#DesiReads: Sopan Deb reads from his memoir, Missed Translations

Desi Books Ep 7 w/ Sopan Deb 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 7 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 the monthly segment, #DesiReads. This involves writers reading an excerpt from their latest work. No questions or interruptions from me, just the writer and their words. Today, we have Sopan Deb, who has a new memoir out called Missed Translations.

Also, #DesiBooksGiveaways is a new segment where you, the listeners, get to win books and book-related giveaways. I’m hoping to make it a weekly thing but let’s see how this one plays out.



Please visit the previous May episodes for all the other new and notable books out this month. 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.

1) Manreet Sodhi Someshwar’s novel, The Radiance of a Thousand Suns, which came out in India last year, is out in the US this month. It covers a wide range of historical events from the India-Pakistan Partition to the 1984 Indian emergency and pogrom to 9/11. It also weaves in the epic Mahabharata, the poetry of Bulleh Shah, and the legend of Heer. You can watch Manreet chatting with her Indian editor at HarperCollins India, Prema Govindan, a week or so ago here.

2) Nathacha Appanah (I hope I’m pronouncing this correctly; my apologies if not) has a novel out titled Tropic of Violence. It’s translated from the French by Geoffrey Strachan. It’s set in Mayotte, a forgotten part of France in the Indian Ocean. Appanah herself is part of the South Asian diaspora in Mauritius though, I believe, she now lives in France.

Related to this new and notable book roundup, a new segment begins this week called #DesiBooksGiveaway. Here’s what you can expect:

— Books in this segment will be recent fiction, non-fiction, or poetry.

— The author will provide some quick information about the book via a brief Q&A which will be aired the day the giveaway begins.

— The aim is to pick desi books published throughout South Asia as well as in other countries where writers of the desi diaspora reside. Generally, the giveaway will run in the main country of the book’s publication but we’ll see how we can be more inclusive.

— The giveaway will run on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for one week.

— No purchase, signup, or download is required. Except for a Google form where you can enter your first and last name and country of residence. Only the randomly-chosen winner will be asked to provide a mailing address. And let me clarify: this information will not be used for any other purpose by Desi Books.

— The winner will be randomly selected and notified 48 hours after the giveaway ends. They will then have 48 hours to email the desibooks email account with their mailing address.

— The writer will then be mailing the book copy to them.

That’s all the basic information for now. Let’s see how this evolves, shall we? Stay tuned for details on the actual giveaway this week toward the end of the podcast.



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) A new-ish venue called Adi Magazine (I hope I’m pronouncing this right; it’s a Tamil word) has its third issue out focusing on Terror in South Asia. It’s filled with essays and poems by various South Asian writers like Nazish Brohi, Fathima Cader, Ather Zia, Rana Ayyub, Anushani, Suchitra Vijayan, and Bhanu Kapil. Worth a read. There’s even a playlist with music recommendations from the contributors.

2) Samyak Shertok has a poem titled ‘In the Year of the Earth’ in the new issue of Blackbird Magazine. There’s a companion essay about how this poem came about.

3) One of Shanta Acharya’s poems titled ‘Ambala’ was featured in The Guardian. This is from her latest collection, What Survives Is the Singing, which came out in February this year in the UK. You can read a few more poems on the publisher’s website.

4) Karthik Sethuraman has two poems up at the Asian American Writer’s Workshop titled ‘Kuruvi’ and ‘Mackinaw’.

5) Rafia Zakaria has an essay up at The Guardian about how she tried to fit into the literary world by lying about living in New York City.

6) Sopan Deb had an essay up at The New York Times about Mother’s Day and meeting his estranged parents. This is also part of what his new memoir, Missed Translations, is about. Stay tuned for a reading by Sopan in our #DesiReads segment.

7) Also in The New York Times, Sujatha Gidla has an essay about COVID-19 and being an essential worker with the NYC subway and getting sick with the virus. She’s better now, thank goodness.

8) Maya Shanbhag Lang has an essay at The Lily about dating during these times after a painful divorce and other major life changes. She’s written about the latter in her new memoir, What We Carry

9) Sarosh Nandwani has a lovely brief essay up at Atlas and Alice about parents dealing with the pandemic.

10) Parul Kapur Hinzen has an essay at Los Angeles Review of Books about the 2020 Jaipur Literary Festival and whether literature can help with India’s growing socio-political divides.

