Wednesday, August 17, 2011

August Secret Agent Contest #41

TITLE: The Taste of Ginger
GENRE: Multi-cultural Fiction

A gaggle of women, all speaking over each other in loud, animated voices, filled my parents' small living room. It was like watching a National Geographic special about social dominance, where pitch and decibel level determined the leader. They wandered around the room, grazing on homemade samosas and pakoras, careful not to get oily crumbs on the delicate fabric of their brightly-colored Indian saris. I was sitting at the dining table near the front door so that I could fulfill my assigned duty of greeting the guests as they arrived for my sister-in-law's baby shower. From across the room I heard snippets of conversation from my mother's friends.

"Did you hear her son dropped out of medical school to be with that American girl?"

"I'm not surprised. I heard she walks like an elephant--stomping from place to place and pushing others around until she gets what she wants."

Without knowing whom they were talking about, I sympathized with the girl. My mother had often accused me of this great atrocity--walking like an elephant. I was around seven years old when I realized she wasn't calling me fat. Rather, she meant that I wasn't demure and obedient--qualities every good Indian daughter should have.

Near me, a pile of presents had amassed over the last hour. Boxes wrapped in pastel paper with cutesy cartoon monkeys, turtles, or bunnies.


  1. The setting of the scene in the first paragraph to me is perfect. It does the job of allowing me to feel like I'm in the scene without giving too much information, and it makes me curious about the narrator and what exactly she thinks of these women.

    The only thing that sticks out is the third paragraph. Something about the sentence "I heard she walks like an elephant--stomping from place to place..." seems a bit unnatural, from the "stomping from place to place" part. If this is a colloquial comparison that the women in the room are familiar with, it might be better left explained by the narrator rather than the woman using it. Just a thought. I'd love to read more.

  2. Would love to read more...very sensory much like Indian comes across very vividly in this opening passage. I'm also intrigued to hear more about the mother daughter relationship.

  3. I'd definitely read on! The "stomping from place to place" worked for me very well. I can hear the thunderous steps. I may or may not have been accused of being a tiny elephant, too :)

  4. I love how you present the culture and your MC's conflict. I'd definitely read on. The way you describe the gaggle of women set the scene perfectly.

  5. I love the scene here. I can picture it perfectly, and it is a wonderful combination of something familiar and something I want to know more about.

    I agree with the others that this line of dialogue felt awkward: "I heard she walks like an elephant--stomping from place to place and pushing others around until she gets what she wants." But I think the stomping can stay if you just replace the "and" with a comma. I think would sound like a more natural speech rhythm.

    The following two sentences felt a bit formal to me: "I was around seven years old when I realized she wasn't calling me fat. Rather, she meant that I wasn't demure and obedient--qualities every good Indian daughter should have." That could certainly be exactly what you intended, but if not, I wold cut some of the words like: "around," and "years old." Also, the word "rather" feels a bit stilted to me, but that might just be me.

    But those are such small things! I already am rooting for the character, and I definitely want to keep reading. Great work!

  6. I wasn't hooked per se, but I was drawn in by the narrative of the first paragraph. I enjoyed the word usage 'gaggle', 'National Geographic special', 'grazing' that was fantastic and let me decide quickly this was a narrator I could spent a couple hours with.

    I liked the 'walks like an elephant' line. You explained instantly what you meant by it, I think the explanation flows fine, it feels natural and authentic to the setting, and unfortunately the description is valid.

    The dialogue sounds gossipy, which I think it should, although after “I’m not surprised” I think there should be something else to explain why she wasn’t surprised before she launches into tearing into her victim. I can just picture the gossipy old bats. Good job.

  7. I was immediately in the scene and could visualize it. May be the cultural similarities played a role there. I liked the light tone that the narrator is using. It promises a good read later. I am not totally hooked but I would perfectly ok to read more. I am sure as the storyline emerges, it would be a very interesting read.

  8. I'm hooked. The thoughtfully descriptive writing and relatable protagonist are big pluses. However, I'm not really sure what the genre is (I understand you've titled it as multi-cultural fiction)...

  9. Have you posted this before? It seems so familiar to me. Especially The first line and the descriptions.

    I think if this is something I have read before you have done a good job because it was interesting enough for me to recall reading it before.

    I like the National Geographic reference.

    Nice work nailing the the feels and traditions of the culture.

  10. Very nice opening parg. It sets the scene perfectly, but I do wonder what the problem will be. It seems there will be a difficult mother/daughter relationship, but that's an internal problem, and I wonder what the external problem might be. Perhaps work that in somehow.

    And I thought you could cut Indian from "Indian saris." It's evident these woman are Indian, and sari's themselves are Indian. It just seems to be redundant to use both together.

    I'd read more, but I'd be looking for that external problem.

  11. This is excellent in about every way. We're immediately taken into scene, introduced to voices and biases, given salient details, and, in general, handed the stakes of the story (i.e. will the narrator be the obedient girl her mom and society want or the kind of girl she wants to be...). Cha-ching.