Best of desi reads
Jenny Bhatt's podcast curates news and views about South Asian literature from all over the world. Tune in
Between mid-2014 and early 2020, Texas-based writer Jenny Bhatt was working in India on full-time projects and was amazed at how literature in South Asia (SA) had come into its own over the last decade — in both, English and translations from regional languages. Yet, she observed a disconnect between two audiences: the Western reader who wasn't exposed to SA literature beyond the award-winning names of Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy, Amitav Ghosh and Jhumpa Lahiri, and the reader situated in the region who doesn't know more beyond these names either. So, to bring together and celebrate writers from SA and its diaspora, and make them more visible, she started the Desi Books podcast earlier this month.
In an email interview Bhatt explains that the idea germinated over a year ago. "Despite all of our shared history and culture, we don't seem to be aware of and appreciate SA literature as this rich, syncretic global phenomenon," she says. Three episodes have been released so far and the host addresses new work by SA writers across formats — books, essays, poems and stories — while also including current affairs of the literary world like online events and awards. Starting 2013, Bhatt ran a daily online literary website for a year. "It wasn't desi-centric but had a modest readership of over 500 subscribers. I wasn't able to pay writers past my self-imposed deadline to make it 'viable' so I closed it down," she shares. Now, she hopes that an online platform will allow a wider reach. "Links to all the books, stories, essays and interviews featured are then provided with the full transcript within 24 hours for anyone who wants to go deeper," she informs.
With a good response so far — a couple hundred listeners, 100 followers on Twitter and at least five writers reaching out for support — Bhatt hopes to get co-hosts from different SA countries to also talk about genres apart from literary fiction and non-fiction, which are her comfort zones. Writer and industry expert interviews, author reads and spoken essays, community book reads, panel discussions, competitions, among other things, are also on the cards.
Bhatt has a bigger dream, though, to have a Desi Books Hub along the lines of Lithub.com. She says, "I've tweeted about that in the past too and gotten interest but I don't have the financial resources yet and I won't ask anyone to work for free."
Log on to anchor.fm/desibooks/
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