Jun 30, 2022
Embarrassing video footage goes viral in this fresh Indian comedy about generation gaps, gossip and the power of the internet
“Log kya kahenge?” (“What will people think?”) is a common Hindi phrase in India, a forewarning of public opinion on one’s personal life. Such opinions are generally understood to be overly critical, a judgment on one’s character and moral compass. The phrase hovers over Aravind Jayan’s humorous and heartwarming first novel, Teen Couple Have Fun Outdoors, haunting the eponymous protagonists’ families and lives.
Amma and Appa live in the Blue Hills housing colony in Trivandrum, Kerala. They’re proudly on the road to a comfortable middle-class life, complete with a white Honda Civic – that marker of success and social mobility – when things fall apart. A clip of their eldest son Sreenath and his girlfriend Anita, caught on camera in “sex-adjacent” activities, has been posted to a porn site and is now circulating far and wide, gathering more momentum and causing more mortification with each passing day. This viral video breaks the internet, severing familial bonds and leaving the reader wondering what the ripple effects will be. Continue reading...
Apr 05, 2022
Norman Erikson Pasaribu, Sana Goyal and Guardian readers Melissa and Joe discuss the titles they’ve read over the last month. Join the conversation in the comments
In this series we ask authors, Guardian writers and readers to share what they’ve been reading recently. This month, recommendations include a page-turning tale of a toxic relationship, a pocket-sized poetry pamphlet and an allegory of what it means to be alive. Tell us what you’ve been reading in the comments.
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Mar 31, 2022
The understated and surprising tales in this debut collection provide multiple perspectives on recurring scenes
The award-winning story Arrival, which opens Gurnaik Johal’s virtuosic debut collection, exemplifies his deceptively simple style. A young couple live near the airport, and a car has been left on their driveway by the sister of a friend. The car’s presence – its practicality and luxury – changes the couple’s relationship. Both humans and objects often appear or disappear in Johal’s stories, altering the destinies and dynamics of the protagonists’ lives.
These loosely linked stories are mostly set in Southall, west London, among a close-knit British-Punjabi community, with multiple perspectives introduced that shed light on recurring scenes. Characters reappear across stories to create new beginnings and to change endings and readers’ expectations. Johal writes about relationships with the assuredness of Akhil Sharma, as untranslated Hindi, Punjabi and Marathi words and idioms sit confidently on the page. Leave to Remain is less about crossing political borders and more about traversing personal thresholds. The Red River is less about assimilation and more about finding a room of one’s own. Strange Attractor and Haven Green explore such elusive concepts as serendipity and destiny. Continue reading...
Feb 23, 2022
This boisterous New York coming-of-age tale uses its collective narrator to tell forceful truths about women and race
Very early on, in a chapter titled “Musical Chairs”, we’re told that teachers at a New York City school can’t tell brown girls apart. They call upon Nadira but stare at Anjali; they ask Michaela to answer a question only to hand the marker pen to Naz. “We stand when our names are called, and our teachers halt, confused.” Nadira is Pakistani, Anjali is Guyanese, Michaela is Haitian, and Naz’s family are from Ivory Coast. The students laugh at their teachers, but think: “Her body is not mine is not mine is not mine. And yet.” And yet. In Daphne Palasi Andreades’s boisterous and infectious debut novel, such impulses to simplify identities or lean on stereotypes are dismissed, then turned to dust.
A largely plotless coming-of-age story about a group of friends, and a love letter to a community and a city, Brown Girls is set in “the dregs of Queens” and told in eight parts consisting of vignettes and short sentences. Moving in a fairly linear fashion from girlhood to adulthood and even into the afterlife, all the while riding the waves of successes and failures, hopes and tragedies, these could be anyone’s life stories. But it’s the particular microaggressions the girls face, and the collective bonds they forge as a consequence, that set them apart. Continue reading...
May 12, 2021
In this savage cinematic caper about an academic fraudster, social commentary meets standup comedy
The opening chapter of How to Kidnap the Rich comes to a close with the narrator, a chai wallah’s son and con artist, clarifying that this isn’t a story about poverty, it’s a story about wealth. A few pages further in, we’re told that Delhi isn’t saffron; isn’t spice – it’s sweat. In Rahul Raina’s satirical state-of-the-nation debut, which slices into the soul of contemporary Indian society, things aren’t always the way they appear.
Ramesh Kumar is himself a sham. Having long left behind a childhood filled with abject poverty on the streets of East Delhi, a “grey smear on Google Maps”, he becomes an “examinations consultant” who commits academic fraud. Now a self-proclaimed “charming, witty, urbane man about town”, he sits entrance exams that are entry points to the west – the best universities, “the whitest lives” – for the elite. When Rudi, a teenager with a “no-matches-on-Tinder-face”, opts for the “All India Examinations: Premium Package”, little does Ramesh know that it will gain him beyond-belief riches and cost him a finger. If you place in the top thousand, it’s your ticket out of India. But what if you rank first? Continue reading...