#FiveDesiFaves: Rani Shah on her favorite desi nonfiction

Desi Books Ep 6 w/ Rani 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 6 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, in addition to the usual roundup of new notable desi books, short stories, poems, essays, interviews, awards, and more, we have our monthly segment, #FiveDesiFaves. This involves writers sharing five desi books that have influenced them. No questions or interruptions from me, just the writer and their words. Today, we have Rani Shah, who has a lovely new non-fiction book out called Wisdom From a Humble Jellyfish. So settle in for a listen.



Here are some more books by desi writers coming out this month. All the titles mentioned in this “New Books” segment are now in a handy-dandy list online at bookshops.org, which benefits local, independent booksellers directly. This is a US-based site so my apologies to non-US listeners.

1) Bhanu Kapil has a poetry collection due out in the UK this month: How to Wash a Heart. It’s her first full-length collection and focuses on the immigrant experience.

2) Dr. Ali Khan Mahmudabad has a book out this month titled Poetry of Belonging: Muslim Imaginings of India 1850-1950. It looks at the literature and poetry of that time period to explore how the North Indian Muslim identity was articulated, negotiated, configured, and expressed then.

3) Pramod Nayar has a book out titled Indian Travel Writing in the Age of Empire: 1830–1940 which looks at a variety of travel narratives by Indian kings, evangelists, statesmen, scholars, merchants, leisure travelers, and reformers.



Here are some new notable poems, stories, 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 published online by South Asian writers, please share them by tagging the @desibooks twitter account. Thank you.

1) Zakir Hossain Khokan has a poem titled ‘First Draft’ out at Southeast Asia Globe, translated by Debabrota Basu. It’s about the living conditions of migrant workers in Singapore during this COVID-19 crisis.

2) Sameem Siddiqui’s story, ‘Airbody’, which was published last month in Clarkesworld magazine, is now available to listen to in audio format on the magazine’s podcast.

3) Ashini Desai has a story titled ‘Bleeding Heart’ in a new anthology, Not Quite As You Were Told: An Anthology of Unforgettable Women.

4) Zeena Yasmine Fuleihan writes about Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain’s 115-year-old short story, ‘Sultana’s Dream: A Feminist Utopia’, at Ploughshares.

5) There’s an excerpt from Arundhati Roy’s 2011 book, Broken Republic: Three Essays, over at Scroll.



1) Maya Shanbhag Lang talks with Sari Botton at Literary Hub about her new memoir, What We Carry.

2) Also at Literary Hub, Sopan Deb talks with Maris Kreizman about his new memoir, Missed Translations.

3) Padma Viswanathan talks with Miguel Conde at Words Without Borders about her translation of São Bernardo, a classic novel by the early twentieth-century Brazilian writer Graciliano Ramos.

4) Michael Ondaatje talks with Amanda Dardanis at Athens Insider about his latest novel, Warlight, and a bunch of other things.

5) Janika Oza wins the 2020 Kenyon Review Short Fiction Contest for ‘Fish Stories’. You should check out what the judge, Misha Rai, says about it.



1) The Zeenat Haroon Rashid Prize is open for non-fiction submissions on the topic of “Women and Pakistan” until June 30. Writers must be women above the age of 18, Pakistani or Pakistani heritage, The submission can be memoir, biography, narrative, or polemical essay. All entries must be original, unpublished works of no more than 3000 words. The winner gets a cash prize of Rs 100,000, which is about $624 today. More details here.



In today’s #FiveDesiFaves segment, we’ll be listening to Rani Shah sharing her favorite desi books.

Rani Shah spent a good part of her childhood imagining she could talk to animals. She is the founder of Fuss Class News, an online South Asian-American satire news site. Her energy sources include chocolate chip cookies, making Gujarati jokes, and quite literally, the sun. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Here’s a bit about Rani’s book: We need look no farther than nature—from the habits of the porcupine to the sunflower to the wombat to the dragonfly—for small and simple things we can do to slow down, recharge, and live more thoughtfully, lovingly, and harmoniously. Wisdom From a Humble Jellyfish is at once charming and scientific, packed with essential wisdom and practical tips worth borrowing from our plant and animal friends for life-changing self-care.

Now Rani has selected four instead of five books in this segment. All terrific picks, by the way, and I loved listening to her voice and humor here. Toward the end, she’s asking listeners and readers to recommend the fifth desi book to her on social media. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram — links in the transcript. Just search for @raanstermonster.

Also, please support Rani by sharing her work across social media, buying her book, or attending her online book events.



(transcript will be up shortly)

1/ The One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined by Salman Khan

2/ Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

3/ The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande

4/ Indian-Ish: Recipes and Antics from a Modern American Family by Priya Krishna

5/ Recommendations from readers and listeners?


You’ve been listening to episode 6 of DesiBooks — news and views about desi literature from the world over.

Tune in next week for Episode 7. 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.


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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