#DesiCraftChat: Suchitra Vijayan on making the political deeply personal; #DesiReads: Ayesha Chaudhry reads from her memoir, The Color of God

Desi Books Ep 28 w/ Suchitra Vijayan & Ayesha Chaudhry 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 28 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 Suchitra Vijayan in the #DesiCraftChat segment. She’ll be discussing her debut nonfiction, Midnight’s Borders, which is one of my favorite reads of the year so far. A special book that deserves a lot more attention. And we have Dr. Ayesha Chaudhry reading from her profound and moving memoir, The Color of God, in the #DesiReads segment. Another book that deserves a lot more attention.

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.

[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) Where Hope Comes from: Poems of Resilience, Healing, and Light by Nikita Gill is out in the US now. It’s a collection of poems crafted as the world went into lockdown, tackles themes such as mental health and loneliness, and the precarity of hope.

2) Consumed: A Sister’s Story by Arifa Akbar is out in the UK now. It’s a memoir about sisterhood, grief, the redemptive power of art and the strange mythologies that surround tuberculosis.

3) Antiman: A Hybrid Memoir by Rajiv Mohabir is a genre-blending memoir that navigates the fraught constellations of race, sexuality, and cultural heritage that have shaped his experiences as an Indo-Guyanese queer poet and immigrant to the United States. It was the winner of the Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing.

4) The Evolution of a Cricket Fan: My Shapeshifting Journey by Samir Chopra is his story of being an immigrant and a voluntary exile through his understanding and fandom of the game of cricket.

5) Let Us Look Elsewhere by Mona Dash is a story collection out in the UK exploring themes of disconnection, desire, identity and belonging.

6) Turmeric and Sugar by Anna Vangala Jones is a debut story collection exploring friendships between women across race, age, class, and includes hints of surrealism. I missed this in the May roundup.

7) A Mirror Made of Rain is Naheed Patel’s debut novel. Another one I missed in the May roundup. It’s a coming-of-age novel about inherited trauma.

8) The Bombay Prince by Sujata Massey is the third installment to the Agatha and Mary Higgins Clark Award-winning series set in 1920s Bombay. The city’s first female lawyer solves a murder crime during riots against the British empire.

9) What a Happy Family by Saumya Dave is her second novel. Set in the Atlanta suburbs, it features an Indian American family and all the joys, ironies of family scandals, gossiping aunties, and more.

10) Sirens of Memory by Puja Guha is a novel that begins during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and travels decades into the Indian American community in the US where identities, assumed and otherwise, are called into question.

11) The Secret Keeper of Jaipur by Alka Joshi is her next novel after The Henna Arist and continues the story of Lakshmi and more unfolding secrets.

12) Unsettling Utopia: The Making and Unmaking of French India by Jessica Namakkal. It’s a new account of the history of twentieth-century French India to show how colonial projects persisted beyond formal decolonization.

13) A Map of Longings: Life and Works of Agha Shahid Ali by Manan Kapoor is out in India now and it’s the first definitive biography of Agha Shahid Ali offers a rich portrait of the poet and the world he inhabited.

14) Wolves and Other Stories by Bhuwaneshwar is a story collection translated by Saudamini Deo. Written during the final stages of the Indian Independence movement, between the gloom and angst of the interwar period and at the cusp of the beginning of modern India, Bhuwaneshwar’s short stories both capture the melancholy of the time and ask what it means to be human in an indifferent and amoral world.

15) Acrobat by one of the most well-known Bengali writers, Nabaneeta Dev Sen, is a poetry collection about womanhood, intimacy, and the body politic that together evokes the arc of an ordinary life. It’s been translated by the author’s daughter, Nandana Sen.



Suchitra Vijayan was born and raised in Madras, India. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, GQ, The Boston Review, The Hindu, and Foreign Policy, and she has appeared on NBC News. A barrister by training, she previously worked for the United Nations war crimes tribunals in Yugoslavia and Rwanda before co-founding the Resettlement Legal Aid Project in Cairo, which gives legal aid to Iraqi refugees. She is an award-winning photographer, the founder and executive director of The Polis Project, a hybrid research and journalism organization. She lives in New York.

Midnight’s Borders is a modern history of India told through a seven-year, 9,000-mile journey along its many contested borders. Sharing borders with six countries and spanning a geography that extends from Pakistan to Myanmar, India is the world’s largest democracy and second most populous country. It’s a work of narrative reportage–featuring over 40 original photographs–with stories that are never told: from children playing a cricket match in no-man’s-land, to an elderly man living in complete darkness after sealing off his home from the floodlit border; from a woman who fought to keep a military bunker off of her land, to those living abroad who can no longer find their family history in India. It’s about the legacy of colonialism, state violence, and government corruption.

Here she is now.





Dr. Ayesha S. Chaudhry is the Canada Research Chair and Professor of Gender and Islamic Studies at the University of British Columbia. In 2018, she was named a Pierre Elliott Trudeau Fellow and is a Member of the Royal Society of Canada. She is the author of Domestic Violence and the Islamic Tradition. Her research focuses on religion, law, and social justice.

The Color of God is the story of a child raised in Canada by parents who embraced a puritanical version of Islam to shield them from racism. The author explores the joys and sorrows of growing up in a fundamentalist Muslim household, wedding grand historical narratives of colonialism and migration to the small intimate heartbreaks of modern life. In revisiting the beliefs and ideals she was raised with, Chaudhry invites us to reimagine our ideas of self and family, state and citizenship, love and loss.




You’ve been listening to episode 28 of Desi Books—news and views about desi literature from the world over. I’m your host, Jenny Bhatt.

Episode 29 will be up in mid-July. 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.


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