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Interview: 'Gold Diggers' Excavates the Universal Search for Belonging

'You need to write the book not just that you want to read, but the book that you need to read.'
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  • Gold Diggers
  • 'You need to write the book not just that you want to read, but the book that you need to read.'

Publisher's Summary

One of The Washington Post's 10 Best Books of 2021 * One of NPR's Best Books of 2021 * New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice * Long-listed for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize

“Dizzyingly original, fiercely funny, deeply wise.” (Celeste Ng, number one best-selling author of Little Fires Everywhere)

“Sanjena Sathian’s Gold Diggers is a work of 24-karat genius.” (Ron Charles, The Washington Post) 

How far would you go for a piece of the American dream?

A magical realist coming-of-age story, Gold Diggers skewers the model minority myth to tell a hilarious and moving story about immigrant identity, community, and the underside of ambition.

A floundering second-generation teenager growing up in the Bush-era Atlanta suburbs, Neil Narayan is funny and smart but struggles to bear the weight of expectations of his family and their Asian American enclave. He tries to want their version of success, but mostly, Neil just wants his neighbor across the cul-de-sac, Anita Dayal.

When he discovers that Anita is the beneficiary of an ancient, alchemical potion made from stolen gold - a “lemonade” that harnesses the ambition of the gold’s original owner - Neil sees his chance to get ahead. But events spiral into a tragedy that rips their community apart. Years later in the Bay Area, Neil still bristles against his community's expectations - and finds he might need one more hit of that lemonade, no matter the cost.

Sanjena Sathian’s astonishing debut offers a fine-grained, profoundly intelligent, and bitingly funny investigation into what's required to make it in America. 

Soon to be a series produced by Mindy Kaling!

©2021 Sanjena Sathian (P)2021 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

"Sathian’s satire is pitch perfect...savagely funny. The comedic grotesque register gives way, at times, to an authentic and heartrending melancholia.... [M]agnificent - canny and moving and just plain fun.... Sathian’s movement toward fantasy in the story’s second half is a wise, satisfying turn. Her prose lifts off: there’s a delight she takes in writing humorously about magic that shows off the scope of her immense talent...[a] firm critique of secondhand striving and cutthroat ambition.” (Anita Felicelli, The Los Angeles Review of Books)

“This novel deftly weaves together magic and history to produce a compelling coming-of-age story.” (The New Yorker

Gold Diggers is a delightful concoction of the best of South Asia’s literary offerings, reminiscent of Hanif Kureishi’s irreverent humour in The Buddha of Suburbia and, more recently, the magic realism of Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West and Salman Rushdie’s work.... Sathian brings a golden touch to the 21st-century Indian American novel - stretching it through a reimagining of history and mythology, yet holding it close to her chest.” (Sana Goyal, The Guardian)

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What listeners say about Gold Diggers

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  • Overall
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    4 out of 5 stars

Fantastic narrator

Very good story. Narrator is one of the best I’ve heard in a long long time overall a very enjoyable.

3 people found this helpful

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Loved it!

This book did exactly what I needed it to. I was craving a connection to my South Asian roots and also needing to be taken to another world and this did just that. Really loved the story and found it surprising and interesting. I also LOVED the narrator. Like how on earth did he do all these voices?! I’m so impressed. Great job all around.

3 people found this helpful

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Highly recommended

Great story of immigrants in America... witty, self deprecating withDHMs that keep you thinking... fabulous narrator

3 people found this helpful

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  • 01-22-22

Somewhat underwhelming

The story itself is somewhat underwhelming. The idea of the story is fun and imaginative, with a lot of cultural background. However, the story itself seems off beat and dwells on insignificant digression often. I can only say I don't really like the story and it's definitely note as arresting as your typical good fiction.

2 people found this helpful

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still trying to figure it out

very well written but not clear on the point. if the characters looked at their own results, they would have given up on their little plan

2 people found this helpful

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Secon half is stronger

Both the writer and the narrator are better at their work as the book progresses. The rhythm of the storytelling improves. The narrator's pacing improves quite a bit, although the way he reads female dialogue is never not annoying.

2 people found this helpful

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Insightful but needed editing

Insightful about Indian-American experiences. Makes sense when you hear it. And I didn’t mind the magical “stuff” but the characters weren’t very likable. The premise of why gold was magical was terrific— and the parts about alchemy /alchemists in history.
A good editor could have taken out some of the silly plot connivances.

1 person found this helpful

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Interesting premise petered out

I enjoyed the first half of the book, but as the latter half meandered through the protagonist’s fascination with real and made-up history, I lost interest. The narrator is excellent.

1 person found this helpful

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decent but not great

Right before this book, I read The Henna Artist, a book about a woman in India. Gold Diggers is about young people of Indian heritage growing up in America.
The Henna Artist is a much better story, for me at least. Younger people might like Gold Diggers better.

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I did not expect to enjoy it!

I’m not a fan of the supernatural genre. So, I had to suspend my misgivings when I started to read the book. What I appreciate most is the universality of the themes— the angst and awkwardness of growing up and wanting to fit in, the immigrant stories, the tug-of-war between cultural traditions and embracing your new environment and finding a way to make it work, the gift of generations and family stories, of friendships in unlikely places, and many more. I enjoyed the layers. It made for a more interesting read!

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