In Sanjena Sathian’s magical coming-of-age novel, Gold Diggers, a teenage boy burdened by his Indian immigrant parents’ and community’s obsession with academic achievement uses alchemy to siphon and imbibe other people’s success. An incisive and very funny take on the familial and cultural expectations of immigration, the symbiosis between immigrant striving and the American dream, and the weird ways getting a PhD in history from UC Berkeley can be interpreted as slacking, Gold Diggers is both totally surprising and completely relatable to anyone raised to measure their worth in money, titles, or accolades. Recommended By Rhianna W., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
"Gold Diggers takes a wincingly hilarious coming-of-age story, laces it with magical realism and a trace of satire, and creates a world that's both achingly familiar and marvelously inventive....This is a dizzyingly original, fiercely funny, deeply wise novel about the seductive powers — and dangers — of borrowed ambition." Celeste Ng, author of Little Fires Everywhere
A brilliant Indian American magical realist coming of age story and the debut of a major talent
Spanning two continents, two coasts, and four epochs, Gold Diggers expertly balances social satire and magical realism in a classic striver story that skewers the model minority narrative, asking what a community must do to achieve the American dream. In razor sharp and deeply funny prose, Sathian perfectly captures what it is to grow up as a member of a family, of a diaspora, and of the American meritocracy. This blockbuster novel both entertains and levels a critique of what Americans of color must do to make their way.
A floundering second-generation teenager growing up in the Bush-era Atlanta suburbs, Neil Narayan is authentic, funny, and smart. He just doesn't share the same drive as everyone around him. His perfect older sister is headed to Duke. His parents' expectations for him are just as high. He tries to want this version of success, but mostly, Neil just wants his neighbor across the cul-de-sac, Anita Dayal.
But Anita has a secret: she and her mother Anjali have been brewing an ancient alchemical potion from stolen gold that harnesses the ambition of the jewelry's original owner. Anjali's own mother in Bombay didn't waste the precious potion on her daughter, favoring her sons instead. Anita, on the other hand, just needs a little boost to get into Harvard. But when Neil — who needs a whole lot more — joins in the plot, events spiral into a tragedy that rips their community apart.
Ten years later, Neil is an oft-stoned Berkeley history grad student studying the California gold rush. His high school cohort has migrated to Silicon Valley, where he reunites with Anita and resurrects their old habit of gold theft--only now, the stakes are higher. Anita's mother is in trouble, and only gold can save her. Anita and Neil must pull off one last heist.
Gold Diggers is a fine-grained, profoundly intelligent, and bitingly funny investigation into questions of identity and coming-of-age that tears down American shibboleths.
"I’m not sure if I should praise Sanjena Sathian for spinning such a lively and nervy narrative or thank her for her generosity as field guide, bringing me deep into Indian-American family life and the underbelly of Silicon Valley optimization culture. A tenderly imaginative tale of ambition and the burden of tradition, Gold Diggers is the American novel we need right now. Bracingly original, riveting to the last drop." Lauren Mechling, author of How Could She
"Gold Diggers is a knock-out—a hilarious send-up of the immigrant pressure to succeed and the challenges of growing up with a hyphenated identity in the American South. It’s also a devastating meditation on history, love, grief, wealth, and familial bonds. Whether you want to laugh or cry, meet ghosts, plan a heist, or live forever, you can find what you’re looking for in these sparkling pages." Maria Kuznetsova, author of Oksana, Behave!
"Gold Diggers is an auspicious — auriferous? — debut. Part coming-of-age story about the immigrant experience, part Gogolian heist comedy about soul-sapping gold, it’s also a timely satire of greed, status anxiety, Ivy striving, and the long nightmare of the American dream. The novel is particularly brilliant and funny on the different forms that ambition takes, and the different ways it can deform you. It’s an enviably smart and ambitious critique of envy, smarts, and ambition, which inspires some of the same jealousy it diagnoses. Like Sathian’s characters, you almost want to drink whatever jewelry she was wearing while writing it." Bennett Sims, author of White Dialogues
"Vivid, delightful, and wonderfully weird, Gold Diggers glitters with a unique and stirring brilliance. Sanjena Sathian is an incredibly exciting new writer!" Dan Chaon, author of Ill Will and National Book Award Finalist
"What a dynamic and exciting debut! Sathian builds such an inviting world of layers and times, all knit together by voice, vibrant imagery and palpable groundedness. A total delight." Aimee Bender, author of The Butterfly Lampshade
"Out of [a] nugget of magical realism, Sathian spins pure magic… Filled with pathos, humor, slices of American history, and an adrenaline-pumping heist, Sathian’s spectacular debut also highlights the steep costs of the all-American dream… Pure gold… YAs will find much to embrace in Neeraj’s dynamite and touching quest to find himself." Booklist (Starred Review)
About the Author
A Paul and Daisy Soros fellow, Sanjena Sathian is a 2019 graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She has worked as a reporter in Mumbai and San Francisco, with nonfiction bylines for The New Yorker, The New York Times, Food & Wine, The Boston Globe, The San Francisco Chronicle, and more. And her award-winning short fiction has been published in Boulevard, Joyland, Salt Hill, and The Master’s Review.
Rhianna Walton, Rachel Marks on PowellsBooks.Blog
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