Shruti Swamy returns with an ‘incantatory’ novel about a Kathak dancer.
On this week’s episode, Shruti Swamy discusses The Archer (Algonquin, Sept. 7), the “mesmerizing” coming-of-age story of a woman artist navigating the constraints of gender, caste, and class in Bombay and beyond. The Archer is the first novel from Swamy, the O. Henry Award–winning author of the story collection A House Is a Body (Algonquin, 2020).
Kirkus on The Archer: “Swamy’s debut novel focuses on the life of Vidya, a girl growing up in Bombay in the 1960s. During her early childhood, her unhappy mother disappears twice, the second time for good. That leaves Vidya to raise her younger brother, Rishi, while their father works long hours. The girl is studious but shy and reserved, damaged by her mother’s absence. Vidya’s chief joy is her study of Kathak, a rigorously traditional Indian dance form.…Swamy’s prose is incantatory and often lovely, swirling in dancelike rhythms that sweep the story along. She builds a complex character in Vidya, whose urge toward autonomy brings results that range from ecstatic to tragic.”
Swamy and host Megan Labrise discuss poetry as an art form and Swamy’s ties to it; the rhythm and repetition in the first lines of the book; how language can upend readers’ expectations; how Vidya upends expectations of what a girl or a woman should be; the Indian classical dance form of Kathak, and its kinship with dance styles around the world; how she chose her characters’ names; gender differentials in the arts; the concept of a day self and a night self—or dream self; and much more.
Then editors Laura Simeon and Johanna Zwirner offer their top picks in books for the week.
This episode is sponsored in part by Dear Highlights: What Adults Can Learn from 75 Years of Letters and Conversations With Kids (Highlights Press, Aug. 10).
Where I Belong by Marcia Argueta Mickelson (Carolrhoda Lab)
Three Rooms by Jo Hamya (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Thanks to our advertisers this week:
And Throw Away the Skins by Scott Archer Jones
South Korea: The Price of Efficiency and Success by John Gonzalez and Young Lee
Daddy Dead by Julia Van Middlesworth
Fully Booked is produced by Cabel Adkins Audio and Megan Labrise.