About Dysfunction: Stories:

A collection of 14 stories.

- Annam Manthiram

reading guide

1. In "The Cottonwood Borer," why does the mother say she will be reborn as an insect that no longer exists?

2. In "When You Were Young," do you think that Poornima is happy? Why?

3. What is the purpose of storytelling/mythology in this story?

4. Do you think Poornima's mother is a bad person?

5. How would the story be different if Poornima did not have a cleft palate?

6. In "Variations on a Blossoming Marriage," how does the story's experimental structure inform the narrative? Does it succeed or not?

7. In "Golconda, India 1686," how do the rules of carrom mirror Arpana's plight and that of the history surrounding the story?

8. Do you think Arpana made the right choices? Could her fate have been different?

9. In "Anand's First Birthday," describe the tone of this story. How do the emotions of the characters set the pitch of this familial narrative? Is it understated?

10. What does Aravind mean when he says, "Because there is no one else to love."?

11. In "Asha Ma," how does the theme of nothing manifest itself in Asha's life? Do you think she finally escapes this sentiment?

12. The story highlights how cruel parents can be in many different ways. Which of Asha's parents do you think is more cruel? And why?

13. Will Joe call her back?

14. In "Superheroes," how does the construct of negations work with defining a superhero? Why negations?

15. "Pancake Race" is the only story in this collection told from the point of view of a male. How does it work with the collection? What does it add/take away from the other stories?

16. In "Pro Choice," the violence is far from subtle. Would the story have worked with more of an allusion to the violence instead of the actual depictions? Show or tell in this case?

17. In "The Reincarnation of Chamunda," why does the narrator have no name? What implications does that lend itself to the story?

18. What do you think is the purpose of the obituaries?

19. Why does she continue to subject herself to these humiliating bride-viewings?

20. In "Whatcha Bid?," what kind of person is Mary? How is she similar/different from Asha in the story, "Asha Ma?" Would the two have been friends?

21. Why does Mary smile at the end of the story?

22. In "How Miriam Came to Learn about Love," what does Miriam finally learn about love?

23. Why do you think Miriam is the way she is?

24. In "A Note on the Fridge," what do you think the other notes "of tasks never fulfilled" say?

25. In "The Pictures in the Frames," why do the photographs change? What does it symbolize to the main character?

26. Why do the photos stop changing at the end of the story?