#DesiCraftChat: Nawaaz Ahmed on unconventional narrators; #FiveDesiFaves: Jyotsna Sreenivasan on her favorite desi works by women in English translation

Desi Books Ep 29 w/ Nawaaz Ahmed & Jyotsna Sreenivasan Desi Books

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Hello and welcome to Episode 29 of Desi Books — news and views about desi literature from the world over. I’m your host, Jenny Bhatt. Thank you for tuning in.

In today’s episode, we have Nawaaz Ahmed in the #DesiCraftChat segment. He’ll be discussing his debut fiction, Radiant Fugitives, which was just longlisted for the Center for Fiction’s First Novel award. And we have Jyotsna Sreenivasan discussing her five favorite books in the #FiveDesiFaves segment. Her short story collection is now out and titled These Americans.

I’d like to mention an online festival that’s starting in the UK this Sunday, July 18th but free to attend globally: the South Asian Heritage Month Festival run by Sangam Festival UK. The aim is to celebrate desi arts and culture. I will be doing a panel there on July 29th with the award-winning translators, Jayasree Kalathil and Arunava Sinha. It’s free to register so I hope you’ll attend.

Now, please enjoy the rest of the episode.



You can find all the titles mentioned in this “New Books” segment at bookshop.org, which benefits local, independent booksellers directly. Go to bookshop.org/lists/desi-books-2021. There’s also a new UK-based list at uk.bookshop.org/lists/desi-books-uk-2021. My apologies to non-US listeners but I always mention/note desi books from other parts of the world on these episodes as well, of course. I just don’t have a bookshop list for them.

I know I don’t always catch all new books by writers of South Asian origin. So, if you’ve got a new book coming out, please tag the Desi Books account on Twitter or Instagram to let me know. You can also send an email to hellodesibooks@gmail.com. The social media links will also be in the transcript and they’re always on the website.

[NOTE: There are a LOT more new books included in the above booklists so please do check them out. I don’t mention ALL of them on the podcast due to time constraints.]

1) Tahmima Anam has a novel out titled The Startup Wife. It’s a rather good sendup of startup culture and the modern marriage. I reviewed it for The Star Tribune earlier this month and will link to it in the transcript.

2) Anuk Arudpragasam’s novel, A Passage North, is his second and also focuses on the Sri Lankan civil war, like his first. This time, though, he’s exploring the war’s aftermath. I reviewed this for NPR earlier this month too and you can get the link in the transcript.

3) Nawaaz Ahmed, whom you’ll hear from shortly, has a debut novel coming out titled Radiant Fugitives. More about the book shortly.

4) Anjali Joseph’s latest novel is Keeping in Touch. It came out in India in June; I missed it in the roundup. It’s about a long-distance relationship across Assam and London.

5) Shivani Sibal’s debut, Equations, is out in India now. It’s about two friends brought up together but on different sides of the class divide in 1980s Delhi. A book about ambition, family, politics, business, and more.

6) Anindita Ghose’s The Illuminated is her debut novel and out in India at the end of this month. It’s about a mother and daughter navigating personal losses and triumphs against a rising tide of religious fundamentalism in India.

7) Anisha Bhatia’s The Rules of Arrangement is out now. It’s about a Mumbai woman who has to make a life-changing arranged marriage versus career decision.

8) Anita Rani’s The Right Sort of Girl is out in the UK now. It’s a memoir about a northern British Indian woman navigating her identities and trying to find her place in the world.

9) Vaseem Khan’s The Dying Day is out in the UK now. It’s described as the Da Vinci Code meets post-Independence India and the second crime thriller in the Malabar House series.

10) Akash Kapur’s Better to Have Gone: Love, Death, and the Quest for Utopia in Auroville is out in the US now. It’s a memoir about Auroville in Pondicherry, India and Kapur tells the story about trying to unravel the mystery of his parent’s deaths.

11) Silmy Abdullah’s Home of the Floating Lily is a short story collection set across Bangladesh and Canada and dealing with migration, displacement, love, friendship, and familial conflict.

12) Amartya Sen’s Home In the World is a memoir and covers his life from Bangladesh to Calcutta to England with particular accounts of his time at Santiniketan and Cambridge.



Nawaaz Ahmed is a transplant from Tamil Nadu, India. Prior to becoming a novelist, he was a computer scientist, researching search algorithms for Yahoo. He holds an MFA from University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and is the winner of several Hopwood awards. He has completed residencies at Macdowell, VCCA, Yaddo, and Djerassi. He is a former Kundiman and Lambda Literary Fellow. He currently lives in Brooklyn.

Radiant Fugitives is his debut novel. It follows three generations of a Muslim Indian family during Obama-era San Francisco and Texas. Through the point-of-view of the about-to-be-born Ishraaq, we see the lives of Seema, his mother; Taherah, her sister; and Nafeesa, their mother. Seema is gay and this has caused estrangement with her family. Taherah is a devout Muslim, who cannot bring herself to accept Seema’s life choices. And Nafeesa is dying of cancer and trying to keep the peace. Through all this we also see the turbulence caused by Obama’s politics as Seema works for Kamala Harris, who was then running for Attorney General in California. The novel is unusual in its choice of POV narrator and Nawaaz and I discuss that a bit. We also discuss the many themes he has tackled in the book. And, finally, we discuss his journey to becoming a writer. All that and more coming up.





Jyotsna Sreenivasan is the author of the short story collection These Americans, and the novel And Laughter Fell From the Sky. She was selected as a Fiction Fellow for the 2021 Sewanee Writers’ Conference. Her short stories have been published in literary magazines and anthologies.  She received an Artist Fellowship Grant from the Washington, DC Commission on the Arts. She was born and raised in Ohio. Her parents are immigrants from India. For information about Jyotsna as well as other writers who are children of immigrants, please see www.SecondGenStories.com.

These Americans won the Rosemary Daniell Fiction Prize from the publisher. The stories explore what it means to be an American, from the birth of a child to an immigrant couple to the death of a first-generation mother. The eight short stories and a novella examine mother-daughter relationships, immigrant parental expectations, fitting in, the concept of “home,” coming out as a lesbian, the process of becoming “American,” and the experiences of an Indian woman physician in the U.S. An earlier version of the novella in this collection was a finalist for the PEN/Bellwether Prize.

Here she is now.



  1. Women Writing in India Volume I by Susie Tharu and K. Lalita
  2. Women Writing in India Volume II by Susie Tharu and K. Lalita
  3. Phaniyamma by M. K. Indira
  4. Karukku by Bama Faustina (translated by Lakshmi Holmstrom)
  5. The History of Doing by Radha Kumar


You’ve been listening to episode 29 of Desi Books — news and views about desi literature from the world over. I’m your host, Jenny Bhatt.

Episode 30 will be up in shortly. Follow on Twitter @desibooks or Instagram @desi.books and tag the accounts if you have requests or suggestions. Email at hellodesibooks@gmail.com.

The transcript will be up shortly on the website, http://desibooks.co.

Stay healthy, keep reading, and write well.


DISCLOSURE NOTE: The books linked above are from Bookshop.org or, Amazon. There is a really tiny affiliate commission payable to Desi Books if you buy a book using the links here. This helps pay a really tiny bit toward the overall cost of running the podcast. Thank you.

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