Powell’s Interview : Sanjena Sathian , author of ” Gold Diggers”

Powell’s Interview : Sanjena Sathian , author of ” Gold Diggers”

by Rhianna Walton

Sanjena Sathian’s novel Gold Diggers marks the arrival of a gifted and imaginative writer. Set primarily in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia, in the early aughts, Gold Diggers is narrated by Neil Narayan, a well-intentioned teenager struggling to balance the expectations of his Indian immigrant family and community with his own desires for success, belonging, and love. A deft coming-of-age novel suffused with magical realism, alchemy, history, romance, and a knowing humor that pokes at the realities of second-generation immigrant experiences in 21st-century America, Gold Diggers is a whip-smart and surprising debut. We’re excited to present it in Volume 91 of Indiespensable

Rhianna Walton: When did you first become interested in alchemy, and what inspired you to incorporate it — and magic more generally — into the novel?

Sanjena Sathian: Well, I should say the whole thing started pre-magic. Gold is such a big part of the Indian culture, Indian American culture. Then it, obviously, has all these parallels in American culture too.

I started out by being interested in this spate of gold thefts that had happened in Atlanta when I was growing up here. Large amounts of gold were being stolen from people’s homes, Indian American homes in the suburbs. People outside the community were arrested for these crimes, but my mom always said someone from inside the community must be involved because it seemed like the people stealing knew exactly where to go in the houses: Go to the guest bedroom. Look for the large suitcase big enough to take on the travels back and forth from India to the U.S. I started by being interested in that germ. Who could be stealing from within the community?

When I started writing this, I was writing almost exclusively speculative fiction, even though, over the course of my career, I’ve written realism too. I do realism and surrealism. I was in speculative-fiction brain. Every realist idea I had automatically got transmuted into magic in this really interesting way. I knew that I wanted to write about people stealing gold, but I wanted to have a magical balance to it. Of course, there’s this long history of people who drink gold or try to make gold to consume.

It’s much more interesting to me to think about what this material has meant spiritually, religiously, magically, than materially and economically. That’s obvious. Everyone has that. How fascinating that across cultures this thing has signified something more powerful than economic security, that it has signified immortality too.

At the same time, you’re writing your world into existence, like that thing people say about writing the book you don’t just want to read but kind of need to read. I think the book is grappling with, Is it my job to write about identity? How can I write about anything but identity?

Read the rest @ https://www.powells.com/post/interviews/powells-interview-sanjena-sathian-author-of-gold-diggers


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