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White Dancing Elephants

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  330 ratings  ·  83 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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Average rating 3.76  · 
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 ·  330 ratings  ·  83 reviews

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Apr 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
December 9, 2019: On a second read I bump the rating to five stars because this collection is amazing. I shared thoughts on writing outside one's identity and how ably Bhuvaneswar depicts and analyses interracial relationships of all kinds--romantic, platonic, professional, relationships that don't easily fit into any categories--on bookstagram.

4.5 ⭐ Full review:

It's frustrating when a book, for the time you spent with it, completely captured your mind, had you reading and re-reading, but when t
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
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.
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.
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!
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
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
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.
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.
3.5 stars

Intense, frequently brutal but also touching and poetic stories. There's a bit too much repetition in theme here to balance the collection but overall this is very fine and Bhuvaneswar displays a strong, convincing voice. I look forward to reading more from her.
Fran Blake
Dec 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
moving stories
Gail (The Knight Reader)
Oct 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019, march-2019
Some of these stories didn’t quite land, but the ones that did, they hit hard. I’ll have my eye on this writer.
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
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.
Jherane Patmore
I've had this book for about two years and it haunts me every few months for a re-read.

Each story came with multiple layers that weaves through my psychological, political, emotional, and moral boundaries and I enjoy everything it reveals about me through these characters and their circumstances.
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.
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 Elizabeth 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
Lolly K Dandeneau
May 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
via my blog:
'She’s probably my age, I realize suddenly, early forties, but she has not spent her life on mistakes.'

This collection of stories by Chaya Bhuvaneswar is about more than being an immigrant or one’s ethnicity, it is also about feminism and LBGTQ women. From the start, the reader is on an emotional journey, living as long as it takes to read a story on the character’s breath. It begins with White Dancing Elephants, where a woman shares the afterma
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
Nov 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
My first year of medical school was probably the toughest year.
I vividly remember the day I walked into a dissection hall. The formalin-scented hallway, the air almost metallic blue with a tinge of yellow. I remember walking slowly, taking calculated steps towards a twin door that was reflecting my own dazed self back at me. Getting past that door didn't help either. The sight of strangers mobbed around a stainless steel table brought some momentary relief (not everything was dead around here).
Amit Verma
May 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
It is a collection of excellent short stories; stories which wriggle below your skin and if you are an Indian you can relate to lot of situations that come to appear in its pages.

It is about girls and ladies who have their soul in India ( South India) and bodies in other countries mainly US.
The peculiarities of a traditional soul baking into heat of the changed environment, where non compatibilities surface and haunt protagonists. These females face different hurdles and vaccums which they try
I enjoy the way Chaya writes. She has a beautiful way of putting words together. Unfortunately, her subject matter is often something I don't enjoy reading about. That said, I absolutely loved some of her stories. That is both the beauty of and the problem with short story collections. I am a persistent bugger and won't give up on a story or book once I begin it. My resolve is even stronger with books I won that the author is hoping I will write a favorable review of. (my kids chide me about thi ...more
Feb 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, collections

White Dancing Elephants is an excellent collection of short stories, a book that is truly beautiful. Each story is a vivid picture of how lives intertwine and the love and pain inflicted through those overlaps. Each is beautiful whatever else the story may be: painful, grotesque, heart-breaking, resonant, poignant, reflective, familiar, foreign, breathtaking, etc. Bhuvaneswar's stories are so imbibed with life, all the light and all the darkness of true lives being lived, they don't feel like

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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

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