The East Indian: A Novel
The East Indianis a coming-of-age novel rife with pivotal moments and riveting wonder as Tony traverses the world and perseveres through life’s hardships; he comes out the other side a forefather in the narrative of American history.
Inspired by a historical figure, an exhilarating debut novel about the first native of the Indian subcontinent to arrive in Colonial America—for readers of Esi Edugyan and Yaa Gyasi.
Meet Tony: insatiably curious, deeply compassionate, with a unique perspective on every scene he encounters. Kidnapped and transported to the New World after traveling from the British East India Company’s outpost on the Coromandel Coast to the teeming streets of London, young Tony finds himself in Jamestown, Virginia, where he and his fellow indentured servants—boys like himself, men from Africa, a mad woman from London—must work the tobacco plantations. Orphaned and afraid, Tony initially longs for home. But as he adjusts to his new environment, finding companionship and even love, he can envision a life for himself after servitude. His dream: to become a medicine man, or a physician’s assistant, an expert on roots and herbs, a dispenser of healing compounds.
Like the play that captivates him—Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream—Tony’s life is rich with oddities and hijinks, humor and tragedy. Set during the early days of English colonization in Jamestown, before servitude calcified into racialized slavery, The East Indian gives authentic voice to an otherwise unknown historic figure and brings the world he would have encountered to vivid life. In this coming-of-age tale, narrated by a most memorable literary rascal, Charry conjures a young character sure to be beloved by readers for years to come.
Praise for The East Indian: A Novel
"Through this fictional first East Indian immigrant story, Brinda Charry has beautifully pioneered a much-needed path forward into rich, new literary territory."--NPR
"A debut novel about the first native of the Indian subcontinent to live in the American colonies, Charry’s stirring coming-of-age tale centers on Tony, whose kidnapping resulted in a voyage to England and later to the new colony of Virginia."--The Washington Post
"Marvelous… Richly imagined characters and keen explorations of identity, place, and the power of imagination drive this luminous achievement. Readers of Esi Edugyan and Yaa Gyasi will be enthralled."--Publisher's Weekly (starred review)
"What a vast and wondrous ocean of a novel this is--throwing up the unexpected and startling, the horrifying and utterly beautiful, moving from shore to shore with spectacularly skillful narrative poise. To journey with The East Indian is to journey through a world shape-shifting into the modern, a world being ravaged and transformed. It is to be reminded that amidst the rough sweep and scour of history, what remains precious are these timeless, enduring things--friendship, kindness, healing."--Janice Pariat, author of The Nine-Chambered Heart and Everything the Light Touches
"Filled with memorable characters, The East Indian grapples with the brutal colonialism and indentured labor of the 1600s with warmth and wit. An entertaining novel that adds more heft to Brinda Charry’s already impressive oeuvre."--Shashi Tharoor, author of Inglorious Empire
"History comes alive in this brilliant, highly-imaginative and vivid novel. Immersive and revelatory--a stellar achievement."--E.C. Osondu, winner of the Caine Prize for African Writing, author of This House Is Not For Sale
"Tony, the “East Indian” of the title of Brinda Charry’s utterly enjoyable debut novel, reads like a character straight out of Dickens. Based on an actual historical figure, the first person from India documented in the records of Colonial Virginia, Tony ventures into the entangled richness of a nascent America—a place he calls, “this precarious edge of the world.” It is peopled by “servants”—both white and black, female and male—who find themselves as bound to the New World as they are to the Englishmen who rule it. Picaresque in style, lyrical of voice, gripping and authentic, The East Indian is a real treat."--David Wright Falade, author of Black Cloud Rising