Reema Rajbanshi’s debut novel-in-stories Sugar, Smoke, Song collects its thematically linked pieces into three clusters with recurring characters.
The first group, starting with “The Ruins,” centers on beautiful Indo-Burmese identical twins, Maina and Biju. Their intimacy is altered when Biju’s face is slashed and scarred by a knife-wielding stranger in a New York City subway, just after 9/11. Another set concerns Assamese American dancer Jumi and her on-again/off-again relationship, complicated by skin tone and class, with a Chinese and Indian American, Walter. The final three stories, starting with “Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughter,” feature Nirmali, the daughter of impossible-to-please immigrants. Nirmali has also suffered from violence, and has scars on her hips. Later, grown up, she finds herself in a relationship with the darkerskinned Yusuf, an artist who tells her, “Never forget you are not black.”
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