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Your Favorite Book: Exit West with SJ Sindu

Your Favorite Book: Exit West with SJ Sindu

Welcome to another installment of a collaboration between the Chicago Review of Books and the Your Favorite Book podcast. Malavika Praseed, frequent CHIRB contributor and podcast host, seeks to talk to readers and writers about the books that light a fire inside them. What’s your favorite book and why?

This week’s guest is SJ Sindu, whose second novel Blue Skinned Gods takes on religion and identity in a bold new way. The novel follows Kalki, raised as the tenth avatar of Vishnu due to his blue skin, and explores coming to terms with trauma and self-concept as he grows into adulthood. We travel from an ashram in Tamil Nadu to the rock scene of New York City and observe with bated breath as Kalki comes to terms with his fraught familial relationships and the conflict of his divinity. Sindu’s work is accessible to a broad audience yet specific in its references to Hindu mythology and beliefs, and the result is a satisfying, page-turning read.

Sindu cites Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West as an all-time favorite book. This novel excels from a prose level, with its hallmark winding sentences and many commas. But beyond pure sentence structure, the novel is a detailed and tender character study, depicting the ebbs and flows in the relationship of its central characters. The magical realism elements of transformative doors adds not whimsy, but a dreamlike quality that only highlights the realities of immigration and finding home away from home.

Sindu also shares their thoughts on everything from bespoke gift wrapping to the purpose of chapbooks, and so much more. And of course, the episode is spoiler free!

See Also

Sula by Toni Morrison (with Saeed Jones, Author of Alive at the End of the World) Your Favorite Book

Our guest this week is Saeed Jones, the acclaimed memoirist and poet, whose recent collection ALIVE AT THE END OF THE WORLD takes on both individual and collective grief in the midst of a nation in crisis. Spanning topics from the legacy of Black artists and entertainers to visions of the end of the world as a chaotic rave, Saeed brings every feeling to the forefront and never turns his back to the hard questions. Saeed chose a book stemming from his adolescence and one that continues to generate deeper meaning for him, Toni Morrison's SULA. This book, hardly two hundred pages in length, delves deep into what it means to be a Black girl, and to be both in and out of a community, and the complicated social dynamics it takes to perpetuate said community. The book is luminous at a prose level and never ceases to shock at every turn. There are some spoilers for this episode, but none that take away from the integrity of the novel. Together we chat about all things crafting a poetry collection, why the United States struggles with creating a grief culture, the triumphs and pitfalls of high school literary opinions, and so much more. Books discussed: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Milk Blood Heat by Dantiel Moniz, Magical Negro by Morgan Parker Buy Saeed's book: https://bookshop.org/books/alive-at-the-end-of-the-world/9781566896511 Follow the show on instagram and twitter @yfbpodcast
  1. Sula by Toni Morrison (with Saeed Jones, Author of Alive at the End of the World)
  2. Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward (with Joe Meno, Author of Book of Extraordinary Tragedies)
  3. Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger (with Adam Levin, Author of Mount Chicago)
  4. The Song of Everlasting Sorrow by Wang Anyi (with Belinda Huijuan Tang, Author of A Map for the Missing)
  5. A Death in the Family by James Agee (with Jean Thompson, Author of The Poet's House)

Listen to this episode of Your Favorite Book at the link above and stay tuned for more episodes with other writers in the weeks to come. If you enjoy this episode, check out other episodes of Your Favorite Book on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or other major podcast platforms.

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