26 Oct 2010

Memoirist's Debut Relocated; She Blames Cult in Queens

Mediabistro.com GalleyCat - April 16, 2009

posted by Ron Hogan

A few months ago, we read Cartwheels in a Sari, Jayanti Tamm's memoir about being raised in a religious community (a cult, by her testimony) led by a guru named Sri Chinmoy. When we told people about the book afterwards, words like "unsparing" and "harrowing details" and "emotional devastation" came up a lot; we recommend you read it. Tamm was all set to hold her first public reading from the book tomorrow night at East West Living, an independent, spriitually-themed bookstore just off Union Square—except, she claims on her website, the event was taken off the schedule with no advance warning. She says she only found out late last week when a friend of her husband checked the store's website for directions, and that when her publicist called asking for an explanation, "the Manager said that it was a conflict because the book doesn't represent their view of Sri Chinmoy." Tamm believes she's being censored, and that the surviving leaders of the Sri Chinmoy Center (the guru died in 2007) pressured East West to keep her from telling her story there.

"This is a very honest mistake," East West Living CEO Jan Matthews told us when we called this afternoon to ask about Tamm's blog post. She explained that the event was originally booked by an outside consultant who didn't fully understand the store's spiritual focus: "Our bookstore isn't interested in cults," she said. "There isn't a single book in the store about cults. We just have no interest in that genre." Matthews added that the store informed Crown, Tamm's publisher, as soon as they recognized a mistake had been made, categorically rejecting Tamm's theory about the cancellation. "We don't even know who the Sri Chinmoy people are," she said. "We wish [Tamm] well, but she didn't fit in our bookstore."

This story does have a happy ending: The Mercantile Library has generously made its eighth-floor studio space available to Tamm to hold her reading Friday night, at the same time (7 p.m.) that East West Books would've held it, just 33 blocks further uptown. (We still encourage you to hear her out—and this way you could also drop in on the second-floor reading featuring contributors to the literary magazine Noon, including Rebecca Curtis, Clancy Martin, and Christine Schutt.)

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