One of our recommended books is Members Only by Sameer Pandya

MEMBERS ONLY


First the white members of Raj Bhatt’s posh tennis club call him racist. Then his life falls apart. Along the way, he wonders: where does he, a brown man, belong in America?

Raj Bhatt is often unsure of where he belongs. Having moved to America from Bombay as a child, he knew few Indian kids. Now middle-aged, he lives mostly happily in California, with a job at a university. Still, his white wife seems to fit in better than he does at times, especially at their tennis club, a place he’s cautiously come to love.

But it’s there that,

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First the white members of Raj Bhatt’s posh tennis club call him racist. Then his life falls apart. Along the way, he wonders: where does he, a brown man, belong in America?

Raj Bhatt is often unsure of where he belongs. Having moved to America from Bombay as a child, he knew few Indian kids. Now middle-aged, he lives mostly happily in California, with a job at a university. Still, his white wife seems to fit in better than he does at times, especially at their tennis club, a place he’s cautiously come to love.

But it’s there that, in one week, his life unravels. It begins at a meeting for potential new members: Raj thrills to find an African American couple on the list; he dreams of a more diverse club. But in an effort to connect, he makes a racist joke. The committee turns on him, no matter the years of prejudice he’s put up with. And worse still, he soon finds his job is in jeopardy after a group of students report him as a reverse racist, thanks to his alleged “anti-Western bias.”

Heartfelt, humorous, and hard-hitting, Members Only explores what membership and belonging mean, as Raj navigates the complicated space between black and white America.

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  • Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Hardcover
  • July 2020
  • 368 Pages
  • 9780358098546

Buy the Book

$25.00

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About Sameer Pandya

Sameer Pandya is the author of Members OnlySameer Pandya is the author of the story collection The Blind Writer, which was longlisted for the PEN/Open Book Award. He is also the recipient of the PEN/Civitella Fellowship. His fiction, commentary, and cultural criticism has appeared in a range of publications, including the Atlantic, Salon, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, and Narrative Magazine. He teaches creative writing and South Asian and Asian American literature at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Members Only is his first novel.

Praise

A Rumpus Best Book for Asian and Pacific Islander American Heritage Month

“If ‘Things Fall Apart’ hadn’t already been taken, it would be an apt title for Pandya’s novel, which is as witty as it is woeful.” —Elisabeth Egan, New York Times Book Review

“I binged-read Members Only and it did not disappoint…Smart, funny, topical, and it does tennis right.” —Jon Wertheim, Sports Illustrated‘s Beyond the Baseline

“An intense, funny, and absolutely necessary novel about our current times. Accomplished storyteller Pandya has given all of us teachers a compulsive read for the days, the weeks, when we feel unmoored and even a slightly bit crazy.” —Weike Wang, author of Chemistry

“Is extremely enjoyable anxiety a thing? Because that’s how I felt as I sped through Professor Raj Bhatt’s very bad week. A vital, tightly-written dive into our current swirl of confusion over privilege and power.” —Jade Chang, author of The Wangs vs. the World

“Members Only perfectly portrays how our careless words and casual comments have unintended ripple effects that couldn’t possibly be predicted. This is a riveting story of misunderstanding and misrepresentation.” —Laurie Gelman, author of Class Mom and You’ve Been Volunteered

“A timely story about prejudice and white privilege, set mainly at a private tennis club and a university in California…In a multi-racial society, race relations are themselves multi-lateral. Pandya bankshots questions that Americans face and ignore every day. Who has the right to call out racism? Does a white tennis club member have a finer insight on racism than an Indian immigrant? And how can college campuses accommodate free speech if the result is stifling professors who have a different worldview from the dominant one in the US? These questions and more are smoothly woven into the first person narrative of dilemmas at club and campus…Members Only is a thoughtful guide to these issues as they continue to make the news in the US on a daily basis.” Asian Review of Books

“In Pandya’s tense, sly debut novel (after the collection The Blind Writer) a college lecturer faces accusations of racism and anti-American bias in a California suburb over the course of a fateful week. The taut, heartrending narrative offers deep insight into the ways the characters are shaped by racism. Pandya’s sympathetic portrait of Raj’s quest for acceptance will resonate with readers.” Publishers Weekly

“A grand slam…Pandya’s writing here is smooth, clear, funny, and often subtly beautiful. Members Only is the thoughtful page-turner we need right now.” Booklist, starred review