What’s KPU Reading? This Year It’s The Parcel

KPU reading series turns to Anosh Irani’s story of transgender sex work

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Anosh Irani, author of The Parcel reads from his book on Janurary 30, 2017. (Calvin Borghardt)

For its second year, KPU Reads has brought the community at Kwantlen Polytechnic University together to read an engrossing novel. While last year’s readers were united by Aislinn Hunter’s The World Before Us, which was set in London, this year they travel across the world to Bombay for Anosh Irani’s darkly reflective novel, The Parcel.

The Parcel is the story of Madhu, a eunuch who identifies herself as a hijra—a transgender person who was assigned male at birth, but is now recognized as a third gender. Madhu has spent most of her life in a close-knit clan of transgender sex workers in Kamathipura, the notorious red-light district of Bombay.

The first KPU Reads event of the new year saw Irani read from the prologue of his novel in the Surrey campus library on Jan. 30. Afterwards, Aislinn Hunter joined Irani for a discussion of his work.

“Most people know [the hijra] in a very superficial way. No one really bothers to explore that world and I didn’t do it consciously. I just became more and more fascinated,” Irani said, during their discussion. “If you want to see what the mainstream has suppressed, you have to look into the shadows and eventually that is a reflection of us. That’s how I started looking at Madhu.”

Irani explained that he begins writing characters by looking for both their strength and their “wounds”.

“Human beings operate from wounds. We are rather reactive beings,” he said. “We think we operate out of awareness and consciousness, but somewhere there’s a deep wound. For me in fiction, it’s about finding…the most acute pain, and in the novel that pain [becomes] more and more acute until finally there is some redemption or not.”

In addition to The Parcel, Irani has written and published three other critically acclaimed novels including The Cripple and His Talismans, The Song of Kahunsha, and Dahanu Road. His work has been translated into eleven languages.

For those interested in following Madhu on her journey, KPU Reads will return for a second reading of The Parcel on March 28.

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