This paper proposes a study of Montreal-based South Asian Canadian novelist Anita Rau Badami’s Tell it to the Trees (2011). The novel is set in a rural British Columbia township positioned against intermittent flashbacks of urban India, and foregrounds the issue of “spousal sponsorship” (a transnational phenomenon involving migrant brides from the Indian subcontinent). At first glance, Badami’s novel appears to simplistically mobilize prevailing stereotypes regarding South Asian diasporic identities, beginning with the by now familiar theme of the “arranged marriage.” However, this reading is quickly unsettled by a dual setting structure through which an “unhappily” married female protagonist looks to the South Asian homeland for the restoration of equality and wholeness, while the adoptive land produces conditions ripe for domestic violence and hetero-patriarchal domination. The novel thus invites us to critically re-direct our gaze away from the “Orient” as the singular marker of an abject and dysfunctional alterity, and consider issues of domestic abuse and gender violence as a distinctly “Canadian” reality. Drawing on what I refer to as the “poetics and politics of snow”—that is, the central metaphor for the sponsored bride’s acute disenfranchisement in the Canadian geo-scape—the novel prompts us to re-orient our focus to the adoptive homeland, where systemic and perceived forms of racial and cultural outsidership (geographic, socioeconomic, etc.) destabilize the latter’s currency as the romanticized site of South Asian female emancipation.
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