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The Ocean of Mrs. Nagai

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Sharbari Zohra Ahmed’s stories are spread across continents, involving characters from an old Japanese woman to a Bangladeshi child making friends with downtrodden kids in Ethiopia, to an adopted American woman of Bangladeshi origin. In other words, these are stories of cultural encounters. The title story is about Mrs. Nagai, an elderly and amicable Japanese woman whose hu Sharbari Zohra Ahmed’s stories are spread across continents, involving characters from an old Japanese woman to a Bangladeshi child making friends with downtrodden kids in Ethiopia, to an adopted American woman of Bangladeshi origin. In other words, these are stories of cultural encounters. The title story is about Mrs. Nagai, an elderly and amicable Japanese woman whose husband was an ex-Japanese soldier during the Second World War. It incorporates conflicting narratives of the war, without tilting to any one side, but it is through Mrs. Nagai’s character that readers see the war in a new light. In ‘Pepsi’, a culturally alienated Bangladeshi girl whose father is a diplomat in Ethiopia spends time with a bunch of poor kids living across the street only to see them evicted as a consequence of this friendship. ‘Raisins not Virgins’ is a witty love story that pivots around a Bangladeshi American couple in New York City. While the man stands vehemently against repressive US policies against Muslims the world over, the woman reprimands conservative Islamic ideologies. ‘Alexander Detained’ is particularly important for it shows what it means to be a Muslim in the US following the 9/11 attacks and imagines a dystopia that is not so outlandish. What makes these stories stand out from the very beginning is their tonality, which is fresh and challenges agreed-upon perceptions of the world. She often uses humour to illuminate human frailty. Her characters are vividly described and her awareness of current international politics is engaging, to say the least.


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Sharbari Zohra Ahmed’s stories are spread across continents, involving characters from an old Japanese woman to a Bangladeshi child making friends with downtrodden kids in Ethiopia, to an adopted American woman of Bangladeshi origin. In other words, these are stories of cultural encounters. The title story is about Mrs. Nagai, an elderly and amicable Japanese woman whose hu Sharbari Zohra Ahmed’s stories are spread across continents, involving characters from an old Japanese woman to a Bangladeshi child making friends with downtrodden kids in Ethiopia, to an adopted American woman of Bangladeshi origin. In other words, these are stories of cultural encounters. The title story is about Mrs. Nagai, an elderly and amicable Japanese woman whose husband was an ex-Japanese soldier during the Second World War. It incorporates conflicting narratives of the war, without tilting to any one side, but it is through Mrs. Nagai’s character that readers see the war in a new light. In ‘Pepsi’, a culturally alienated Bangladeshi girl whose father is a diplomat in Ethiopia spends time with a bunch of poor kids living across the street only to see them evicted as a consequence of this friendship. ‘Raisins not Virgins’ is a witty love story that pivots around a Bangladeshi American couple in New York City. While the man stands vehemently against repressive US policies against Muslims the world over, the woman reprimands conservative Islamic ideologies. ‘Alexander Detained’ is particularly important for it shows what it means to be a Muslim in the US following the 9/11 attacks and imagines a dystopia that is not so outlandish. What makes these stories stand out from the very beginning is their tonality, which is fresh and challenges agreed-upon perceptions of the world. She often uses humour to illuminate human frailty. Her characters are vividly described and her awareness of current international politics is engaging, to say the least.

47 review for The Ocean of Mrs. Nagai

  1. 4 out of 5

    Khalisah

    One of the most tantalising collection of short stories I've ever read. While I enjoy Jhumpa Lahiri's work, Sharbari actually makes me feel connected to Bangladesh and its diaspora. I read it on my honeymoon and i'm afraid I've left it by accident in Thailand! I had planned on rereading it. I look forward to more work by Sharbari. One of the most tantalising collection of short stories I've ever read. While I enjoy Jhumpa Lahiri's work, Sharbari actually makes me feel connected to Bangladesh and its diaspora. I read it on my honeymoon and i'm afraid I've left it by accident in Thailand! I had planned on rereading it. I look forward to more work by Sharbari.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Rajiv

    The stories are good, but the problem is that they reek of sentiment. I felt it was being shoved down my throat.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ashna Chowdhury

    Wonderfully alive stories with complex and interesting characters at the intersection of seemingly disparate cultures and multiple layers of identity. Perfect for us 3rd culture kids... especially from Bangladesh. If this is the kind of storytelling I am to expect, I can’t wait to read Sharbari’s upcoming novel!

