Twice a month, The Rumpus brings your favorite writers directly to your IRL mailbox via our Letters in the Mail programs. We’ve got one program for adults and another for kids ages 6-12. Next month, subscribers will be receiving letters from Matthew Salesses and Anuradha Bhowmik, and Eleanor Glewwe and Lee Edward Födi, respectively.
Anuradha Bhowmik is a Bangladeshi-American poet and writer from South Jersey. She is the 2021 winner of the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize for her first collection Brown Girl Chromatography, published by Pitt Poetry Series. Bhowmik is a Kundiman Fellow and a 2018 AWP Intro Journals Project Winner in Poetry. Her poetry and prose have appeared in POETRY, The Sun, Quarterly West, Nashville Review, Indiana Review, The Offing, Bayou Magazine, Crab Orchard Review, Zone 3, The Normal School, Copper Nickel, Salt Hill, and elsewhere. She can be found at anuradhabhowmik.com. Anaradha writes to us about seeking happiness in an unhappy world (and you can read a bit more about her below).
Matthew Salesses is the author of four novels, most recently The Sense of Wonder, and a book about writing and teaching writing, Craft in the Real World. He writes to us poignantly about feeling love after loss.
Eleanor Glewwe was born in Washington, D.C. and grew up in Minnesota. She plays the cello and once braved a snowstorm to perform in a chamber music competition. At Swarthmore College, she studied linguistics, French, and Chinese and worked in the music library, shelving composers’ biographies and binding scores with a needle and thread. She is the author of the middle grade fantasy novel Sparkers and its companion Wildings, both from Viking Children’s Books. In addition to being a writer, Eleanor is a folk dancer and a shape note singer. She now lives in Iowa, where she teaches linguistics at Grinnell College. Eleanor’s letter is all about musical instruments!
Lee Edward Födi is an author, illustrator, and specialized arts educator—or, as he likes to think of himself, a daydreaming expert. His books include Spell Sweeper, The Secret of Zoone and The Guardians of Zoone. During his free time, he’s a traveler, adventurer, and maker of dragon eggs. He especially love to visit exotic places where he can lose himself (sometimes literally!) in tombs, mazes, castles, and crypts. He lives in Vancouver with his wife and son. Lee Edward Födi writes to us about how growing up on a farm helped him become a writer.
We caught up with Anuradha Bhowmik to talk briefly about her writing and reading habits:
The Rumpus: Tell us about your most recent book? How do you hope it resonates with readers?
Anuradha Bhowmik: Brown Girl Chromatography is my debut poetry collection about my life as a Bangladeshi-born American girl growing up as a first-generation immigrant in the U.S. after 9/11. The poems follow me while I learn about the cruelties in both American and Bangladeshi worlds without any prior guidance or instruction on how to survive the two conflicting spheres. While being Bangladeshi resulted in racial ridicule from my peers, my attempts to assimilate into American culture were met with violence and abuse at home.
While writing these poems, I repeatedly relived traumatic memories in order to create a blueprint that my younger selves desperately needed but never had while confronting issues related to race, class, gender, and sexuality as a child, teen, and adult in post-9/11 America. I wanted my younger selves, and for readers with similar experiences, to feel that they are worthy of existing and being seen, regardless of the abusers in their lives who made them question their worth and the value of their stories.
Rumpus: What book(s) made you a reader? Do you have any recent favorites you’d like to share?
Bhowmik: I turned to reading because I was a lonely brown kid with several untreated mental illnesses who desperately wanted to experience a life that wasn’t my own. Aside from the Magic Tree House books that are cemented into my childhood, a few young adult novels also occupy a special space in my heart. My AIM profile definitely had quotes from Looking for Alaska by John Green and Chuck Palahniuk’s Invisible Monsters and Lullaby. I believe my high school yearbook quote was also from a Chuck Palahniuk novel. I was also obsessed with Sarah Dessen novels (and later learned that she also went to UNC), and my favorites were The Truth About Forever, Along for the Ride, and Just Listen. These books are not only millennial icons, but they also have an inextricable association with a very poignant period of my life.
I have a number of recommendations from my recent reads. My favorite genre is creative nonfiction, and some memoirs I’ve loved include Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner, Beautiful Country by Qian Julie Wang, House of Sticks by Ly Tran, Obsessed by Allison Britz, and Being Lolita by Alisson Wood.
Rumpus: What is your best/worst/most interesting story that involves the mail/post office/mailbox?
Bhowmik: I’ve received multiple packages that were sent anonymously to me over the past few years. When I first moved into my current apartment, no one had my address, but I received a massive package containing foam boards and a self-healing mat. In 2020, I was sent a baby blue blanket printed with inspirational words (ie Courage, Compassion, Healing, Prayer, Love, Hope, etc) in white blocked letters. During Christmastime in 2022, I received a National Geographic Science Magic Kit. All 3 packages had arrived from Amazon without a note. I never learned the identities of the senders, nor did I ever learn why these specific items were selected for me.
Rumpus: What’s a piece of good advice or insight you received in a letter or note?
Bhowmik: “You deserve to be loved and chosen—not almost loved, or almost chosen.”
I bookmarked this from an Instagram post (from the user rainbowsalt). Sometimes I forget that I deserve to be happy. I may be 30 and extremely single, but I’ll freeze my eggs and remain a party of one for years and years before I reproduce and settle with someone who sees me as a consolation prize. Throughout the dating chronicles of my twenties, I often questioned my worth. I’ve worked very hard to be alive. Anyone who treats me like an “almost” can go fuck themselves.