#FiveDesiFaves: Guruprasad Kaginele on his favorite desi works in translation; #DesiBoost: Saumya Dave on her favorite desi works

Desi Books Ep 15 w/ Saumya Dave & Guruprasad Kaginele Desi Books

(available at Anchor.fm, Spotify, Soundcloud, Apple Podcasts, Castbox, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, Breaker, Pocket Casts, RadioPublic, Overcast)

Hello and welcome to Episode 15 of DesiBooks — 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 Saumya Dave sharing her favorite three works by desi writers in our #DesiBoost segment. And we have Guruprasad Kaginele sharing his five favorite books by desi writers in the #FiveDesiFaves segment.

So sit back and enjoy.



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-2020. This is a US-based site so my apologies to non-US listeners. But you can still see the list of all the books that have come out in 2020 and been mentioned on the podcast.

1) You’re the Only One I’ve Told: The Stories Behind Abortion by Dr. Meera Shah. This book collects those stories as they’ve been told to Shah to humanize abortion and to combat myths that persist in the discourse that surrounds it. 

2) Like a Bird by Fariha Roisin. This is the activist, poet, and writer’s debut novel. Set in New York City, it’s a coming-of-age story about surviving violent sexual assault.

3) I missed this one last month so I’ll include it now. Underworld Lit by Srikanth Reddy. This is a prose poem that moves from the college classroom to the oncologist’s office to the mythic underworlds of Mayan civilization, the ancient Egyptian place of judgment and rebirth, the infernal court of Qing dynasty China, and beyond.

4) Homeland Elegies by Ayad Akhtar, the Pulitzer-winning playwright. This novel blends fact and fiction and it’s about an immigrant father and his son as they search for belonging in post-Trump America and with each other.

5) Death, Desire, and Other Destinations by Tara Isabel Zambrano. This comes out September 15. It’s a flash fiction collection. I’ve read it. It’s a beautiful collection with a lot of different themes. Mostly loss and longing but a lot more. Tara will be on episode 16 to discuss the craft of flash fiction as well.

6) The White Coat Diaries by Madi Sinha. This novel is also a September 15 release. It’s described as Grey’s Anatomy meets Scrubs and about a young doctor’s struggle to survive residency, love, and life. Madi will also be featured on episode 16 next.

7) Azadi: Freedom. Fascism. Fiction. In this series of electrifying essays, Arundhati Roy challenges us to reflect on the meaning of freedom in a world of growing authoritarianism. The essays include meditations on language, public as well as private, and on the role of fiction and alternative imaginations in these disturbing times.

8) Red Pill by Hari Kunzru. This is a novel about searching for order in a world that frames madness as truth. It’s about Nazis, paranoia, writing, politics, and a lot more.

9) Polar Vortex by Shani Mootoo. This novel is an examination of identity, gender, desire, and immigration through the lives of a lesbian couple as they attempt to escape the secrets of their pasts. 

10) World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments by Aimee Nezhukumatathil. A debut work of nonfiction–a collection of essays about the natural world, and the way its inhabitants can teach, support, and inspire us. 

11) And I’ll mention my own book, I guess. Each of Us Killers is my debut story collection. It centers on the working lives of people in India, the UK, and the US. It will officially be out on September 8.



Saumya Dave is a writer, psychiatrist, and mental health advocate. Her debut novel, Well-Behaved Indian Women, was released July 14th from Berkley/Penguin Random House and was named a top summer 2020 read by Elle, Marie Claire, Bustle, Ms. Magazine, and more. Her essays, articles, and poetry have been featured in The New York Times, ABC News, Refinery 29, and others. She is a practicing therapist, co-founder of the mental health nonprofit, thisisforHER, and an Adjunct Professor at Mount Sinai. She lives in New York City with her husband and son.

About Well-behaved Indian Women: This is a mother-daughter story about three generations of women who struggle to define themselves as they pursue their dreams. There’s Simran, the young writer; Nandini, her caring mother who’s tried to be the perfect Indian woman; and Mimi, the matriarch who thinks she’s got a second chance at being a better mother with her granddaughter than she did with her own daughter.

Here’s Saumya Dave sharing her three desi works in #DesiBoost.



Books mentioned:

1) What We Carry by Maya Shanbhag Lang

2) Dothead by Amit Majmudar

3) When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon


A doctor by profession, Guruprasad Kaginele has been a prominent voice in contemporary Kannada literature. He has published three short story collections, three novels, and two essay collections. He has also been the editor for two books published by the US-based ‘Kannada Saahithya Ranga’. His short stories have been translated into Telugu, Konkani, Malayalam and English. Hijab (first published in 2017) received both popular and critical acclaim, including the 2017 Karnataka Sahitya Academy Award. Kaginele lives in Rochester, Minnesota with his family.

Guru’s latest award-winning novel, Hijab, has been translated from Kannada into English. It’s about three Indian doctors practising at a hospital in Amoka, a nondescript town in Minnesota, and waiting for their green cards. What is expected to be an easy practice in a backwater town soon turns into a difficult question about identity, immigration, and belonging.

Here’s Guru talking about his five favorite desi books.


1) Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag (tr. by Srinath Perur)

2) No Presents Please by Jayant Kaikini (tr. by Tejaswini Niranjana)

3) The Goat Thief by Perumal Murugan (tr. by N Kalyan Raman)

4) Goat Days by Benyamin (tr. by Joseph Koyippally)

5) Mohanaswamy by Vasudhendra (tr. by Rashmi Terdal)


You’ve been listening to episode 15 of DesiBooks — news and views about desi literature from the world over.

Episode 16 will be up in a couple of weeks. Follow on Twitter @desibooks or Instagram @desi.books and tag the account if you have requests or suggestions. Email at hellodesibooks@gmail.com.

The transcript will be up in the next 24 hours on the website http://desibooks.co.

Stay healthy, keep reading, and write well.


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

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