Shashikala Assella, Department of American and Canadian Studies, University of Nottingham
Sri Lankan Women in American Writing
Though a part of the emerging corpus of South Asian American women writers, Sri Lankan women writers such as Ru Freeman and Karen Roberts still use native plots and native stories to bring out their ‘identity’ as Sri Lankan American authors amidst their hosts. Unlike more established Indian diasporic women authors who use their immigrant experiences, the Sri Lankan women authors base their plots and narratives on their homeland, Sri Lanka. The homeland depicted becomes an imaginary landscape because these writers focus on rural or small towns in the Island, rather than on the metropolitan cities of Colombo, Kandy, Galle etc, where they have lived and know what life is like there.
By focusing on these small towns, and characters from these small towns, both these writers attempt to bring out the ‘innocence and naiveté’ of their characters who become ‘experienced and corrupt’ with their exposure to urban centres, or characters from urban centres. Through this paper I will argue that these ‘small towns’ are no longer non- urban centres but are emerging urban centres because of their close association with media and other modes of popular culture, despite their fossilised portrayal by these two writers in their novels, A Disobedient Girl (Freeman, Ru. 2010) and The lament of the Dhobi woman (Roberts, Karen.2010) and that the writers discussed try to create a ‘Sri Lankan identity’ for themselves and their writings, through these small town innocents depicted in their novels. The metamorphosis from a small town innocent to an experienced person as well as the writers’ different interpretations of female identity and emancipation, both of which are associated with urban centres and their influence will be discussed in this paper.
The urbanisation and independence of the characters depicted in these novels also brings out the ‘created identities’ developed through these novels, for small towns as well as Sri Lankans in general in the eyes of the West. The effects of urbanisation as depicted in the novels will also be discussed in this paper, in relation to the ‘identity formation’ of the diasporic Sri Lankan community and Sri Lankan American women writers.