Q&A from author: Anjali Enjeti, formerly of Chattanooga, on the books that inspire her

“THE PARTED EARTH” by Anjali Enjeti (Hub City Press, 304 pages, $16).

In the essay “What are you? Where are you from?” – the introduction to her 2021 collection, “Southbound” – Anjali Enjeti writes: “I am half Indian, quarter Puerto Rican and quarter Austrian. I am the daughter of an immigrant and also a daughter from the Deep South.”

Enjeti, who grew up in Chattanooga and now lives near Atlanta, explores and embraces this multifaceted identity in her essays, political activism, and fiction.

‘The Parted Earth’, Enjeti’s debut novel, tells a story shaped by the sectarian violence of India’s 1947 partition, following the legacy of that trauma from the streets of New Delhi to Atlanta of the 21st century. In her review of Chapter 16, Emily Choate described the book as an examination of “the personal costs of starting over in the face of tragedy, whether those tragedies are intimate losses or shockwaves of upheaval across an entire continent”.

Hub City Press / “The Shared Earth”

To mark the release of “The Parted Earth” paperback, Chapter 16 asked Enjeti to share some of his favorite books and authors via our Glorious Pastime quiz.

Q: Tell us the first book you remember liking and what you liked about it.

A: Damn, there are so many! Aside from pretty much all of Judy Blume’s books, I’d say Louise Fitzhugh’s “Harriet the Spy.” The novel is, of course, based on a writer – a young girl who observes everything around her and keeps it in her diary. I read the book long before I imagined I could be a writer, but I spent much of my youth keeping a journal, so I guess I bonded with Harriet!

Q: What books do you regularly invite your friends to read?

A: I’m South Asian, so I like to recommend books by other South Asian authors, especially those that have been published by small presses. A few favorites of late are two memoirs, “Khabaar: An Immigrant Journey of Food, Memory and Family” by Madhushree Ghosh and “Another Appalachia: Coming Up Queer and Indian in a Mountain Place” by Neema Avashia.

Q: What are you currently reading and what made you choose it?

A: I’m reading Melissa Febos’ new nonfiction book on writing, “Body Work: The Radical Power of Personal Narrative.” It’s about the importance of telling our stories, especially as women and women, who often feel like our memoirs and personal essays don’t matter. Febos argues that we often feel there is no longer room in the literary landscape for our traumas or our parenting or friendship experiences. The book is a call to write our lives fearlessly and shamelessly.

I really appreciate it, and it’s also a book that I really needed to read. I often still struggle with such doubt when I sit down to write. The first thing that often comes to mind is: who on earth would want to read this drivel? A big part of writing for me is about overcoming that insecurity.

Q: Is there an author or book you would like to know better?

A: Novelist Bernice McFadden is not as well known as she should be. After many years of publishing, the industry finally started recognizing her and her work about five years ago. She has won an American Book Award, a New York Times’ Editors’ Choice Award and an NAACP Image Award. But it should be read and taught by everyone, everywhere. “Sugar”, “Gathering of Waters” and “The Book of Harlan” are three of my favorites.

For more local book coverage, visit Chapter16.org, an online publication of Humanities Tennessee.

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