Sara Suleri's Meatless Days -- Leading Questions

Members of English 27, Postcolonial Studies, Brown University, Spring 1997

At the conclusion of chapter 1 "Excellent Things in Women", Suleri sets up a theme that will arise throughout Meatless Days. Upon reflecting she says that her life in New Haven is happy, but she also misses the women -- along with other things I am sure -- which represent her "nativity". Does Suleri use the autobiography to justify her life in the west? Does she herself struggle with questions of her own "nativity". How does this tension play itself out in other reflective passages? [Brandon Brown]

Throughout Meatless Days Suleri invokes the idea of lost things -- audiences, people, culture, history, geography, words, and so on:

"My audience is lost, and angry to be lost, and both of us must find some token of exchange for this failed conversation." (2)

"Our congregation in Lahore was brief, and then we swiftly returned to a more geographic reality. "We are lost, Sara," Shahid said to me on the phone from England. "Yes, Shahid," I firmly said, "We're lost." (19)

"When I teach topics in third world literature, much time is lost in trying to explain that the third world is locatable only as a discourse of convenience. Trying to find it is like trying to pretend that history or home is real and not located precisely where you are sitting." (19-20)

Discuss this motif. [Kate Cook]

Suleri has written Meatless Days almost entirely in the past tense, a style that somehow limits the reader's, especially a female reader's, "conversation" with this work; Suleri writes, by way of introduction to her stories (reminiscences), "My audience is lost, and angry to be lost, and both of us must find some token of exchange for this failed conversation [about the definition of women]." (2) Who, then, is Suleri's audience, and why are they angry? What kind of "tokens" are Suleri's stories? [Erica Dillon]

What is the link, in Meatless Days, between the politicization and desanctification of religion in Pakistan? [Jeremy Finer]

"I am too weak to be a tourist, and the mess of it pains me, to have someone else's scenes from Seville spilling their concertina over my lap, hurting my eyes with the backside and the front of each connected image. There is too much anatomy to names: let one in and a host of them are bound to follow, dancing round your room in evil capers and cornering your attention where it does not wish to stay" (78). What is the significance of names to Sara Suleri? Does the Western reader understand the implications of each name? [Laura Gelfman]

"And then it happens. A face, puzzled and attentive and belonging to my gender, raises its intelligence to question why, since I am teaching third world writing, I haven't given equal space to women writers on my syllabus... Against all my own odds I know what I must say. Because, I'll answer slowly, there are no women in the third world" (20). So ends the first chapter of Meatless Days. What does Sulari mean by this statement? [Phoebe Koch]

How much of her work is autobiography and how much of it is fiction? How much can an author get away with in stretching the truth and still call it autobiography? Might a story about Suleri's life be not enough to express some political and social message that she intends, and so she turns to fiction to help her prove her point? [Jennifer Gin Lee]

The title of the first chapter of Meatless Days is "Excellent Things in Women." What qualities are ideal in women in Pakistani culture, according to this chapter? Discuss the contrast between these values and some of the western values which Sara is simultaneously exposed to? [Laura Otis]

The topic of history appears in many of the works which we have read. How does Suleri represent history? Is it as extensive as Swift's discussion? Does her own personal history provide only one aspect of postcolonial thought or can it be expanded to a more universal level. [Neel Parekh]

What is Sulieri's aim in writing a novel like Meatless Days? Is her experience representative and thus in the tradition of postcolonial ethnographistic literature? Why should the reader take an interest in the anecdotes about her family and friends? Are they themselves representative or allegorical in some sense? And is she truly comparable to Marcel Proust, as the cover claims, a claim designed to give her book status? [Elissa Popoff]

Considering the fact that both Rushdie and Achebe construct fictional settings that mirror actual places or conditions that they wish to discuss in their novels because, to some extent, it relieves them of the pressure of representative scrutiny, how do we read novels like Suleri's Meatless Days or Swift's Waterland which intertwine their narratives to their versions of actual histories, especially considering that Suleri admits "There's a lot of fiction in it. Some of the characters I invented, some of the incidents I invented" ("Sara Suleri, Salman Rushdie, and Post-Colonialism"). [Uzoma Ukomadu]

Main Screen Pakistan Sara Suleri Meatless Days