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The East Indian

A Novel

About The Book

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.

About The Author

Photograph by Lisa Arnold

Brinda Charry came to the United States from India as a graduate student in 1999 and has been living here since. She is a novelist-turned-academic-returned-novelist. A specialist in English Renaissance literature (Shakespeare and contemporaries), she has published a number of books and articles in that field. The East Indian will be her first novel published in the United States. She currently lives in Keene, New Hampshire, with her husband and dog.

Why We Love It

“Brinda Charry captured me from the first line. Language! Hers is exquisite. From there she gave me character—Tony, the curious and clever young protagonist, the East Indian, of the title. And the world he encountered, from 17th-century India to the London docks, to Jamestown, Virginia. His questions are our questions; his understanding expands our understanding; his pain, we feel; the beauty he sees, we can appreciate. The East Indian illuminates and transports; there is very little fiction written about colonial Virginia, and even less about the South Asian presence during that period. The novel stays with you, doing its work even after the final page is turned, as the best books do.”

—Kathy B., V.P., Editorial Director, on The East Indian

Product Details

  • Publisher: Scribner (May 2, 2023)
  • Length: 272 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781668004524

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Raves and Reviews

"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)

"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

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