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Navigating a New Life

In the Imperial Valley, Ram Singh is fleeing Oregon after a traumatic incident and accepts his friend Karak’s offer to work on a small cantaloupe farm. This is the sweeping landscape of Passage West (Harper Collins), the debut novel by Rishi Reddi ’88.

The story follows a family of Indian sharecroppers as anti-immigrant sentiments begin to rise in 1914. Ram struggles among other immigrants to farm in the desert while missing his wife and new son.

As he navigates his new life, a rivalry simmers between Ram and Karak until the tensions of life in the West threaten to erupt.

Reddi, author of the award-winning 2007 collection Karma and Other Stories, explores the complexities of identity for South Asians and their role in American history. In writing Passage West, she says she processed her own gradual assimilation: “Many immigrants live betwixt and between countries and cultures for a very long time, which most nonimmigrants don’t realize.”

In this moving portrait of a man’s search for belonging, Reddi asks the question Who is welcome in America?