(K. Brent Tomer),
Temporary People. By Deepak Unnikrishnan. Restless Books; 251 pages; $17.99 and £12.99.
A NATION is not just a place; it is a people who belong together, bound by history, ethnicity or language. But the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has borrowed its people. In a frenzied half-century, its population has grown from barely 100,000 to over 9m. Of these, a staggering 88.4% are citizens of another country. They built its impossible cities, but live under the shadow of one day being told to leave.
Among these perpetual foreigners are roughly 3m Indian migrants, mostly Malayalam-speakers—“Malayalees”. They include the family of Deepak Unnikrishnan, who was born in Kerala and raised in Abu Dhabi, went to America to study, and decided to stay. His debut novel, “Temporary People”, has won the inaugural Restless Books prize for writing by a first-generation immigrant to America. Its patchwork of chapters elicits the vertigo of Joseph Heller and the disoriented human hopelessness of Milan Kundera. In three sections—“Limbs”, “Tongue. Flesh.” and “Veed” (“home” in…Continue reading