CCM Professor Kalyan Ray Authors Epic Novel on the Immigrant Experience

Reading and Discussion of No Country Scheduled for November 11 – Posted 10/30/14

Born into a culture of storytelling and a family uprooted by political upheaval, Kalyan Ray, author and professor at County College of Morris (CCM), has authored a novel, No Country, that weaves together the stories, struggles and courage of the immigrant experience.

On Tuesday, November 11, Ray will give a reading of his book and discuss the research that went into the writing of No Country(Simon & Shuster). The reading takes place at 12:30 p.m. in the Campus Store on CCM’s Randolph Campus, 214 Center Grove Road. The event is free and open to the public.

No Country, which Ray describes as a “braiding of stories about diaspora, identity and love,” spans two centuries and three continents, from the Great Famine in Ireland, to colonial India, to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in Manhattan, to modern day upstate New York. The book has met with high praise by reviewers from around the world and was listed as a Best Book of the Month in Literature and Fiction.

No Country opens in 1989 with an upstate New York police chief at the scene of the bloody murder of an Indian-American couple. It then moves to a famine-stricken Ireland in the 1840s and two friends, Padraig Aherne and Brendan McCarthaigh, who struggle against political repression and a murder that forces Aherne to flee to India and McCarthaigh to North America.

Ray notes that 2014 saw the number of refugees, asylum seekers and displaced people worldwide exceeding 50 million people. His hope for No Country, he says, is that it will shed light on the struggles and courage of immigrants and provide a historical account that is accurate yet based in storytelling.

“One of the critical things about the experience of immigrants is that they are the most vulnerable. They have the most dangerous and lowest paying jobs, and such hard struggles. I wanted to honor that experience,” says Ray.

As part of honoring that experience, Ray spent five years conducting research for his book, which is written in an alternating first-person point of view of the main characters, each in the voice specific to the character’s birthplace and time period. “It was important to me that the novel be authentic,” he says.

The French translation (Grasset) and Italian translation (Editrice Nord) are scheduled to be published in early 2015.

Many of the characters in No Country are named after Ray’s colleagues at CCM because he also wanted to pay tribute to those who have become like family. “These are people I have worked with and grown old with. I feel very close to the college community and I wanted to honor my friends,” he says.

Ray grew up in Calcutta after his family was uprooted from the Ganges Delta, now Bangladesh. He was educated in India and the U.S. and has taught as a visiting professor in Ecuador, Greece, Ireland, Jamaica and the Philippines. At CCM, he teaches English Composition, World Literature and Early British Literature.

He also is the author of Eastwords and has translated several books of contemporary Indian poetry into English. He collaborated on several projects with Mother Teresa and was involved with the first documentary on her work. He is married to the acclaimed Indian film director and actress Aparna Sen and splits his time between New Jersey and India.

Photo Credit: Ethan Shapiro