Alumni News

Desai '93 on AIDS in India for Acclaimed New Book

Booker Prize-winning author Kiran Desai '93 was one of sixteen Indian writers who traveled across the country to document the HIV/AIDS crisis for the new book AIDS Sutra: Untold Stories from India.

Image of Kiran Desai

Along with authors Salmon Rushdie, Siddhartha Deb, Nikita Lawani and others, Desai provides "a uniquely intimate glimpse into a disease that is either sterilized by statistics or ignored altogether," said a recent review in Time Magazine.

Desai writes about her journey to the coast of Andhra Pradesh, where many of the local girls are forced into the deep-rooted and widely accepted sex trade:

On the streets of a village we drove through, I noticed an overabundance of beds. Beds being delivered, new old beds, makeshift stage set beds, cheap beds being varnished in the sun, mattresses in the dust. Around this strangeness of beds proliferating, village life seemed as benign as Narayan’s Malgudi stories that had created my idea of what it meant to be Indian in this world, in the sweetest incarnation possible. Little shops for cigarettes and sweets; cows wandering; men riding cycles on their way to the banana market by the river’s edge, bananas tied to the handlebars, their colour macaw shocking-green and yellow, green and yellow, the greenest green and the yellowiest yellow. Sound of water pouring into pails, out of pails. A jeep going by with some policemen poking their heads out. This world was normal.

Except it was really entirely something else.

For her 2006 novel The Inheritance of Loss, Desai became the youngest woman ever to win Britain's prestigious Man Booker Prize for Fiction. More recently, the international best-seller earned her the National Book Critics Circle Award.