WHERE: The author grew up in India
and now lives in Poughkeepsie.
WHY: “An inventive delight,
perfectly pitched to omnivorous readers.
“The plot of Kumar’s droll and exhilarating novel may feel familiar at first, but this coming-of-age-in-the-city story is bolstered by the author’s captivating prose, which keeps it consistently surprising and hilarious.
“Indian immigrant Kailash arrives in New York in 1990 wide-eyed but also wry, self-aware, and intellectually thirsty. Kailash lives uptown and attends college, and soon has his first sexual experience, with the socially conscious Jennifer, a coworker at the bookstore where he works, who brings him hummus and takes him ice skating.
“After he and Jennifer break up, he begins to date the mischievous Nina, followed by a series of other young women; the novel’s seven parts are titled after Kailash’s romantic partners, his formal education intertwined with his personal education. Nina takes Kailash to Montana, where his memories of lovemaking are tangled with snippets of Victor Hugo, Wittgenstein, and the history of British colonialism in India. After several peregrinations, explorations, and women, Kailash lands back in Manhattan with a similarly academically curious woman named Cai Yan, who is also from India. Ultimately, his journey is more intellectual than physical, and the book includes a plethora of lively literary and cultural references in footnotes, sidebars, and illustrations.” –PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, a featured starred review
“The modern Bildungsroman of an erudite global citizen.”
—Terry Hong, LIBRARY JOURNAL
“A beguiling meditation on memory and migration, sex and politics, ideas and art, and race and ambiguity. Part novel, part memoir, this book is as sly, charming, and deceptive as its passionate protagonist, a writer writing himself into being.”
—Viet Thanh Nguyen
“There is a buoyant energy and hilarity to this account of an Indian student seeking the wide world through the women he meets, but one laughs with growing unease as a darker undercurrent is slowly revealed. An unusual, brave twist on the migrant’s tale.” —Kiran Desai
“Romantic, natural, gorgeously detailed, and painfully truthful about exile, grad school, sex, and the South Asian man. Few novels have captured the mental texture of immigration so accurately.” —Karan Mahajan
. . . . .
FROM THE BEGINNING OF THE BOOK:
I was a new immigrant, eager to shine, and if self-abuse were to be omitted from the reckoning, pure of body and heart. The letters I sent my parents in India were full of enthusiasm for the marvels of my new life. To those who welcomed me to America, I wanted to say, without even being asked, that E.T. ought to have won the Oscar over Gandhi. I had found the latter insufficiently authentic but more crucially I felt insufficiently authentic myself. Not so much fake as insubstantial. I understood that I needed a suitable narrative to present to the people I was meeting. There was only contempt in my heart for my fellow Indian students who repeated stories about trying to educate ignorant Americans in barbershops who had asked how come they spoke such good English or if they belonged to tribes or grew up among tigers. The nostalgia I had come to treasure was a hypertrophied sense of the past as a place, a place with street signs and a figure atop a staircase that I recognized. This desire had nothing to do with the kinds of claims to civilizational superiority that make men demolish places of worship or want to bomb cities into oblivion. I knew this and yet I was uncertain about my story. I lacked calm self-knowledge. If a woman spoke to me, particularly if she was attractive, I grew excited and talked too much.