Minal Hajratwala’s Leaving India is a fascinating history that kept me up late into the night–and I suspect it will do the same for most readers. Filled with amazing and compelling family stories, it will strike a chord in anyone whose people have come from elsewhere–and today, in America, that’s most of us! I am filled with admiration at Minal’s honesty and the careful beauty of her language. I learned so much, through the story of this one family, about the tragedies and triumphs of the Indian diaspora.
Chitra is best known as a novelist now, and was one of the first South Asian American authors to draw a mainstream readership. However, I first encountered her as a poet, through her books The Reason for Nasturtiums
Chitra is also one of the most generous writers I know. I remember being just barely 25, with a couple of poems published in obscure literary journals to my credit, and somehow getting invited to a “book party” at her house. She invited everyone who came to bring their own books/journals/anthologies/zines/publications of any sort, and set them up all around the house. It was a lovely validation for me as an emerging writer, and I still think of that event as a touchstone for me, a model for doing the work while remembering to celebrate and stay connected with a wider artistic community.