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Smoking With Bindu Bansinath

Interview by Nancy Stebbins (Read the Story) September 24, 2013

Bindu Bansinath

art by Alexander C. Kafka

I don’t want to dwell on your age, but you’re seventeen! What has your writing journey been like so far? And what are your plans?

Haha, yes; seventeen! The awkward age when you’re no longer a minor, not yet an adult, and cannot successfully pass as young enough to get the kids’ menu. Anyways, I would categorize my journey in writing as a progressive one. The longer I let experiences sit with me, the more I grow as a writer. It makes me a bit boring and plenty pensive. But I’m proud of where I am on this journey so far. This past summer I attended the Yale Writer’s Conference as well as the Iowa Young Writer’s Studio, and being in the company of other writers has been wonderful. I plan to invest myself in that kind of community when I go to college, and will pursue an MFA afterwards. And after that, I plan to do what I do now: write. And drink coffee.

Amorn says, “I want a simple life but it horrifies me that I have one.” This statement surprised me, as I would not have thought of this life as simple.

Amorn’s image of a simple life is a wholesome one. But then she is thrust into this world of perverse monotony day in, day out. Every night she is made to look extravagant and in all their excitement, her clients treat her tenderly. At the end of a day’s work, Amorn feels everything she does is formulaic. She clocks in and out, for example. She sits in the fishtank and is called up by her number. While I agree with you—Amorn’s lifestyle is anything but simple—she believes that a life led by such a disturbing formula is, in effect, as simple as a “wholesome life.” The fact that she’s asking for what she thinks she already has unsettles her.

The story feels like it is less about the murder of Amorn, and more about the protective mechanisms we employ to deny our own death. Is that a fair description?

Absolutely. Amorn’s death breaks the monotony of the brothel and makes for a great deal of introspection among the girls. As they are questioned by the police, they dissect the details of the actual death, but as they piece it together themselves, they are confronted with the unhappy truth that their deaths are happening too, and not just in the physical sense. These girls want to be oblivious to the degradation they are put through, but when one of their friends actually dies, it is as if they, in at least this one moment, cannot deny it anymore.

What do you like to read? Who are your influences?

Hmm…the spectrum of what I read is pretty broad. I love Toni Morrison, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Jonathan Safran Foer. Each of these authors have nuanced, original ways of getting emotion across. In Morrison’s work I find myself feeling the weight of her characters’ burdens before they enter scenes; in Lahiri’s, everything is tense and driven by the minutia of actions, and in Foer’s, there are just some drop dead beautiful passages with humor as well as heaviness.

About the Author

Bindu Bansinath is a young writer from Princeton, New Jersey, who has published in the Columbia Review, The Susquehanna Review, Damozel, and more. She is the recipient of the Eichner award in poetry. She is seventeen years old.

About the Interviewer

Nancy Stebbins is a psychiatrist, a Flash Factory groupie, and an MFA student at Pacific University. Her short stories have been published in The Summerset Review, Grey Sparrow Journal and other places. She shares a blog with three other Pacific students: http://pop-upprincesses.blogspot.com.

About the Artist

Alexander C. Kafka is a journalist, photographer, and composer in Bethesda, Maryland. He created the cover image for Lost Addresses: New and Selected Poems by Diann Blakely (Salmon Poetry, 2017). His work has also been published at All Things Fashion DC, BuzzFeed, Fast Company, Juked, Vice, The Washington Post, The Writing Disorder, and many other periodicals. He has been on the documentation team for the Washington Folk Festival at Glen Echo and is a contributing concert photographer for DMNDR. Kafka studied fine-art figure photography with Missy Loewe at the Washington School of Photography and portrait photography with Sora DeVore at Glen Echo Photoworks.

This interview appeared in Issue Forty-One of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Forty-One

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Steve Edwards is author of the memoir BREAKING INTO THE BACKCOUNTRY, the story of his seven months as caretaker of a 95-acre backcountry homestead along federally protected Wild and Scenic Rogue River in Oregon. His work has appeared in Orion MagazineThe Sun MagazineLiterary HubElectric LiteratureThe Rumpus, and elsewhere. He lives outside Boston with his wife and son.