Siddharth Arora lives an ordinary life in the New England suburb of South Haven, but his childhood comes to a grinding halt when his mother dies in a car accident. Siddharth soon gravitates toward a group of adolescent bullies, drinking and smoking instead of drawing and swimming. He takes great pains to care for his depressive father, Mohan Lal, an immigrant who finds solace in the hateful Hindu fundamentalism of his homeland and cheers on Indian fanatics who murder innocent Muslims. When a new woman enters their lives, Siddharth and his father have a chance at a fresh start. They form a new family, hoping to leave their pain behind them. South Haven is no simple coming-of-age tale or hero’s journey, blurring the line between victim and victimizer and asking readers to contend with the lies we tell ourselves as we grieve and survive. Following in the tradition of narratives by Edwidge Danticat and Junot Díaz, Sawhney draws upon the measured lyricism of postcolonial writers like Michael Ondaatje but brings to his subjects distinctly American irreverence and humor.
About The Author:
Hirsh Sawhney writing has appeared in the New York Times Book Review, the Guardian, the Times Literary Supplement, the Financial Times, Outlook and numerous other periodicals. He is the editor of Delhi Noir, a critically acclaimed anthology of original fiction and is on the advisory board of Wasafiri, a London-based journal of international literature. He lives in New Haven, Connecticut and teaches at Wesleyan University. South Haven is his debut novel.
AUTHOR’S STATEMENT ON WRITING SOUTH HAVEN
Rock star Kurt Cobain committed suicide when I was in junior high school. A few weeks later, the boy whose locker was right beside mine took his own life with a gun. He was a sweet, weird kid and a talented musician, and the people I’d striven to befriend had bullied him.
Around the same time, some adults in my family’s community of Indian immigrants were embracing a fundamentalist form of Hindu politics. These individuals raised cash and wired it over to their homeland in order to prop up Hindu nationalist parties, groups that were responsible for violence and discrimination against Indian Muslims. These tragic and violent situations have haunted me, and South Haven is a meditation on what they might reveal about each other and our modern world.
In South Haven, I wanted to explore the connection between the seemingly placid and benign New England suburbs, and the political violence that blights too much of the globe. I began the novel soon after my father died, so I was consumed with grief while writing. My protagonist, a boy named Siddharth, experiences a terrible loss when the novel begins, and grappling with his grief allowed me cope with my own.
Siddharth helped me make sure that the quest for emotional and psychological truth remained at the forefront of my creative process, and this young, sensitive, and sometimes naïve character also helped me infuse subtlety into the historical and political questions that are so vital to this project.