Blue Sunflower Startle
by Yasmin Ladha
Finalist for the 2011 Alberta Trade Fiction Book of the Year!
A home harbours secrets. Father has cancer. He is dying. Not a word.
Mother tells me to take care of my little brother.
In the early 1960s, a young girl and her brother move to their grandparents’ flourmill in Dodoma in newly-independent Tanzania. Her grandfather bellows his love for East Africa, where he and other Indian merchants have thrived. But the ground is shifting. President Nyerere is calling for the widespread nationalization of property. The hum of the mill has quieted. The young girl prays at the jamatkhana (Give me back my father) and spends evenings at the cinema watching cowboy films—grief and grievances, if only momentarily, disappear.
Hush, not a word.
Years later, the girl and her family immigrate to Calgary, Alberta and she begins a love affair with the prairies. Wary that her grandfather’s passion for his country consumed him, she is unwilling to settle for geographical monogamy. She travels to Chonju, South Korea to work as a language teacher, and Delhi, India for trysts with her Kashmiri lover. Frequently, she is startled by the appearance of things that remind her of the prairies, but show up in other countries. She aches for a home that beckons her return: the Canadian West, the hero that pulls a U-turn for its beloved.
Would you come for her, all ribby hair, or slicing the air like a boomerang, hollering at God? Would you strike a wild deal with Him, anything to get her back?
Yasmin Ladha offers readers an exquisite exploration of the ways in which one can love a country. Written in unusual, intoxicating, and poetic prose, Blue Sunflower Startle is a modern day Romance for frequent travellers and nomadic spirits.
PRAISE FOR YASMIN LADHA:
“Yasmin Ladha splits the page wide open… These stories delight in their ability to capture one’s senses, drag the reader to the centre of taste or sight or sound, then backflip into an ending of surprise but never trickery.”
—Nicole Markotic, Prairie Fire