Memoir by three Indian American writers highlight of the season

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Jacket cover of Rajat Gupta’s memoir ‘Mind Without Fear’.

NEW YORK – A trio of interesting memoirs, by celebrated Indian American personalities, is the flavor of the season: Preet Bharara’s ‘Doing Justice – A Prosecutor’s Thoughts on Crime, Punishment, and the Rule of Law’; Rajat Gupta’s ‘Mind Without Fear’; and Siddharth Dube’s ‘An Indefinite Sentence – A Personal History of Outlawed Love and Sex’, all make for compelling reading.

In ‘Mind Without Fear’ (RosettaBooks; 376 pages; $34.95), Gupta, who for nine years led McKinsey & Co.- the first foreign-born person to head the world’s most influential management consultancy, and who sat on the boards of distinguished philanthropic institutions such as the Gates Foundation and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and corporations, including Goldman Sachs, American Airlines, and Procter & Gamble – traces his fall from grace.

Against the backdrop of public rage and recrimination that followed the financial crisis, Gupta was found guilty and sentenced to two years in jail after being convicted on charges of insider trading. Throughout his trial and imprisonment, Gupta has fought the charges and maintains his innocence to this day.

Gupta recalls his unlikely rise from orphan to immigrant to international icon as well as his dramatic fall from grace, in the memoir. He writes movingly about his childhood losses, reflects on the challenges he faced as a student and young executive in the United States, and offers a rare inside glimpse into the elite and secretive culture of McKinsey. And for the first time, he tells his side of the story in the scandal that destroyed his career and reputation.

Jacket cover of ‘Doing Justice’ by Preet Bharara (Photo Knopf, Handout via The Washington Post)

Bharara’s ‘Doing Justice’ (345 pp. Alfred A. Knopf. $27.95) is an important overview of the way justice system works, and why the rule of law is essential to society.

Bharara, one-time federal prosecutor for the Southern District of New York, and seemingly on a fast-track political career, divides the book into four sections: Inquiry, Accusation, Judgment and Punishment.

Preet Bharara. Photo: Reuters.

Bharara, who according to The New York Times, during his tenure was one of “the nation’s most aggressive and outspoken prosecutors of public corruption and Wall Street crime”, uses anecdotes and case histories from his legal career – the successes as well as the failures – to illustrate the realities of the legal system, and the consequences of taking action.

After he was fired from his job last year in March, for refusing to follow Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ request for all remaining 46 U.S. Attorneys appointed during Barack Obama’s presidency to resign by President Trump, Bharara has maintained a high profile, and continues to stay in the limelight.

He joined the New York University School of Law faculty as a Distinguished Scholar in Residence. He also started a weekly podcast called ‘Stay Tuned with Preet’, which features long-form interviews with prominent guests, and another podcast with former New Jersey Attorney General and fellow law professor Anne Milgram, ‘Cafe Insider’, which also provides legal commentary on the latest news.

Jacket cover of Siddharth Dube’s ‘An Indefinite Sentence’.

Dube’s ‘An Indefinite Sentence’ (Atria Books; 376 pages; $28), is a coming of age memoir in the earliest days of AIDS.

Dube was at the frontlines when that disease made rights for gay men and for sex workers a matter of basic survival, pushing to decriminalize same-sex relations and sex work in India, both similarly outlawed under laws dating back to British colonial rule.

He became a trenchant critic of the United States’ imposition of its cruel anti-prostitution policies on developing countries – an effort legitimized by leading American feminists and would-be do-gooders – warning that this was a 21st century replay of the moralistic Victorian-era campaigns that had spawned endless persecution of countless women, men, and trans individuals the world over.

The memoir weaves Dube’s own quest for love and self-respect with unforgettable portrayals of the struggles of some of the world’s most oppressed people, those reviled and cast out for their sexuality.

Siddharth Dube. Photo: Marguerite Heeb.

Dube also writes unsparingly of horrific sexual and physical abuse in some schools for boys in India, including Doon School, which he attended.

Dube, who was born in Calcutta, has also studied at Tufts University, the University of Minnesota’s School of Journalism, and the Harvard School of Public Health. He has since been scholar-in-residence at Yale University’s Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS, and a long-term visiting fellow at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi. Currently, he is a senior fellow at the World Policy Institute in New York City.

In 2006, Dube, Vikram Seth and the historian Saleem Kidwai initiated a campaign urging the Indian government and the judiciary to decriminalize same-sex relations. Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen had joined the campaign too.

Other much anticipated books by Indian Americans to be published later this year include Suketu Mehta’s ‘This Land is Their Land’ (Jonathan Cape), which deals with the rise of the far-right and the worldwide anti-immigrant backlash, in the Trump era; and Amitav Ghosh’s novel ‘Gun Island’ (Hamish Hamilton), which according to publicity notes, is a story “about a world in which creatures and beings of every kind have been torn loose from their accustomed homes by the catastrophic processes of displacement”.

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