VIDA Reads with Writers–Sayantani Dasgupta!

What are you reading on the subway or in the waiting room today?

I am rereading Sonali Deraniyagala’s searing memoir Wave, about the Indian Ocean tsunami that claimed the lives of her parents, husband, and two sons, among 200,000 other victims. I am in awe of the beauty and power of her unsentimental writing.

What book popped for you in 2015?

I am late to the party but Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge and Nathaniel Philbrick’s In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex were stunning. I want to learn how to write sentences like Strout’s and research like Philbrick.

Whose words do you return to regularly?namesake-jhumpa-lahiri

Jhumpa Lahiri. I have read The Namesake about half a million times. Also, Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist. I have taught it too a bunch of times and with each read and round of student discussion, I discover something new. Whenever the world becomes a little difficult to negotiate, I revisit Bill Bryson’s The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid.

Is there an author you can’t wait to read next?

I am waiting for the memoirs of Kelly Sundberg and Roxane Gay. I believe they are both releasing next year.

What are you working on now? What can VIDA fans look forward to from you next?

I am working on three projects. The first is a novel titled A Very Small Thing, which is about a sixteen-year-old Sikh girl who loses her brother to a terrorist attack and has to keep her family together while learning uncomfortable truths about them. The second is The Village of Vermilion, a novel set in small-town India about a young man who becomes a guru to atone for his past but his affair with an American tourist comes at a great price. And finally, Women Who Misbehave, a collection of short stories that I am having a lot of fun putting together.


View More: in Calcutta and raised in New Delhi, Sayantani Dasgupta teaches at the University of Idaho. Her essays and stories have appeared in The Rumpus, Phoebe, and Gulf Stream, among other magazines and literary journals. She edits nonfiction for Crab Creek Review, and previous honors include a Pushcart Prize Special Mention and a Centrum Fellowship. In Fire Girl, her debut collection of essays, Sayantani examines her personal story against the history, religion, popular culture and mythology of South Asia and her current home in the American West. To learn more, visit