Spotlight: Shruti Swamy

Shruti Swamy is the winner of two O. Henry Awards, Shruti Swamy’s work has appeared in The Paris Review, the Kenyon Review Online, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere. In 2012, she was Vassar College’s 50th W.K. Rose Fellow, and has been awarded residencies at the Millay Colony for the Arts, Blue Mountain Center, and Hedgebrook.

She is a Kundiman fiction fellow, a 2017 – 2018 Steinbeck Fellow at San Jose State University, and a recipient of a 2018 grant from the Elizabeth George Foundation. Her story collection A House Is a Body was published in August 2020 from Algonquin Books, and her novel The Archer will be available September 7, 2021.

“Shruti Swamy’s A House Is A Body will not simply be talked about as one of the greatest short story collections of the 2020s; it will change the way all stories—short and long—are told, written and consumed. There is nothing, no emotion, nor tiny morsel of memory, no touch, that this book does not take seriously. Yet, A House Is A Body might be the most fun I’ve ever had in a short story collection.”

—Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy

My Thoughts on A House is a Body

A House is a Body is an intimate collection of stories that explores a range of human emotions, conditions and relationships. It is tender and riveting. The prose is simple yet searing. Even though each story embodied a different soul, together these stories came together to reveal a humanity that is full of beauty, hope and pain.

“She was like hearing your own heartbeat. If you stop for a minute and are entirely still you can hear it. All along she’s with you, but you never notice until you think to notice.”

In this passage Swamy is talking of mothers but in her intuitive way her female characters call to attention many nuanced perspectives of looking at the world.

“When he lifted his eyes to me for a moment I felt the wind knocked out: I was a bell, and he’d rung me.”

A House is a Body using electric prose and imagery to bring both the realistic and surreal alive. It is definitely worth your time to pick this book up and steep in its well of emotions.


Synopsis

As a child, Vidya exists to serve her family, watch over her younger brother, and make sense of a motherless world. One day she catches sight of a class where the students are learning Kathak, a precise, dazzling form of dance that requires the utmost discipline and focus. Kathak quickly becomes the organizing principle of Vidya’s life, even as she leaves home for college, falls in love with her best friend, and battles demands on her time, her future, and her body. Can Vidya give herself over to her art and also be a wife in Bombay’s carefully delineated society? Can she shed the legacy of her own imperfect, unknowable mother? Must she, herself, also become a mother?


Advanced Praise for The Archer

“This is a singular work, a story of a dancer, and of a hungry self seated at the table of womanness and desire and art, told with unparalleled originality and elegance. Swamy writes with a thrilling clarity of vision that wakes the sleepwalker right into joyful consciousness. Every word is intimate, honest, ecstatic—utterly alive. I will hold this novel close, and return to it for companionship, for instruction, and for pure pleasure. I love and treasure this book.”

—Meng Jin, author of Little Gods

“Shruti’s Swamy’s The Archer combines exquisite prose with a kind of rare narrative propulsion. I found myself reading slower and slower, to make the sentences last even longer. By the end I was exhilarated and deeply moved. The Archer is a flat-out gorgeous piece of work.”

—Peter Orner, author of Maggie Brown & Others

“Alive with desire, Shruti Swamy’s prismatic language glimmers with the force that drives her characters to dance, beating against the restrictions of body, society, tradition, sexuality, and the fallible self toward a liberatory devotion to life. A gorgeous, taut, deeply embodied reading experience, The Archer further establishes Swamy as a writer of thrilling talent.”

—Asako Serizawa, author of Inheritors

Why I Cannot Wait to Read This Book

A House is A Body was such a beautiful journey fraught with emotion and intelligence. It was thought provoking and utterly moving experience. It is so immersive that you are held captive for a time. Then forced to marinate in all your feelings and ponder your thoughts after putting it down.

Her characters are written with such depth and nuance. Women are strong while tender. I am looking forward to seeing her prose shine through her first full length novel. I love coming of age novels especially those that explore different cultures. More importantly I’, excited to see how she explores female autonomy, art and excpression through the world of the Indian classical dance Kathak.

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