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Sanjena Sathian Books In Order

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Publication Order of Standalone Novels

Gold Diggers (2021)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Sanjena Sathian
Sanjena Anshu Sathian is an American journalist and novelist. She grew up in Georgia, having been raised by a Kannadiga mom and a Malayali mom, who were each immigrants from South India.

She grew up in the metro Atlanta area and went to The Westminster Schools. During high school, she competed in policy debate, and won the national championship during her senior year. She went to Yale College, and graduated in the year 2013, with her BA in English.

She received a 2017 Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans, which supported her studies while she was at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, which she graduated from in the year 2019 with her MFA in creative writing.

After she graduated from college, she worked as a technology journalist in San Francisco before she moved to Mumbai in order to work as a foreign correspondent.

Her short fiction has appeared in The Masters Review, Salt Hill, Boulevard, and Joyland. She has written nonfiction pieces for The New Yorker, the San Francisco Chronicle, Food & Wine, OZY, The Millions, The Juggernaut, and the Boston Globe.

“Gold Diggers” was an Amazon Editor’s Pick, a Vox Bookclub Pick, a Good Morning America Buzz Pick, and An Amazon Best of 2021 Pick. It was also longlisted for the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize, and was named a Best Book of April by Entertainment Weekly, PopSugar, and CNN, and Bustle.

Sanjena’s debut novel, called “Gold Diggers”, was released in the year 2021 by Penguin Press, and is from the literary fiction genre. The novel sold to Penguin after a seven-way auction.

Sanjena writes magical realism, and it is about half of what she does. She is a big fan of Salman Rushdie and he has written about how, for an immigrant or for the immigrant condition, magic is the reality. The breaking of your own continuous and logical experience that migration causes, that being “other” causes, opens up the space for new realities, because you do need them. And she believes that is how “Gold Diggers” ended up happening.

It was obvious to her just as soon as she had imagined these gold thefts in the book that her characters were not just doing it only for the money. There was something else at stake as well: belonging, assimilation, and achievement. However these things are much too abstract unless you can dramatize it.

Magical realism was something that allowed her the chance to give shape to forces which may otherwise have seemed kind of generic. You cannot just write about them on the nose, unless you can find a sideways way in.

She set the book during the Bush-era because they were just the times that she grew up in. Sanjena grew up in Georgia and was in the fifth grade when 9/11 happened. Their neighbors at the time, who were white people that lived next door, came to her parents the week after 9/11 and told them that they had contacts within the Bush administration if they ever got into trouble.

They knew that the way people looked at Brown people in the South was fraught already and once 9/11happened that just made things worse. She’d see her brother and dad get harassed by airport security. It was something that they’d joke about, however it was also very real.

It isn’t like she chose these kinds of settings so that she could evoke specific sentiments. She was writing the novel, and that was part of the fabric of reality. The humor and the magic winds up needing to have something serious to bump up against.

It was announced before the novel was released that the novel is being adapted into a television series by Mindy Kaling and her production company Kaling International. Sathian is going to be a co-executive producer and co-writer, while Howard Klein and Kaling are going to be its executive producers.

“Gold Diggers” is the first stand alone novel and was released in the year 2021. An Indian-American magical realist coming of age story that spans two continents, four epochs, and two coasts, and Sanjena captures what it’s like to grow up as part of a family, of the American meritocracy, and of a diaspora.

Neil Narayan, a floundering second-generation teen growing up in the Atlanta suburbs during the Bush-era, is authentic, brilliant, and funny. He doesn’t share the same drive as the people around him. His parents’ expectations for him are equally as high as his perfect older sister that is headed off to Duke. He attempts to want this same version of success. However he mostly just wants Anita Dayal, his neighbor on the other side of the cul-de-sac.

However Anita’s got a secret: she and Anjali, her mom, have been brewing up an ancient alchemical potion coming from stolen gold which harnesses the ambition o the jewelry’s original owner. Anjali’s own mom back in Bombay did not waste this precious potion on her daughter, and favored her sons instead. Anita, on the other hand, only needs a bit of a boost to get accepted into Harvard. However when Neil, who needs a whole lot more than that, joins in on this plot, events begin to spiral into a tragedy which tears their community to pieces.

Ten years later, and Neil is now an oft-stoned Berkeley history graduate student that studies that California gold rush. His cohort from high school has migrated to Silicon Valley, reuniting with Anita and resurrects their former habit of gold theft. It’s just that now, the stakes have been raised. Anita’s mom is currently in trouble and only gold is able to save her. So Neil and Anita have to pull that one last heist.

This is a fine-grained, profoundly intelligent, and bitingly hilarious investigation into some questions about coming of age and identity which rips apart American shibboleths.

The magical realism used in the novel is inventive and deft, operating even on the level of history, and in times that history becomes myth. Even though this is a very funny novel, it is also incredibly melancholy which is a rare feat.

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