Boyhoods: Hirsh Sawhney and Akhil Sharma in conversation with Mythili Rao

  • Thursday, September 29, 2016
  • 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM
  • 607B Pulitzer Hall, 2950 Broadway, New York, NY 10027

South Haven by Hirsh Sawhney

Siddharth Arora lives an ordinary life in the New England suburb of South Haven, but his childhood comes to a grinding halt when his mother dies in a car accident. Siddharth soon gravitates toward a group of adolescent bullies, drinking and smoking instead of drawing and swimming. He takes great pains to care for his depressive father, Mohan Lal, an immigrant who finds solace in the hateful Hindu fundamentalism of his homeland and cheers on Indian fanatics who murder innocent Muslims. When a new woman enters their lives, Siddharth and his father have a chance at a fresh start. They form a new family, hoping to leave their pain behind them.

South Haven is no simple coming-of-age tale or hero’s journey, blurring the line between victim and victimizer and asking readers to contend with the lies we tell ourselves as we grieve and survive. Following in the tradition of narratives by Edwidge Danticat and Junot Díaz, Sawhney draws upon the measured lyricism of postcolonial writers like Michael Ondaatje but brings to his subjects distinctly American irreverence and humor.

HIRSH SAWHNEY’s writing has appeared in the New York Times Book Review, the Guardian, the Times Literary Supplement, the Financial TimesOutlook, and numerous other periodicals. He is the editor of Delhi Noir, a critically acclaimed anthology of original fiction, and is on the advisory board of Wasafiri, a London-based journal of international literature. He lives in New Haven, Connecticut, and teaches at Wesleyan University. South Haven is his debut novel.


Family Life by Akhil Sharma

Hailed as a "supreme storyteller" (Philadelphia Inquirer) for his "cunning, dismaying and beautifully conceived" fiction (New York Times), Akhil Sharma is possessed of a narrative voice "as hypnotic as those found in the pages of Dostoyevsky" (The Nation). In his highly anticipated second novel, Family Life, he delivers a story of astonishing intensity and emotional precision.

We meet the Mishra family in Delhi in 1978, where eight-year-old Ajay and his older brother Birju play cricket in the streets, waiting for the day when their plane tickets will arrive and they and their mother can fly across the world and join their father in America. America to the Mishras is, indeed, everything they could have imagined and more: when automatic glass doors open before them, they feel that surely they must have been mistaken for somebody important. Pressing an elevator button and the elevator closing its doors and rising, they have a feeling of power at the fact that the elevator is obeying them. Life is extraordinary until tragedy strikes, leaving one brother severely brain-damaged and the other lost and virtually orphaned in a strange land. Ajay, the family’s younger son, prays to a God he envisions as Superman, longing to find his place amid the ruins of his family’s new life.

Heart-wrenching and darkly funny, Family Life is a universal story of a boy torn between duty and his own survival.

AKHIL SHARMA is the author of An Obedient Father, winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award and was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Best American Short Stories, and O. Henry Award Stories. A native of Delhi, he lives in New York City and is an assistant professor of English at Rutgers University, Newark.



About the Moderator:

MYTHILI RAO is a producer at WNYC radio. Her book reviews, essays, and reporting have also appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Book Review, The Daily Beast, Words Without Borders, and other publications.  She previously served on SAJA's Board.


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