Amla Mater

Foreword Reviews - - Spotlight Reviews | Graphic Novels -

Devi Menon, Yali Books (JUNE) Soft­cover $11.99 (146pp) 978-0-9890615-9-9

In Amla Mater, Devi Menon presents the sweet and nos­tal­gic story of Mili, a woman who re­calls her past in In­dia from her new home in the United King­dom.

For Mili, it’s an amla, or In­dian goose­berry, that trig­gers her series of rec­ol­lec­tions of grow­ing up in In­dia, much like Mar­cel Proust’s madeleine in Re­mem­brance of Things Past. She re­calls her child­hood friend Maya, her first job, for­mer flat­mates, and her par­ents’ ac­ci­dent.

But Mili has the present and fu­ture on her mind as well. She’s liv­ing with a man, and is preg­nant. One day, Mili no­tices that a jar of store-bought amla pickles has the same logo she and Maya de­signed as chil­dren. She calls the com­pany and re­con­nects with Maya, its founder; it’s a joy­ous event. Maya has a son, who has a friend; to­gether, she says, the boys re­mind her of Mili and her­self as chil­dren. The book con­cludes with Mili look­ing to­ward the fu­ture, hope­ful that her own daugh­ter’s mem­o­ries will one day pro­vide “a friend, a sis­ter, a lit­tle bit of home.”

Amla Mater is a med­i­ta­tion on mem­ory, often touch­ing in sim­ple ways, but never maudlin or ma­nip­u­la­tive. Menon’s art is sim­ple but grace­ful, and car­ries an air of in­ti­macy as it trans­lates her char­ac­ter’s mem­o­ries to the page. The book’s ti­tle can be seen as a play on “alma mater,” the Latin term for a cen­ter of learning that nour­ishes an in­di­vid­ual’s de­vel­op­ment, as Mili’s time in In­dia was for her. Rec­om­mended for any­one, but per­haps es­pe­cially for those whose child­hoods are far away in mem­ory and in dis­tance.

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