11) Karthik Venkatesh has another lovely essay at The Better India about the first use of “Hinglish” — a combination of Hindi and English that is widely prevalent today across India.

12) Sejal Shah has a craft essay about the use of notes in essays up at Poets and Writers Magazine. She has an essay collection out next month titled This is One Way to Dance.

13) Shah also has an essay at Blackbird Magazine titled ‘India West’ and it’s about, well, a lot of things but mostly about being Indian and American in the US. Her accompanying essay about how she came to write ‘India West’ is also worth a read.



1) Staying with Sejal Shah, there’s a terrific interview at the Kenyon Review by Amy Long about Shah’s upcoming book too.

2)  We had another Shah on last week sharing her #FiveDesiFaves: Rani Shah. She has an interview at Creative Non-fiction podcast talking about her new book, Wisdom From a Humble Jellyfish.

3) Pawan Dhingra was on the Keeping Democracy Alive podcast discussing his new book: Hyper Education: Why Good Schools, Good Grades, and Good Behavior Are Not Enough.

4) Dhingra was also on NPR’s WGVU discussing his new book.

5) Sopan Deb was on The Grand Tamasha podcast discussing Missed Translations, his new memoir. Stay tuned to hear Deb read from his book shortly.

6) And Namita Gokhale, the writer, publisher, and co-founder of the Jaipur Literary Festival, was on the Globalocal Forum podcast discussing her books, the festival, and much more.



1) This isn’t a new-new call but I believe it’s still open. Equality Labs is looking for writers for an upcoming publication called The Blueprint which will feature “powerful emerging voices from the South Asian diaspora and its historically silenced and marginalized global communities.” This platform has been built and is led by Dalit and Muslim writers. Follow this link for more information.



In today’s #DesiReads segment, we’ll be listening to Sopan Deb reading from his new memoir, Missed Translations.

Sopan Deb is a writer for The New York Times. Before joining The Times, he covered Donald Trump’s presidential campaign for CBS News. He is also a New York City-based comedian.

Here’s a bit about Sopan’s memoir, Missed Translations: Meeting The Immigrant Parents Who Raised Me: The book tracks a year of Deb’s life as he tries to find his parents, both of whom he had become estranged from. As first-generation immigrants from India, they’d had a volatile and ultimately doomed marriage and family life in suburban New Jersey. Deb’s father, Shyamal, left for India without telling anyone when Deb was 18. Bishakha and Sopan had lost touch years prior. Coming of age in a mostly white suburban town, Deb’s alienation led him to seek separation from his family and his culture, longing for the tight-knit home environment of his white friends. His desire wasn’t rooted in racism or oppression; it was born of envy and desire—for white moms who made after-school snacks and asked his friends about the girls they liked and the teachers they didn’t. Deb yearned for the same. As the story begins, Deb has no idea where his parents are living. It doesn’t take long for him to find them. But reconnection is just the first step on the journey. Understanding is the real challenge.

Please support Sopan by sharing his work across social media, buying his book, or attending his online book events.





Our first #desibooksgiveaway is a FREE three-month membership of Libro.fm, the audiobook platform.

Here’s a bit about them: they’re the first audiobook company allowing audiobook purchases through local bookstores of choice. They have 1100+ bookstore partners and 150,000+ audiobooks including NYT bestsellers and bookseller recommendations. Their pricing is the SAME as Amazon’s Audible. The local bookstore receives half the libroprofits. And all audiobooks are DRM-free so the customer owns the digital file.

Here’s what you’ll need to do to participate in this giveaway:

1) Go to the social media links included in the episode transcript and share or comment at the giveaway tweet or post right on that social platform tagging at least one friend who you think might be interested in the giveaway. Don’t forget to use the hashtag, #desibooksgiveaway, or I won’t be able to see that you’ve shared the giveaway.

2) Click the google forms link and enter your full name and country of residence. You can also find this form at https://bit.ly/desibooks-giveaway.

And let me whet your appetite with the DesiBooks audiobook playlist at Libro.fm. This will be updated on an ongoing basis. You can find it at https://libro.fm/playlists/desibooks-podcast.

All the links will be in the transcript too.

That’s it. Good luck.


You’ve been listening to episode 7 of DesiBooks — news and views about desi literature from the world over.

Tune in next week for Episode 8. 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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