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“Expansive, moving, and deeply powerful, Passage West explores an important and overlooked chapter in our national history and is a refreshingly honest novel about the people who gave everything to this country but were often overlooked and traumatized by the very nation to which they contributed so greatly."-- Marjan Kamali, author of Stationary Shop
A Los Angeles Times BEST CALIFORNIA BOOK of 2020 * A New England Independent Booksellers' 2020 NEW ENGLAND BOOK AWARD FINALIST
A sweeping, vibrant first novel following a family of Indian sharecroppers at the onset of World War I, revealing a little-known part of California history
1914: Ram Singh arrives in the Imperial Valley on the Mexican border, reluctantly accepting his friend Karak’s offer of work and partnership in a small cantaloupe farm. Ram is unmoored; fleeing violence in Oregon, he desperately longs to return to his wife and newborn son in Punjab—but he is duty bound to make his fortune first.
In the Valley, American settlement is still new and the rules are ever shifting. Alongside Karak; Jivan and his wife, Kishen; and Amarjeet, a U.S. soldier, Ram struggles to farm in the unforgiving desert. When he meets an alluring woman who has fought in Mexico’s revolution, he strives to stay true to his wife. The Valley is full of settlers hailing from other cities and different continents. The stakes are high and times are desperate—just one bad harvest or stolen crop could destabilize a family. And as anti- immigrant sentiment rises among white residents, the tensions of life in the west finally boil over.
In her ambitious debut novel, Rishi Reddi, award-winning author of Karma and Other Stories, explores an enduring question: Who is welcome in America? Richly imagined and beautifully rendered, Passage West offers a moving portrait of one man’s search for home.
Rishi Reddi is the author of the collection Karma and Other Stories, which received the 2008 L. L. Winship/PEN New England Award for fiction. Her work appears in Best American Short Stories, has been broadcast on National Public Radio, and was chosen for honorable mention in the Pushcart Prize. She was born in Hyderabad, India, and grew up in Great Britain and the United States. She lives in Cambridge, MA.