  4. 4 out of 5

    World Literature Today

    "The common thread sewing Sharbari’s unpredictable collection together is the fantastical chance encounters that the most ordinary and apolitical of people—immigrants, spouses, children, artists, academicians—have with historical and global events." - Shilpa Kameswaran, New York This book was reviewed in the March 2014 issue of World Literature Today. Visit our site for the full review: http://bit.ly/1fWHRMJ "The common thread sewing Sharbari’s unpredictable collection together is the fantastical chance encounters that the most ordinary and apolitical of people—immigrants, spouses, children, artists, academicians—have with historical and global events." - Shilpa Kameswaran, New York This book was reviewed in the March 2014 issue of World Literature Today. Visit our site for the full review: http://bit.ly/1fWHRMJ

  5. 4 out of 5

    Sheela Rahman

    The collection of stories is enjoyable for the variety of settings and emotions that they evoke, which may be more palatable to women then men - fine! A few would read better without the brief and separable history lessons. I thought 'Raisins Not Virgins' finished hurriedly after a good build up in the beginning. The collection of stories is enjoyable for the variety of settings and emotions that they evoke, which may be more palatable to women then men - fine! A few would read better without the brief and separable history lessons. I thought 'Raisins Not Virgins' finished hurriedly after a good build up in the beginning.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Sabina Himani

    Thought provoking and insightful .... I enjoyed all the stories. Each one has some food for thought, and Sharbari has done an amazing job with detailed descriptions providing fodder for rich visual images. The stories are so tenderly crafted, they touch your heart and deal with various current and age old social issues. All in all, an excellent read, I would highly recommend it!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Chaitali Sen

    See my review from LARB http://lareviewofbooks.org/review/pla... See my review from LARB http://lareviewofbooks.org/review/pla...

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kashfia Firdous

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Paddock

  10. 5 out of 5

    Zayeema

  11. 4 out of 5

    Ramesh Abhiraman

  12. 4 out of 5

    Fabliha

  13. 5 out of 5

    Yashna Hoimy

  14. 5 out of 5

    Srikar Vadlamani

  15. 5 out of 5

    Senain

  16. 5 out of 5

    Dhaya

  17. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ash

  19. 5 out of 5

    Marin Sophia

  20. 4 out of 5

    Farasha

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sucharita Shanker

  22. 5 out of 5

    Brooke Jones

  23. 5 out of 5

    Tim Green

  24. 5 out of 5

    Dipti Anand

  25. 5 out of 5

    Reefs

  26. 5 out of 5

    Laurel

  27. 4 out of 5

    Rajin Ahmed

  28. 5 out of 5

    Holly

  29. 5 out of 5

    Maureen Rue

  30. 4 out of 5

    N.T.

  31. 4 out of 5

    Pam HS

  32. 5 out of 5

    Sumit Nag

  33. 5 out of 5

    Bryan Johnson

  34. 5 out of 5

    Melinda

  35. 4 out of 5

    Erica Negron

  36. 4 out of 5

    Sumaita Saffoon

  37. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Pickett

  38. 4 out of 5

    Katherine

  39. 4 out of 5

    Josie Rideg

  40. 4 out of 5

    Sam Kyle

  41. 4 out of 5

    Abrar Islam

  42. 5 out of 5

    Suraiya Onnesha

  43. 5 out of 5

    Ellen

  44. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Williams

  45. 5 out of 5

    Jinat.Akhter

  46. 5 out of 5

    Roman

  47. 5 out of 5

    Iftekharul Haque

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