Episode 3 General Updates

Desi Books Ep 3 w/ General Updates Desi Books


Hello and welcome to Episode 3 of DesiBooks — news and views about Desi literature from the world over. I’m your host, Jenny Bhatt. Thank you for tuning in.

If this is your first listen to this podcast, Desi includes, for our purposes here, South Asian countries like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Afghanistan, and the Maldives. And, of course, their globally-scattered diaspora.

In today’s shorter episode, there are no interviews or guests. But here’s the usual roundup of new notable desi books, short stories, poems, essays, events, awards, and more. Settle in for a listen. The full transcript with all the links will be up within 24 hours as well.


As we get into episode 3, I want to take a moment to thank everyone who has tuned in and emailed or tweeted their support for this new podcast. Ventures like this are never easy because they take time and effort and most of us do them unpaid. As I’ve mentioned before, I hope to bring on co-hosts to represent various South Asian countries and writing genres over time. But I won’t ask people to work for free so we’ll see how things go with growing the listener base enough to get some decent sponsors. If you’d like to see this podcast grow with more topics being covered by different literary experts, please continue to share it. Once we reach a certain critical mass, there should be some interest from sponsors. I hope. Thank you.



Let’s start with a few notable new books for April. Please refer to previous episodes to check out the earlier April books mentioned and linked. And, if you’re a desi writer and have a book coming out, you can always tweet or email the desibooks accounts (links at the end.)

1) Passages West is a new novel from Rishi Reddi out on April 21st. It’s a historical family saga about Indian immigrants in California. Reddi’s first book was a short story collection that won the 2008 L. L. Winship/PEN New England Award for fiction. And this novel has already been getting good advance praise.

2) Bishakh Som’s graphic short story collection, Apsara Engine, is worth checking out. NPR says that “Som’s imagination is science-fictiony, without being particularly technological, mythic without being particularly traditional, and humanistic without cherishing any particular assumptions about where we, as a species, are headed. You might classify these comics as “literary,” but Som’s approach to storytelling is as uncanny as her style and themes.” Sorry, I just had to read that out because it sounds very intriguing. And here’s an interesting interview with Som at The Rumpus.

3) Here’s another new work of historical fiction: Karin Tanabe’s A Hundred Suns. It’s set in 1930s Indochina and has a thriller-like plot about the French occupation. It’s had a lot of buzz across many big-name venues. Washington Post says it has a cinematic quality.

4) Maya Shanbhag Lang has a memoir coming out this month called What We Carry. She discussed it in this Lit Hub interview. The book is about mothers and daughters, immigration, Alzheimers, and more.

Again, don’t forget to check out previous episodes for other notable new books out this month.



Here are some new notable poems and essays from literary magazines and websites. I know I’m not getting them all so, if you know of new stories, poems, or essays by South Asian writers, please share them by tagging the @desibooks twitter account. Thank you.

1) Sonnet Mondal has a set of poems self-translated into English from Bengali over at Words Without Borders. These are about the Indian lockdown and its possible aftermath.

2) Sumana Roy has a meditative essay on being a provincial reader over at LA Review of Books. It’s sort of bibliomemoir-ish because it’s part personal essay, part literary criticism, and part historical.

3) Meghna Rao has an essay at Zora Magazine about people getting married on Zoom during COVID-19. She features three virtual marriages and how they happened. Interesting stuff.

4) Ingrid Persaud, whose new novel, Love After Love, I’d mentioned last week, has a list of her top 10 novels about unconventional families up at The Guardian.

5) Aruni Kashyap, whose latest is a short story collection titled His Father’s Disease, writes at The Indian Express about how he, as an Indian immigrant in the US, is coping with self-isolation.

6) Ru Freeman writes at Lit Hub about the responsibilities of writing workshops and the role of instructors and professors.

7) Lastly, just a couple of tiny plugs for two of my works. First, for my April short stories column at PopMatters, I wrote about five stories by Anton Chekhov, Katherine Mansfield, Bharati Mukherjee, Anthony Doerr, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. These explore isolation, solitude, and loneliness pathologies from the perspectives of different lives and cultures. Almost all of them have had solitude or loneliness thrust upon them (not due to any pandemic-like situations) and are trying to cope as best they can. You can read all the stories online for free and some notes from me on each.

8) I also wrote a brief craft essay on how to use Images as Writing Prompts for Writing Workshops Dallas, where I’ll be teaching an Advanced Fiction workshop starting in June.



Now let’s get to some literary interviews, awards, and events.

1) Sejal Shah was interviewed at Publisher’s Weekly about her upcoming essay collection, This is One Way to Dance.

2) Amia Srinivasan shared her favorite scholarly books of the decade at The Chronicle of Higher Education.

3) Sopan Deb, whose memoir Missed Translations was mentioned in last week’s episode, has two interviews up: at NPR and at Lit Hub.

4) Bilal Qureshi has a new podcast called Lockdown Diaries, where he’s interviewing writers like Arundhati Roy and Tanaïs.

5) Jafreen Uddin, the new executive director of the Asian American Writer’s Workshop, was interviewed at Poets and Writers.

6) The UK-based Jhalak Prize announced their 2020 shortlist for book of the year by a writer of color. Romesh Gunesekara’s latest novel, Suncatcher, is on it.

7) The Royal Society of Literature announced their 2020 shortlist for the Ondaatje Prize. Tishani Doshi’s latest novel, Small Days and Nights, is on it.

8) In an earlier episode, I’d mentioned how the Jaipur Literary Festival is doing an online edition of their festival and it’s called ‘Brave New World’. They’ve also now partnered with Penguin Random House India for another online initiative called #ReadforResilience. This also involves author interviews on Twitter Live 



This is a new and, likely, infrequent segment with calls or requests for information or submissions on topics related to South Asia.

Anar Parikh, who teaches at Brown University, is looking for recorded mini-lectures from scholars, academics, or experts for her asynchronous online class this summer, She’s looking to highlight scholarship about South Asian diaspora that moves the focus away from India, Savarna Hindus, and the US diaspora. You can reach her via Twitter or google for her university contact information.


You’ve been listening to episode 3 of DesiBooks — news and views about desi literature from the world over.

More soon in Episode 4. Tune in next week. Don’t forget to follow on Twitter @desibooks and tag the account if you have requests or suggestions. Email at hellodesibooks@gmail.com.

Stay healthy, keep reading, and write well.


Follow on Twitter: @desibooks

Contact via Email: hellodesibooks[at]gmail.com

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

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