Sarah Thankam Mathews’ 6 Favorite Books About Life-Changing Experiences and Self-Discovery

Sarah Thankam Mathews’ debut novel, It Could Be Different, is the coming-of-age story of a young Indian woman who, after graduating from college, moves to Milwaukee just as the Great Recession struck. He is a National Book Award finalist.

Maritime news by Annie Proulx (1993)

This is the book I read in the evenings while I was writing a large part of It could all be different. Expedition news took me to the freezing cold of Newfoundland and the thirst for a new life, and I went there with pleasure. It’s soulful, brawny, fiercely idiosyncratic, and screamingly funny. Incredible literature, and everyone should read it. Buy it here.

Netherlands by Joseph O’Neill (2008)

Masterly – perhaps one of New York’s greatest novels. Come for the cricket. Stay for the falling towers, for Netherlandsfor the charismatic, Trinidadian version of Jay Gatsby, for the sweet and haunting narrator, Hans van den Broek, and for the long, elegant opera gloves of O’Neill. Buy it here.

Family Life by Akhil Sharma (2014)

A family immigrates from India to the United States. Their eldest son has a grotesque accident that changes his life. His younger brother tells the story of a family in diabolical pain and their individual journeys into the future. It’s a thin slice of a 224-page book: bitingly funny, utterly unforgettable. Buy it here.

King Kong Theory by Virginie Despentes (2006)

“I write like an ugly for the ugly,” spits Despentes in an absolute banger opening. “The old whores, the dykes, the frigids, the inf—ed, the inf—ables, the neurotics, the psychos, for all those girls who don’t see the universal market for consumable chicks.” A memorable feminist work of memoirs, commentaries, polemics and theories. The raw power of its narrator’s voice and his vision of the world have marked me for years. Buy it here.

Jade Sharma Problems (2016)

We lost Jade Sharma too soon. Her novel is a dark, funny, and moving portrait of a young Indian-American woman navigating a troubled marriage, its accompanying infidelity, and a heroin addiction. Buy it here.

Say Say Say by Lila Savage (2019)

A graceful, beautiful, and wise portrait of a young midwestern queer caregiver. say say say has stamina that belies his debut status. His prose, vision, originality and deep compassion are exemplary. Buy it here.

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