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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

The God of Small Things with Mina Seçkin (Author of The Four Humors) Your Favorite Book

Oh boy, we're tackling a BIG one this week! This week’s guest is Mina Seçkin, whose novel THE FOUR HUMORS is a meandering and thoughtful exploration of family secrecy and cultural identity. Our main character, Sibel, is a college student visiting family in Turkey along with her white American boyfriend, and the pressures of adulthood and losing her father culminate in inexplicable headaches. Sibel becomes fascinated with the theory of the four bodily humors and ancient medicine, and slowly finds her way through not only this ancient field, but the covered-up ancient secrets of her own family. The book is compelling; equal parts coming of age and family saga, with the added texture of an at-times abrasive protagonist. Seçkin calls Arundhati Roy's THE GOD OF SMALL THINGS one of her all time favorite books, and together she and I discuss the remarkable prose of this novel, its Faulkner-esque experiments with time, and the deep understanding of childhood trauma. There is also the matter of explaining one's cultural background without overexplaining, defining an audience for your work, picking the ideal writing snacks, and so much more discussed in this episode. There are also many, many other book recommendations, in case your list needs growing. Books discussed: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner, Gold Diggers by Sanjena Sathian, The Vietri Project by Nicola DeRobertis-Theye, Sour Heart by Jenny Zhang, Pizza Girl by Jean Kyoung Frazier Follow Mina on twitter @minaseckin and on instagram @littlebutta Follow the podcast on instagram and twitter @yfbpodcast
  1. The God of Small Things with Mina Seçkin (Author of The Four Humors)
  2. Exit West with SJ Sindu (Author of Blue Skinned Gods)
  3. The Shadow of the Wind with Maxwell Dunn
  4. The Forty Rules of Love with Sumaiya Matin (Author of The Shaytan Bride)
  5. The Palace of Illusions with Annika Sharma (Author of Love, Chai, and Other Four-Letter Words)

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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