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New Yorker’s Immigrant story selected for 2018 “A Novel Idea” Project in Oregon

Rakesh Satyal (Courtesy: rakeshsatyalbooks.com)

A novel by Rakesh Satyal, an Indian-American author who lives in Brooklyn, has been chosen as the 2018 “A Novel Idea … Read Together” project by Oregon’s Dechutes Public Library. “No One Can Pronounce My Name,” is about an Indian suburban family in Cleveland, Ohio.

The announcement of the selection was made by the director of Deschutes Public Library, Todd Dunkelberg, during an event attended by around 250 people on December 1, at the Downtown Bend Library in Deschutes, Oregon, according to the library’s website.
The story in No One Can Pronounce My Name takes place in Ohio and follows the lives of several Indian-Americans as they struggle with issues of identity, connection, sexuality, and loss while straddling the divide between Eastern and Western cultures.

“A Novel Idea” is the largest community read program in the state of Oregon. Last year nearly 7,000 county residents read, discussed and attended free cultural and author events at the Library’s six branches and at partnering organizations. With this year’s selection of No One Can Pronounce My Name, the Library anticipates the highly successful program’s continued growth, the website of the library said in revealing the winner.

“The 2018 ‘A Novel Idea’ selection follows in the footsteps of previous selections by taking us to new places while exploring new cultures,” Communications & Development Manager Chantal Strobel, is quoted saying. “Satyal’s book explores the immigrant experience while using humor in a touching way to delve into a variety of issues. I think readers will appreciate the levity he brings to timely topics,” she continued.

“A Novel Idea” kicks off on Saturday, April 14 next year at the Downtown Bend Library. Three weeks of programs will follow where participants will explore the themes and ideas found in No One Can Pronounce My Name. Satyal will attend the concluding event May 6, at Bend High School, where he will also sign copies of the book.

BookPage said of the book: “Ambitious in scope, No One Can Pronounce My Name dares to tackle life’s biggest questions, irrespective of nationality. Through a successful blend of pathos and humor, Satyal bravely explores themes of intimacy, identity and sexuality, asking his characters—and his readers—to closely examine the inalienable qualities that make us all human.”

Satyal is the author of Blue Boy, which won the 2000 Lambda Literary Award for Gay Debut Fiction and the 2010 Prose/Poetry Award from the Association of Asian American Studies. He received the 2010 Fellowship in Fiction from the New York Foundation for the Arts and two fellowships from the Norman Mailer Writers’ Colony. His writing has appeared in New York magazine, Vulture, Out magazine, and The Awl. A graduate of Princeton University, he has taught in the publishing program at New York University and has been on the advisory committee for the annual PEN World Voices Festival.

Cover of “No One Can Pronounce My Name”

Satyal’s novel, which was published in May this year, revolves around three characters – Ranjana is a middle-aged wife and mother seeking new meaning in her life, her son Prashant who struggles to establish his own identity in his first year at Princeton and Harit, a timid, closeted gay man who lives with and cares for his mother who is grieving for his dead older sister.

“When Harit and Ranjana meet and strike up a friendship, they help each other find self-acceptance and new perspectives on the American and Indian cultures they are attempting to navigate,” the website says. .

“Satyal’s book explores the immigrant experience while using humor in a touching way to delve into a variety of issues. I think readers will appreciate the levity he brings to timely topics,” Chantal Strobel, the Deschutes Public Library communications and development manager, told the Bulletin.

There will be an official kickoff scheduled for April 14 at the Downtown Bend Library and a series of events will terminate on May 6 with a presentation by Satyal at 4 p.m. at Bend High School.

The complete schedule of events and activities for A Novel Idea will be posted to the DPL Foundation website as dates and details are finalized.

Although Satyal’s presentation is free, tickets are required and they will be available on the DPL Foundation website and in library branches starting April 21.

Satyal was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio and now lives in Brooklyn, New York.

His first novel, “Blue Boy,” won the 2009 Lambda Literary Award for Gay Debut Fiction and the 2010 Prose/Poetry Award from the Association of Asian American Studies.

A Novel Idea has been the largest annual community reading program in Oregon for the last 15 years.