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Bodies in Motion by Mary Anne Mohanraj + Author Interview [in AsianWeek]

Mary Ann MohanrajFrom X to PG-13 – ‘Sexuality Activist’ Mohanraj Goes Mainstream

In eight years, Mary Ann Mohanraj’s 10 books have established her as a master — or should that be mistress? — of erotica. With titles like Wet: More Aqua Erotica and covers not suitable for G-rated publications, Mohanraj is anything but shy. “I’m … something of a sexuality activist,” she says. “I believe strongly that we need to bring healthy sexuality out of the closet and into mainstream discussion,” which explains Mohanraj’s recent move toward the so-called mainstream audience.

What began as her doctoral dissertation – yes,  that’s Dr. Mohanraj! – debuted this month as Bodies in Motion. Told through deftly interwoven short stories, Bodies is an engrossing tale of two Sri Lankan families and their American descendants. Her next book – her first novel – The Arrangement, continues the story with three characters from Bodies.

Born in Sri Lanka and brought up in a small Polish Catholic town in Connecticut where she was the only South Asian in her school until her younger sisters came along, Mohanraj was fluent in Polish (she can still count to 100). She attended the tony Miss Porter’s School, once considered the finishing school for fine young ladies. Ironically, she adds, “My parents regret sending me there, though – they didn’t realize how much of an emphasis Porter’s places on teaching its girls independent thought.”

AsianWeek: So how did erotica become your genre of choice?
Mary Anne Mohanraj: I would say, rather, that I focused on erotica for about five years, and then switched primarily to mainstream literature, though still with an interest in sexuality, in the way people’s sexual choices influence their lives.

I tried [writing erotica], and found that I was deeply interested in the way character reveals itself around sexuality. I think most people are different in the bedroom, with a partner, than they are in the rest of their lives. There’s often a lot of buried tension there, and I love working within that intimate and emotionally charged environment.

Also, given that some of the hardest decisions in my life, causing the most conflict, have been around whom I date, whom I might marry, sexuality has always been a clear locus of dramatic tension. I think that’s true for most people, and especially for many young South Asian women. It makes for interesting stories.

AW: So how do you deal with the ‘why’s a nice South Asian girl writing that’-mentality?
MAM: Any writer working with sexuality has to deal with society’s hang-ups in that regard, and even more so in the Asian community. It’s much more taboo to write about sex than it is to write about violence. It would be funny if it weren’t so sad.

My family and I had fierce arguments for years about my subject matter, and my parents still wish that I would write children’s picture books instead. But I’m 34 now, and I’ve been doing this for more than a decade. They’ve figured out that however much I love and respect them, which I do, they’re not going to change my mind. …[click here for more]

Author interview: “From X to PG-13 – ‘Sexuality Activist’ Mohanraj Goes Mainstream,” AsianWeek, October 14, 2005

Readers: Adult

Published: 2005


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