With passion and grace, Deb deftly paints a vivid picture of the difficulties and dichotomies facing the people of today’s...

A frank look at modern India, told through the stories of its most hopeful and its most desperate people.

After working undercover in an Indian call center as part of a journalistic assignment, novelist Deb (Creative Writing/New School; An Outline of the Republic, 2005, etc.) asked himself a very simple yet loaded question: Who am I? Where do I fit in this modern-day India? It’s this query that spurred the author to begin his quest; over five years, he assembled a somewhat coherent portrait of this jumbled country of contradictions. The book tells the story of five different people, from a man Deb likens to Jay Gatsby because his wealth is tainted by the suspicion of his fellow Indians, to a factory worker who works a dangerous job with no benefits or compensation in case of injury. Each of his subjects comes from a different part of India, with dissimilar backgrounds and disparate fortunes; each has experienced hardship on some level. These stories are sometimes droll and always have at least a tinge of tragedy. Deb impressively chronicles the dichotomies that exist within India while keeping the narrative intensely personal. He puts a human face on horrific statistics that are so large as to be incomprehensible—e.g., from 2004 to 2005, “the last year for which data was available, the total number of people in India consuming less than 20 rupees (or 50 cents) a day was 836 million – or 77 percent of the population.” Though the book lacks an overarching narrative to tie these stories together, which can make it a difficult read at times, Deb briskly moves the story along. The author successfully argues his broad points about India’s status as a country of opposites while maintaining the reader’s personal connection with the people in it.

 With passion and grace, Deb deftly paints a vivid picture of the difficulties and dichotomies facing the people of today’s India.

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-86547-862-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Faber & Faber/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2011


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

Close Quickview