With globalization and the dispersal of people all over the world, the book community has seen a rise in Indian authors of different nationalities, especially Indian American authors. To paraphrase what Salman Rushdie rightly says in his essay ‘Imaginary Homelands,’ this diaspora has created a unique triarchic literature. Diasporic authors have access to their home culture, the new culture they’ve been exposed to and the culture of migration itself. Hence what these authors have to say holds great importance, because it comes from a confluence of three perspectives. Today, we’ve crafted a list of the best books by Indian American authors you should read.
List of Best Books By Indian American Authors You Should Read:
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
Originally from Bengal and now based in Rhode Island, Lahiri is the quintessential Indian diasporic writer and is critically acclaimed – she has even won the Pulitzer. The Lowland follows the tragic lives of the brothers Subhash and Udayan, and Udayan’s wife Gauri in the backdrop of the Naxalite movement. With political history subtly woven into an intimate story of humanity and relationships, this book is Lahiri at her finest. This novel is a vivid portrait of loneliness, love and idealism, and relies on cultural nuances to add colour to it.
The Forest of Enchantments by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Of “Palace of Illusions’ fame, Chitra Banerjee Divakruni brings to life with this novel the story of another woman in an Indian epic – this time she tackles Sita. With poetic prose she sculpts her Sita with delicate femininity and resolute strength. Even as she talks about her abandonment by Ram, she talks with love and compassion. Her characterization is brilliant – as with Draupadi – Sita is no longer the docile epitome of feminine gentleness. Sita is the creator of her life, yet full of virtue. Divakaruni also talks of other forgotten women in the Ramayana – Urmila, Shurpanakha, Ahilya and Mandodari.
The Ultimate Happiness Prescription by Deepak Chopra
Manhattan based Deepak Chopra has been an important figure in Indian spiritual literature. In this short non-fiction novel, he delivers exactly what he promises in the title – a formula for happiness. This formula goes beyond the minor happiness of everyday life. In fact, t talks about the deeper happiness at the level of basic consciousness. The best part is – it isn’t just spiritual talk that seems great but is inapplicable to life, Chopra provides practical tips to harness it and manifest it as well.
The Artist of Disappearance by Anita Desai
A testament to Desai’s knack for writing the most exquisite prose and to her emotional ties to India even though she may have wandered as far as Massachusetts, this novel is composed of three novellas. Each of these is connected to each other thematically – each deals with change and our reaction to it. In the first novella, “The Museum of Final Journeys,” a government office inspects a mansion full of precious artefacts from the work over that are on the brink of decay. In the second, “Translator, Translated” follows Prema as she translates a novel but risks blurring the lines of authenticity and personalization as she begins to pour her heart and desires out in it. The third is the titular story which follows Ravi, a solipsistic, nature-loving recluse living in the Himalayas as a film crew invades his solitude.
Maximum City by Suketu Mehta
This novel is a vivid portrait of the City of Dreams – Mumbai. Suketu Mehta as if rips the clothes off the city and reveals it in its naked beauty. We follow the stories of bar dancers and Bollywood insiders, of gangs in the criminal underworld and cartoonists-cum-political readers. From the local trains to the Arabian sea, the book articulates the surreal experiences that all Mumbaikars have had, but also talks about the lesser known side of Mumbai – its seedy underbelly. This book is classified as non-fiction, but it becomes a story in itself – the story of a city.
Good Talk by Mira Jacob
This unique story weaves together several genres and writing formats . It is simultaneously deeply personal memoir, a beautiful graphic novel and a humorous contemporary fiction. And what’s more – it is all told in telephone conversations. This magnificently creative novel tackles with several themes – immigration, culture, sex, race and family. From imaginary therapy with pop stars to answering her six year old’s devastating questions about racism in politics, this book will move you to tears and make you laugh in amusement.
Immigrant by Amitava Kumar
This postcolonial novel by the New York writer follows the university experience of an Indian immigrant called Kailash. Kailash struggles to find his identity in a nation full of immigrants that treats its immigrants with ambiguity. In the process, he falls for several women. Each of his romantic endeavours teaches him about life, identity and his relationship with this country he now calls home. He also navigates his education, full of youthful idealism and romance for literature, politics and life. This stunning portrait of immigration is so much more than just that – it’s a story of youth and self-discovery that is universal.