up the adults in their lives.

Brown Paper said...

I already have a million books on my TBR list, but this one sounds like a must-read. Please include me in the draw...

Lotus Reads said...

@Brown paper ~ Would be glad to, thanks for stopping by!

Id it is said...

This one is on!
Incidentally, the read from Cuba, "Ruins" was somewhat of a disappointment...

tamma13 said...

Great interview! Loved the questions -and really enjoyed the author's responses.

Unknown said...

why was marc forster in MUMBAI?

(pics on:; unfortunately in german)

Lotus Reads said...

@Id ~ Sorry to hear that. I look forward to reading your review anyway!

@Tamma ~ Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Hi Anjali:

Congratulations on your first blog author interview…amazing, do hope you will be able to do more. This sounds a very interesting book, I too wondered why the author would choose a fictional country, as mentioned, it does allow the author more literary freedom.

The Q&A was enjoyable, thank you so much…makes a book review much more interesting.

I would like to read this book…………

Take Care.


gs said...

hi lr
it is always a pleasure to visit your blog and to read the penetrating book reviews. manytimes i don't find the need to read the book as i get fully satiated."still alice" is terrific. you will love it.

Ko. said...

It sounds like a fun novel!
I would love for a chance to win the novel =3

Zibilee said...

This book sounds really interesting, I would love a chance to win a copy, thanks!

Anonymous said...

This looks great. It's not too often you see people making up countries if it is not sci-fi. I really like the cover design.

Lotus Reads said...

@ Sylvia, Edward and Zibilee ~ THanks so much for visiting! Zibilee you are the lucky winner of the giveaway, congrats! Your name was pulled out of the hat by my 14-year old daughter who also sends her congratulations. Please send me your address, my e-mail addy is


Lotus Reads said...

@Rubycanary ~ Welcome! Delighted to have you here! Yes, you're right, drawing up a fictional country is quite unique in this genre (the thought hadn't really occurred to me until you mentioned it, thanks!). Yes, I was hoping someone would mention the cover art...I think that pot of tea with the steam cloud is quite striking too.

Funny Girl said...

Wow! Great blog. I am passing on the Premio Dardos Award to you. Go to my blog to read about it and then pass it on to 15 outstanding blogs.

Madeleine said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Zibilee said...

Just read the guest post by the author. She sounds like a really creative and interesting person. I had been wondering if she was planning on a novel, so I am glad you asked. I am very much looking forward to reading this book. It sounds like it will be fantastic.

Aarti said...

This book sounds really great! I have recently gotten into short stories, so I will definitely add this one to the wish list. Thanks!

Gaby317 said...

This sounds really interesting. I'd grown up in Southeast Asia and would love to hear this fictionalized version of SE Asia.

Pls count me in!

I'm also a new follower - very much like your blog

gaby317nyc AT gmail DOT com

gautami tripathy said...

It was your review that made me request the book from the author. She obliged and I loved reading the short story collection. Thanks!

I linked your review with mine. Here is my review:

Tea and Other Ayama Na Tales