cover image The Lucky Ones: A Memoir

The Lucky Ones: A Memoir

Zara Chowdhary. Crown, $30 (320p) ISBN 978-0-593-72743-0

In this harrowing debut, Chowdhary recalls growing up Muslim in early 2000s Ahmedabad, India, as anti-Islamic violence gripped the country. She opens the account with the 2002 Gujarat train fire, during which 58 Hindu pilgrims died, and explains how India’s right-wing government leveraged the tragedy to blame Muslims and foment discrimination that had begun gathering steam after 9/11. Chowdhary was 16 years old and living with her parents and grandparents at the time. She catalogs the fallout, discussing the rape and murder of her Muslim neighbors by Indian nationalists and drawing disturbing parallels between India’s official response to the fire and the rise of Nazi Germany. She also zooms in on more intimate violence the women around her faced in patriarchal Muslim households, recalling her father’s alcoholic outbursts and describing how her peers came to believe that “there will come a day when the sun will be overthrown, the stars will fall, the universe will turn in on itself, and on that day, a god we’ve never seen... will finally bring every lost girl home.” Offsetting the heaviness of the subject matter with lyrical prose and moments of simple beauty (such as a birthday celebration filled with cakes and embraces), Chowdhary delivers an exceptional portrait of resilience in the face of unfathomable cruelty. This is difficult to forget. Agent: Anjali Singh, Anjali Singh Agency. (July)