An exhilarating debut novel about the first native of the Indian subcontinent to arrive in Colonial America, inspired by a historical figure—“marvelous…readers of Esi Edugyan and Yaa Gyasi will be enthralled” (Publishers Weekly, starred review).
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.
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 numerous books and articles in that field. The East Indian is her first novel published in the United States. She currently lives in Keene, New Hampshire, with her husband and dog.
“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
"Brinda Charry’s novel begins in her native India and draws on her study of English Renaissance literature, specifically Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”"
– Katherine A. Powers, The Washington Post
"Vikas Adam is an experienced narrator whose skill is on full display in this unique historical novel based on a real-life figure...Evoking a range of emotions, Adam captures the range of Tony's adventures. He balances Tony's quiet inner monologue and the brash Europeans he encounters. Fans of international fiction, and those looking for something new in the historical genre, will fall in love with Tony and his narrator."
– Winner of an AudioFile Earphones Award, AudioFile Magazine