Nine Yard Sarees: a short story cycle

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Nine Yard Sarees is a multigenerational portrait of a fictional Tamil Brahmin family. Comprising eleven interlinked stories, this short story cycle traces the lives of nine women from 1950 all the way to 2019, shedding light on the community and its evolution through the decades. As the stories take us from India to Singapore, Australia and even America, we follow the experiences of the women in the family: Raji the matriarch who lives in seclusion at an ashram; her daughter Padma who struggles to raise her family the traditional way; Padma’s daughter Keerthana who is about to be married and don the nine yard saree, a symbol of womanhood. Tender, dynamic and full of heart, this cycle is a resonant portrayal of female solidarity and the complexities of the diasporic experience in contemporary Singapore.

“There is so much to appreciate in Prasanthi Ram’s debut collection, Nine Yard Sarees. As a portrait of a family, these stories connect to form a layered narrative about women, migration and identity. As a work of diaspora fiction about the Tamil-Brahmin community in Singapore, these connecting stories comment on questions of belonging and the pertinent tension between tradition and modernity. Ram writes with precision and clarity about this family while also treating the characters with the warmth and compassion that they deserve. Shifting narrative perspectives and covering a wide landscape of time and geographic space, Nine Yard Sarees confronts diaspora in all its complexity. A thoroughly enjoyable and meaningful work of fiction about family, community and the reverberations of migration and displacement.”
—Balli Kaur Jaswal, Author of Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows

“The madisar, the eponymous nine-yard saree, weaves these stories together beautifully and artfully, these stories about Tamil Brahmin women living mostly in Singapore, but also living, in Prasanthi Ram’s deft, sensitive and humorous telling, in full, human complexity in their loves and hates, joys and sorrows, envies and regrets. Nine Yard Sarees is an uncommonly rich and precise debut, closely observed, magically empathetic and formally ambitious. If you love the stories of Jhumpa Lahiri and Alice Munro, you will love these stories.”
—Jee Leong Koh, Winner of the 2022 Singapore Literature Prize in English fiction

"A gripping, masterfully crafted work that is both haunting and comforting. I read it in one night."
—Akshita Nanda, co-winner of the 2020 Singapore Literature Prize in English Fiction

The following stories contain some references to sensitive topics which may warrant content notices:

Agni’s Trials—sexual harrassment
The Perfect Shot—sexual assault
Nine Yard Sarees—racism; fat phobic language
Loose Threads—self-harm; pregnancy loss
In Her Graveyard, She Bloomed—homophobic language; pregnancy loss
Before the Rooster Calls—domestic abuse

While the content of these stories is fictional, these topics reflect real issues. We recognise that the ways in which readers might respond to and deal with these issues may vary, as our relationships to these topics are unique. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or not in the right headspace to experience the stories, do put the book down and talk to someone about how you feel.

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Nine Yard Sarees: a short story cycle

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“Nine Yard Sarees is a family portrait that tells the story of the Srinivasans, a family from Kalakad, India, who immigrate to Singapore in search of a better life. The book follows their lives over the course of several decades, as they navigate the challenges of adjusting to new lands, identities and cultures while trying to maintain traditions. The stories unfold through the perspectives of nine women who recount tales of their parents, grandparents, siblings and loved ones. Comprising eleven interlinked stories, this well-written book offers a unique perspective on the immigrant experience. Nine Yard Sarees expresses the power of family, the fortitude of women, and the resilience of the human spirit.” —Latha, Author of The Goddess in the Living Room

“In Nine Yards Sarees, you are welcomed into the intimate universe of an Iyer family in Singapore and to life in Singapore - a narrative that is so vivid, that you would feel you are breaking bread with them at the dining table. The stories are interwoven and yet stand-alone whilst navigating tradition and modernity, acting as a mirror to every migrant’s soul.” —Dr Anitha Devi Pillai, Author, Academic and Translator

“Populated by a rich cast of characters you immediately fall in love with, these linked stories are bursting at the seams with tenderness and heart.” —Cheryl Julia Lee, Author of We Were Always Eating Expired Things, Asst. Professor of English, Nanyang Technological University

"A gripping, masterfully crafted work that is both haunting and comforting. I read it in one night." —Akshita Nanda, Co-winner of the 2020 Singapore Literature Prize in English Fiction


Prasanthi Ram