Kaya Press is proud to announce the publication of Amarnath Ravva’s American Canyon — this stunning experimental memoir uses prose, video footage, and photography to document a series of spiritual pilgrimages, both in India and California. We’re especially excited as this marks the publication of our first full-color book — a must-have for your beautiful-book lovers out there.
American Canyon has been described by poet and author Kevin Killian as “a complex reworking of memoir form, using the tools of poetry remelted, as in Vulcan’s forge, to slash away at the ghosts and ghouls of conventional prose usage. The new journalism, Ravva-style, stimulates the nerve endings with its alternately lush and spare renditions of some spectacular settings…”
We asked author Amarnath Ravva what inspired him to write American Canyon and what he wants readers to take away from this book.
Amarnath Ravva: In my 20s, I had the blessing to experience and learn about Maidu [Northern California indigenous] culture because of one of my friends, Dena Cunningham, and her brother, Farrell Cunningham. Both were heavily invested in reviving the traditions of their ancestors, and Farrell, who passed away recently, was one of the few people of his generation fluent in Mountain Maidu. They invited me to participate in the Bear Dance every summer, and told me the stories of their people. They took me to the places sacred to them, and the stories behind those places. I found an unexpected kinship in the Sierras, and I began to wonder about myself, began to wonder what it meant to be a part of the Indian diaspora. Dena and Farrell showed me the importance of an individual, specific, and unique apprehension of one’s cultural heritage. In their case, this was even more important because of how endangered the Mountain Maidu culture has become. I wanted to know, for myself, what my own cultural heritage consisted of, as it was told by my family and ancestors. Not the one that I had read in books, but the one that persists in local traditions and utterances. So I worked for Charles Schwab for a year, saved enough money to go to India, and spent a summer with both sides of my family and documented their stories. If there is something for a reader to take away, it is that one person’s vision of the world and who they are is as important as any other—cultural loss happens one person at a time.
Saturday Nov. 1: Stories Books & Cafe with Nicky Sa-eun Schildkraut, Los Angeles, CA
Tuesday Nov. 4: Green Apple Books, San Francisco, CA
Thursday Dec. 4: The Poetry Center & American Poetry Archives, San Francisco, CA
Stay tuned for news about a spectacular Los Angeles launch party for American Canyon!