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White Dancing Elephants

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  161 ratings  ·  43 reviews

A woman grieves a miscarriage, haunted by the Buddha’s birth. An artist with schizophrenia tries to survive hatred and indifference in small-town India by turning to the beauty of sculpture and dance. Orphans in India get pulled into a strange “rescue” mission
Paperback, 208 pages
Published October 9th 2018 by Dzanc Books
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3.87  · 
Rating details
 ·  161 ratings  ·  43 reviews

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Rene Denfeld
Nov 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The issues in these stories—exploitation, violence, abuse—are not the aberration in our world, but the norm for many, and I am thankful for how Bhuvanseswar approaches them. The women in these stories feel so real to me. The writing is gorgeous, the characters so human, the sense of magic palpable. Highly recommend.
Sep 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
WHITE DANCING ELEPHANTS is a searing and complex collection, wholly realized, each piece curled around its own beating heart. Tender and incisive, Chaya Bhuvaneswar is a surgeon on the page; unflinching in her aim, unwavering in her gaze, and absolutely devastating in her prose. This is an astonishing debut.
Lupita Reads
Oct 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Remarkable collection of stories with an incredible range of themes. Very well written and definitely leaves you asking for more. Some stories will have you turning the page as if you are reading a thriller while others will never leave you. Definitely a collection to read!
A dark, mood-altering read from which I felt compelled to take mutiple breaks between stories, just to regain my mental equilibrium. In this way, Chaya perhaps does too good a job depicting the struggles of her many characters, nearly all of whom are diverse women of color. From rape to miscarriage to race and identity, her stories are intensely focused on the relationship between mother, daughter, child, lover. Upon reflection of the collection as a whole (and I realize this says a lot more abo ...more
Jul 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The word I keep thinking of as I try to write about my experience reading this book is "awe." I read each story in awe of Bhuvaneswar's flexibility and skill, her wit and compassion for her characters. One of my favorites in the collection (though all are worth reading) is "Talinda," a story about friendship, secrecy, desire, and death, though these words do not even begin to describe where this story goes. In less than 25 pages, Bhuvaneswar covers the whole spectrum of emotion, writing into eve ...more
Review posted originally on my blog WOCreads:

CW: Miscarriage, violence, rape, infidelity

White Dancing Elephants is Chaya Bhuvaneswar’s powerful debut collection of short stories, which won the 2017 Dzanc Short Story Collection Prize. Collecting 17 stories, this volume puts women of color, especially South Asian women in the diaspora, at the center.

These are stories about pivotal moments in women’s lives. These are stories about women in the diaspora, women
Rachel Watkins
Bhuvaneswar's short stories beautifully share the lives of sixteen different women. WHITE DANCING ELEPHANTS explores issues of immigration, religion, and feminism, but what it does best it let you peer inside each woman's soul. This is a brilliant debut.
Gail  (The Knight Reader)
Oct 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018, arcs
What a heavy, moving and deeply emotional read! I definitely underestimated it, being fooled by its "short stories" classification. But White Dancing Elephants is more than a book of short stories. It is the world as experienced by diverse people placed in all kinds of situations, some of which are quite difficult to get through and almost scarring to its reader. The stories had definite hard and grimy moments that caused me to shudder, but there was a fine line of hope and beauty present, which ...more
Feb 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
This proves that author interviews do influence my reading. She was an articulate and thoughtful interviewee on the podcast Between the Covers so I picked up her collection of 17 short stories that I hadn’t heard of before the interview. These are beautifully written (some better than others) although the content is dark and sometimes disturbing. I suggest the reader make time because although it’s short, it is not an easy or breezy read. Difficult stories about inequality including as experienc ...more
Nov 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
This one is hard to rate because all the stories are so brutal, many deal with sexual assault or other violence, issues of race, family identity, and failing or failed relationships. I usually couldn't read more than one or two before putting the slim volume down to catch my breath. Bhuvaneswar writes well and each story is completely immersive, which makes this collection all the more powerful and upsetting. If you like reading stories which will sit heavy on your heart, definitely check this c ...more
Feb 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A new literary voice that demand to be heard. This book was to be read slowly, with many breaks. It was a difficult read due to the realness. the honestly. miscarriage, violence, rape, infidelity - things that women carry with them every day of their lives, so often silently.

but written in a way that gives grounding and stability to the experiences. the first one shattered me and to be honest, i'm not sure if I felt the full impact of the rest of the book because of how hard it hit me. I am cer
Elliott Turner
Dec 05, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5 stars! Really strong writing!

Chaya writes from the South Asian/Indian American identity and also has stores set in England - the ideas of fetishism in romantic love, the unique problems of same sex attraction for this community, and death/loss are all important themes.

