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If You See Me, Don't Say Hi: Stories Paperback – 15 Dec 2018
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'Perfect bite-size morsels for the beach, travel legs or quiet moments' (Guardian)
'Neel Patel writes with the wisdom and compassion of an old soul' (Celeste Ng, New York Times–bestselling author of Little Fires Everywhere)
'When you're done reading, you'll want to flip back to the beginning and read it all over again' (Scaachi Koul, author of One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter)
'In stories that are moving, thoughtful, entertaining, and discomfiting all at once, Patel upends what we think the experience of Indians in America looks like. It's about time' (Rumaan Alam, author of Rich and Pretty)
'What exquisite writing. What a tremendous talent' (Imbolo Mbue, New York Times–bestselling author of Behold the Dreamers)
About the Author
Neel Patel is a first-generation Indian American who grew up in Champaign, Illinois. His short stories have appeared in the Southampton Review, Indiana Review, the American Literary Review, Hyphen Magazine and on Nerve.com. He currently lives in Los Angeles, where he is at work on a novel. If You See Me, Don't Say Hi is his debut.
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Neel Patel's stories are quiet and tender. They pack a punch nonetheless when they have to. What lends to them superbly is the writing - the in-depth and heart-wrenching intimacy of this collection, and more than anything else, the tapestry of the lives of second-generation Indians - their lives and loves in the US of A.
Relationships are at the core of this book and no one is judged. These eleven stories pack a punch every time. The stereotypes grow with every turn of the page and then Patel shatters them with one giant stroke of the hammer. Whether it is a younger gay man involved with an older one, three women who want to defy every norm of society there is, a young couple trying to carry on with their lives amidst gossip, and whether it is standing up to arranged marriage, every story is layered and compelling.
Neel Patel's prose isn't sugar coated. His characters betray, regret, and realize that living is perhaps all of this and more. That makes it real and relatable, no matter where you live. The landscape doesn't matter. The stories do for sure. They speak to you. You can see these characters around you and that's where I guess Neel also gets his inspiration from.
"If You See Me, Don't Say Hi" is a collection of stories that must be read this year. A debut that is so strong, introspective, and will make you perhaps see the world a little more differently than you are used to.
Set in the US, the stories are compact and accommodate a wealth of context in just a few lines. The characters are as varied as they come, and are developed with care and attention. We see Indians Americans in the book as they rarely are portrayed in mainstream media, although, as they always are in actual life. They sometimes appear as confused teenagers or disoriented adults, frequently as exploring their sexuality, and often as dabbling in drugs. They indulge in sex but mostly in emotions, and are preoccupied with things other than their grades. The characters are thus humane, and real and most importantly flawed, as characters in stories should be.
I believe that the leitmotif connecting the stories is love, its presence or absence dictating people’s behaviours, circumstances and lives. Patel does not attempt to gloss over complex emotions or situations, depicting people and their myriad experiences in all its glory and chaos. There’s infidelity, drug abuse, dysfunctional relationships, and an obsessive desire for sex but beneath it all is the subtle message that people are just people, no matter what their ethnicity, history, race or class. I think the biggest achievement of the writer is that through this book he has given an entire community of readers, especially the children of first generation Indian immigrants, the gift of relatable stories.
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