Shilpi Suneja at Harvard Book Store


House of Caravans:
A Novel

in conversation with RISHI REDDI


September 21, 2023
7:00 PM ET


Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138


This event is free; no tickets are required.

Harvard Book Store welcomes SHILPI SUNEJA—winner of the the Saul Bellow Prize and author published in Guernica, McSweeney’s, Cognoscenti, and more—for a discussion of her debut novel House of Caravans. She will be joined in conversation by award-winning author of the novel Passage West, RISHI REDDI.

About House of Caravans

Lahore, British India. 1943. As World War rages, resentment of colonial rule grows, and with it acts of rebellion. Animated by idealistic dreams of an independent India, Chhote Nanu agrees to plant a bomb intended for the British superintendent of police. Some four years later, following a torturous imprisonment, Chhote flees the city as it descends into violence. Carrying the young son of his murdered wife through scenes of unspeakable bloodshed, he encounters his brother, Barre Nanu, the two of them caught between a vanishing past in the new nation of Pakistan and a profoundly uncertain future in India.

Kanpur, India. 2002. Following the death of his grandfather, Barre Nanu, Karan Khati returns from New York to join his sister in their childhood home, which has been transformed by the embittered Chhote Nanu into a hostel for Hindu pilgrims. When their mother arrives from Delhi, Karan and Ila learn that their fathers were two different men—one Hindu, one Muslim—relationships with both of whom were doomed by familial bias and prejudice, the siblings resolve to reconnect, and to understand the painful twist and turns in the family’s story.

Moving back and forth from the tumultuous years surrounding Partition to the era of renewed global sectarianism following 9/11, this extraordinary historical novel, “Tolstoyan in its scope” (Ha Jin), portrays a family and nations divided by the living legacy of colonialism. Richly evocative, timely, House of Caravans will endure in the ways only the best literature does.

Praise for House of Caravans

“Tolstoyan in its scope, House of Caravans is a marvel of a novel. It copes with some major issues of our time, such as the mingling of races, colonization, rebellion, historical violence, migrations, and also love and remembrance. Shilpi Suneja writes with patience, subtlety, and intelligence. She is a genuine artist.” —Ha Jin, author of Waiting

“Grappling with themes of social injustice, immigrant life in the U.S., and the complicated bonds within extended families, Shilpi Suneja’s novel reveals a sincere, informed engagement with matters of political history and of human dignity.” —Daphne Kalotay, author of Blue Hours

“A tale of kinship, violence, separation, and reunion, House of Caravans is rich and evocative, filled with unforgettable details of India at the end of colonial rule. The Partition is an enormous subject, and this is marvelous storytelling.”—Allegra Goodman, author of Sam: A Novel

Mask Policy

Masks are encouraged but not required for this event.

Rishi Reddi
Rishi Reddi

Rishi Reddi

Rishi Reddi is the author of the novel Passage West, a Los Angeles Times “Best California Book of 2020” and Karma and Other Stories, which received the 2008 L.L. Winship /PEN New England Award for Fiction. Her short stories have appeared in Best American Short Stories, been broadcast on NPR, and earned honorable mention in the Pushcart Prize.  Her reviews, essays and translations have appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Review of Books, Kirkus Reviews, LitHub, Partisan Review, Alta Journal, and Air/Light, among others. Rishi has received fellowships and grants from the National Book Critics Circle, MacDowell Colony, Bread Loaf, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and the U.S. Department of State. She lives in Cambridge, MA.

Photo credit: Sharona Jacobs

Shilpi Suneja
Shilpi Suneja

Shilpi Suneja

Shilpi Suneja was born in India. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and published in Guernica, McSweeney’s, Cognoscenti, Teachers & Writers Magazine, and the Michigan Quarterly Review. Her writing has been supported by a National Endowment for the Arts literature fellowship, a Massachusetts Cultural Council fellowship, a Grub Street Novel Incubator Scholarship, and she was the Desai fellow at the Jack Jones Literary Arts Retreat. She holds an MA in English from New York University and an MFA in Creative Writing from Boston University, where she was awarded the Saul Bellow Prize. She lives in Cambridge.

Photo credit: Matt Eames

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