Hirsh Sawhney: On Writing South Haven
To celebrate the release of South Haven — the debut novel from author Hirsh Sawhney — we’re pleased to feature a statement from the author on the connection between the book’s protagonist and his own life.
Rock star Kurt Cobain committed suicide when I was in junior high school. A few weeks later, the boy whose locker was right beside mine took his own life with a gun. He was a sweet, weird kid and a talented musician, and the people I’d striven to befriend had bullied him.
Around the same time, some adults in my family’s community of Indian immigrants were embracing a fundamentalist form of Hindu politics. These individuals raised cash and wired it over to their homeland in order to prop up Hindu nationalist parties, groups that were responsible for violence and discrimination against Indian Muslims. These tragic and violent situations have haunted me, and South Haven is a meditation on what they might reveal about each other and our modern world.
In South Haven, I wanted to explore the connection between the seemingly placid and benign New England suburbs, and the political violence that blights too much of the globe. I began the novel soon after my father died, so I was consumed with grief while writing. My protagonist, a boy named Siddharth, experiences a terrible loss when the novel begins, and grappling with his grief allowed me cope with my own.
Siddharth helped me make sure that the quest for emotional and psychological truth remained at the forefront of my creative process, and this young, sensitive, and sometimes naïve character also helped me infuse subtlety into the historical and political questions that are so vital to this project.
HIRSH SAWHNEY’s writing has appeared in the New York Times Book Review, the Guardian, the Times Literary Supplement, the Financial Times, Outlook, and numerous other periodicals. He is the editor of Delhi Noir, a critically acclaimed anthology of original fiction, and is on the advisory board ofWasafiri, a London-based journal of international literature. He lives in New Haven, Connecticut, and teaches at Wesleyan University. South Haven is his debut novel. Visit his website at www.hirshsawhney.com.
Posted: May 4, 2016
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