Saturday, September 27, 2014

Jabeen Akhtar

I came across this excellent essay by Jabeen Akhtar and thought I'd mention it. The subject is how Western publishers present a distorted picture of South Asia in order to sell bland, stereotypical fiction. Well-written essays are a rarity, and this one reminds me a little of another essay that I like - by George Eliot, of all people. The two essays have in common the fact that both authors had careers outside fiction before becoming writers and see what is wrong with their contemporary fiction. This relates to the point I've been making for some time now about how creative writing programs may actually contribute to a reduction in the quality of published fiction. Coming to fiction from the outside probably makes you less of a conformist than the careerist insiders.

I'm not sure whether I would like Jabeen Akhtar's fiction or whether I'll become interested in South Asian fiction, but I always appreciate a good essay.

Update: I have read Welcome to Americastan and was not impressed.


  1. I have read a number of the books in that essay mainly because I love the descriptions of that area and culture and have always wanted to travel to India. I have noticed the US's dumbing down of South Asia e.g. Big Bang Theory TV show however I am use to that. My best friend lived in Florida for 5 years as her husband was transferred there as he was a scientist in food development. Anyway she would marvel how the world did not exist beyond the US to the majority and she would detail how little they knew of Canada, their neighbours. I am just joining in the gossip here and I do not really know what this means. I think it is a combination of many things such as ignorance, only caring about their own group (USA) unlearnedness being ok etc. Having said that I am going to NYC in late Nov and couldn't be happier.

    1. Well, NYC was a little disappointing to me last summer, because it was such a touristy environment. I recently read an interview with Fran Lebowitz, an older New Yorker, and she hates Michael Bloomberg because of the tourist industry there. Still, it is the main cultural center in the U.S., and I don't think anyone can argue about that.

      I ordered "Americastan" and will comment on it at some point. I had to get it from India! Obviously Akhtar has talent - but the U.S. publishing industry doesn't care about that.