The opening story is an amazing example of second person, and the last three stories are just fantastic writing.
Anna DePalo
Sep 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A bold debut by a not-to-be-missed author. This collection of short stories journeys through the intersections of race and gender to visit the gamut of human experience—from betrayal to violence to privilege—with a nuanced hand. Sometimes humorous and occasionally with a nod to pop culture, Chaya Bhuvaneswar’s lyrical prose rises to a crescendo of stunning insights. Pick this one up!
Dec 03, 2018 marked it as dnf
DNF'd at page 76 and that has been 3 stories that don't connect emotionally. The tone is robotic. I'd read to 100 usually before DNFing. But there are too many books I'd rather pick now.
Emily Baer
Oct 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
I’m so impressed by the range of stories in this collection. The author created whole little worlds in often only a few pages.
Caleb Michael Sarvis
Will be reviewing the book in full on the Drunken Book Review Podcast.
Lea Ludwig
I never read short stories so this was a nice change of pace. I found it easier to commit to 17 pages at a time than a whole book. The stories were female centered and very personal. A good read.
David Harris
Oct 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a collection of seventeen excellent, eye opening stories, written with a sharp understanding of characters' background, motivation and self image (perhaps the author being a doctor helped here?)

These stories often revolve around loss, abuse and identity and the range of stories in the volume means these themes are visited from different directions and through different eyes. There are missing parents, siblings, lost children and abuse as well as missed (or simply, not taken) turns in lif
Daniel Abbott
Nov 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
White Dancing Elephants makes me think of a quote by the late David Foster Wallace: "Fiction's about what it is to be a $#%&ing human being." I love the quote and I'd even go a step further. Great fiction investigates what it means to be a human being. Chaya Bhuvaneswar does so brilliantly in her debut. There are no heroes or villains here, just humans, in all of our beauty, our flaws, our triumphs, and our failures. Chaya investigates the lives of the people in her stories with an honest ga ...more
Dec 06, 2018 rated it it was ok
I wanted to like this book, but ended up feeling pretty meh about it. The stories aren’t bad per se, and it’s obvious that Bhuvaneswar has talent, but her writing style didn’t connect with me…honestly, some of the stories were a slog to get through, and I ended up skimming several of them. I’d recommend reading “White Dancing Elephants,” “Talinda,” “A Shaker Chair,” “Orange Popsicles,” and “Newberry”; the rest are skippable, in my opinion.
Dec 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
This review was originally posted on https://trailsoftales620253622.wordpr...

I was jolted wide awake

And I was mighty impressed.

After reading one fantasy too many this year, Chaya Bhuvaneswar’s anthology of short stories gave me a dose of reality I didn’t know I needed.

‘White Dancing Elephants’ tells you stories of all that makes us turn our faces the other way.

Stories of dread, bitterness, jealousy, violence, loneliness, hopelessness, desperation…..stories that urge you to accept the darkest par
Dec 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I very much enjoyed this beautiful collection of short stories, and have read a number of interviews and reviews to try to gain some insights into the themes linking the various stories. I just finished it on Audible and will be listening to it again now...

In one of the interviews she did on her book tour, the author said the following:
“And that’s what I believe is essential to fiction. That we have a way to make someone’s subjectivity immediate, transparent, real. It no longer becomes theoretic
Oct 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
"White Dancing Elephants" is a collection of short stories by author Chaya Bhuvaneswar, following all different kinds of people. Though it doesn't contain beginnings and ends, this is a book full of middles. You don't need to know everything about everyone, just enough to get the gist of the story before moving onto the next one in under twenty five pages each.

Check out the rest of my review here!

Christopher Castellani
Oct 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a fierce, unflinching, and surprising collection. In sculpted and precise prose, Bhuvaneswar delivers a gut punch with each story. There is an urgent, anxious heart beating throughout, as the characters dramatize and interrogate some of the most complexing and challenging interpersonal and political questions of the day.
Nov 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
Thanks to Dancz Books for the complimentary copy.

The writing is lovely. The stories are heavy almost crushing, but I kept wanting to read. She covers so many issues and circumstances. I am in awe.
Oct 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An incredible collection of stories. Curiously devastating and insightful.
Lydia Ship
Nov 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Thundering and heart-wrenching. A lush and beautiful book.
Dec 20, 2018 rated it liked it
More like a 3.5, with my favorite of the stories,
"A Shaker Chair," a definite 4.
Feb 20, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5 or 4?
I felt like the shorter stories had more of an impact - moving and chilling. TBC....
Dec 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Effing amazing! Best short story collection of the year in my humble opinion.
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My debut short story collection, WHITE DANCING ELEPHANTS, out from Dzanc Books on Oct 9 2018 and available for pre-order now (including on all the indie bookstore websites via Core Source) presents stories of the #MeToo movement from the diverse perspectives of women of color and LBGTQ women. It also features willful androids, strange orphanages, 16th century Indian-Portuguese slaves who outwit th ...more