#DesiCraftChat: Priyanka Champaneri on writing about a city as a character; #DesiCraft Chat: Dhruti Shah on how business terms can apply to other life situations too

Desi Books Ep 26 w/ Priyanka Champaneri & Dhruti Shah 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 26 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 two segments of #DesiCraftChat. First, there’s Priyanka Champaneri discussing her debut novel, The City of Good Death, which won the 2018 Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing. We also have Dhruti Shah discussing her new book, Bear Markets and Beyond: A Bestiary of Business Terms.

Please 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-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.

Now for a few new and notable books out in the second half of April:

1) If God Is a Virus by Seema Yasmin is a poetry collection that I missed in my first half of April roundup. It’s based on original reporting from West Africa and the United States, and the poet’s experiences as a doctor and journalist and charts the course of the largest and deadliest Ebola epidemic in history, telling the stories of Ebola survivors, outbreak responders, journalists and the virus itself.

2) Are You Enjoying is the debut story collection by Mira Sethi. Inspired by her own experiences, these stories look at the world of television and politics in Pakistan and upend the traditional notions of identity, family, intimacy, and more.

3) I Belong Here by Anita Sethi is out in the UK now. It’s a memoir about nature. Anita Sethi was on a journey through Northern England when she became the victim of a race-hate crime. The book is about her journey through the natural landscapes of the North is one of reclamation, a way of saying that this is her land too and she belongs in the UK as a brown woman.

4) Southbound by Anjali Enjeti is her debut and a personal essay collection about identity, race, feminism, political activism and more. She also has a debut novel coming out in May titled The Parted Earth. More on that in May.

5) Besharam: On Love and Other Bad Behaviors by Priya Alika-Elias is an essay collection looking at themes of family, culture, body image, sex, and feminism.

6) Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri is her self-translated novel, which was originally published in Italian. It covers a year in the life of an unnamed narrator in an unnamed city, in the middle of her life’s journey. With themes of exuberance and dread, attachment and estrangement, this book is unlike what we’ve read from Lahiri in English so far in terms of narrative style.

7) Names of the Women by Jeet Thayil is a novel about the women whose roles were suppressed, reduced or erased in the Gospels — fifteen women whose lives intertwined with that of Jesus Christ. It’s an interesting re-imagining of the New Testament.



Priyanka Champaneri received her MFA in creative writing from George Mason University and has been a fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts numerous times. She received the 2018 Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing for The City of Good Death, her first novel.

Here’s a bit about the book: It’s set in the Indian city of Benares or, as it is also known: Varanasi or Kashi. It is the place where pilgrims come for a good death, to be released from the cycle of reincarnation. Pramesh Prasad is the manager of one of Kashi’s many death hostels where these pilgrims lodge during their time in the city. When one of Pramesh’s own loved ones dies, he has to revisit everything he believes about family, love, life, death, ritual, and the ways that we honor the living and the dead.

I reviewed this novel for The Star Tribune earlier. And I interviewed Priyanka to learn more about her craft and process with this novel.

On a personal note, I loved this novel and the insightful responses Priyanka had for my questions.

Have a listen.





Dhruti Shah is an award-winning journalist, writer, producer, and storyteller in the UK. She has written on subjects including technology, business, women changing the world, comics, science, and much more. She has a wealth of editorial experience built up first in local papers before jumping to global newsrooms. And she has led record-making BBC international partnership projects.

A bit about Bear Markets and Beyond: It’s an illustrated guide where BBC journalists, Dhruti Shah and Dominic Bailey, take us through the world of business jargon with a bold, graphic bestiary. As well as more familiar terms such as piggy bank, loan sharks, and rat race, there are alligator spreads, lobster traps, and even vampire squids.

I so enjoyed this conversation with Dhruti about how and why this book came about and the process to get it to publication.

Here she is now.




You’ve been listening to episode 26 of Desi Books — news and views about desi literature from the world over. I’m your host, Jenny Bhatt.

Episode 27 will be up in a couple of weeks. 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 in a few days 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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