Jenny Bhatt is a writer, literary translator, book critic, and the host of the Desi Books podcast. In 2020, she had a critically acclaimed debut short story collection out titled Each of Us Killers. Jenny also had a well-received debut literary translation (from Gujarati to English), released titled Ratno Dholi: The Best Stories of Dhumketu.
Having lived and worked her way around India, England, Germany, Scotland, and various parts of the US, Jenny now lives in a suburb of Dallas, Texas, from here she hosts her book podcast. “The Desi Books podcast covers news and views of South Asian literature from the world over. In 2020, the podcast completed 21 episodes featuring 31 author guests and >200 books by writers of South Asian origin. It can be listened to on 12 platforms and currently has listeners in 31 countries”.
Difficult year for writers
Both her first fiction and her first literary translation were released during 2020. “This has been a difficult year for all writers, let alone debut writers. There were no physical book tours, making it difficult to reach readers in the usual ways. Instead, we did a lot of virtual book events, which had their own challenges. And I did a whole lot of writing: essays, reading lists, book reviews, and more. I appreciate being able to virtually meet readers from around the world versus just in certain towns and cities. And I’m definitely grateful to all the editors who published my works this year. But, no question, this has been an exhausting book promotion cycle and I’m just glad to get through it”.
Spotlights on writers
It’s not easy to get a book published, let alone release a book during a pandemic. Seeing how difficult it was for many of her fellow writers who also had books out in 2020, Jenny decided to start a podcast, Desi Books, to help shine a spotlight on writers of South Asian origin with books out this year. “It’s hard enough for Desi writers to get attention at major media venues. Once they’ve covered one or two Desi writers and anointed them as “the ones”, the rest seem to become invisible. So I wanted to do my part to help because I’ve always believed that a rising tide lifts all boats. If we all do some small thing to uplift, elevate, and preserve our literary traditions, we can all help to raise the tide“.
Sharing the limelight
Jenny’s idea is truly remarkable. She went beyond her own need for publicity for her own book releases. She decided to share her love for reading and writing with readers and writers. Keen to share the limelight with other authors from the South Asian literary community. “The most important thing I did to connect with readers and the South Asian literary community was to start the Desi Books podcast. I’ve met some amazing and wonderful readers and writers due to this podcast. I also wrote 23 essays, reading lists, and book reviews, gave 27 interviews, and participated in about 26 virtual book events. I’m grateful to have had these connection opportunities but, of course, all of these take time and effort. Still, it is always a gift and a blessing to reach readers in these ways from the safety and comfort of my home so I will never take it for granted”.
Grateful for technology
This year has taught Jenny a lot about literary networks, cliques, and how the publishing ecosystem works. “I’m grateful for these lessons and hope that I will be wiser with the next book. I’m of an age when I’m realistic about how we can never truly leave anything behind. Our baggage stays with us though it may take new shapes and forms. I’m grateful for technology now more than ever. Tech has allowed readers and writers to connect in unprecedented ways this year more than ever before. At the same time, the pandemic has made many of us all pay more attention to what’s most important in our lives beyond social media and the 24/7 news cycle. So I’m grateful that, despite everything, we’ve all found ways to make richer and deeper connections with others through art, whether we’re creating it or appreciating it”.