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Penguin Press

Gold Diggers by Sanjena Sathian (Paperback)

Gold Diggers by Sanjena Sathian (Paperback)

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Fiction - Literary - Magical Realism

Published: 4/19/2022 (Originally Published 4/6/2021 in Hardcover)

Spanning two continents, two coasts, and four epochs, Gold Diggers expertly balances social satire and magical realism in a classic striver story, asking what a community must do to achieve the American dream. In razor sharp and deeply funny prose, 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.

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

“In a perfect alchemical blend of familiar and un-, Gold Diggers takes a wincingly hilarious coming-of-age story, laces it with magical realism and a trace of satire, and creates a world that’s both achingly familiar and marvelously inventive. Written with such assurance it’s hard to believe it’s Sanjena Sathian’s debut, this is a dizzyingly original, fiercely funny, deeply wise novel about the seductive powers—and dangers—of borrowed ambition.”—Celese Ng, bestselling author of Little Fires Everywhere


A Paul and Daisy Soros fellow, Sanjena Sathian is a 2019 graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop. She has worked as a reporter in Mumbai and San Francisco, with nonfiction bylines for The New Yorker, The New York Times, Food & WineThe Washington Post, Vox, TIME, and more. Her award-winning short fiction has been published in The AtlanticConjunctionsBoulevard, Joyland, Salt Hill, and The Master's Review. 

“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

“Sanjena Sathian’s Gold Diggers is a work of 24-karat genius . . . remarkable . . . Sathian’s effervescent social satire breaks the bonds of ordinary reality and rises to another level . . . Like Aimee Bender, Karen Russell and Colson Whitehead, she’s working in a liminal realm where the laws of science aren’t suspended so much as stretched . . . dazzling . . . Looking up from the pages of this sparkling debut, I experienced something like the thrill the luckiest 49ers must have felt: Gold! Gold! Gold!” —Ron Charles, The Washington Post   

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