Cover Photo: This graphic is a close-up of the ‘Best Debut Short Stories 2021’ book cover, and includes the words "A conversation with Robert J. Dau Prize Winner Nishanth Injam" along with the author's headshot
Photograph courtesy of Nishanth Injam

A Conversation with ‘Best Debut Short Stories 2021’ Author Nishanth Injam

“We spend too much time thinking about how we are different and not enough time thinking about how we are similar.”

Best Debut Short Stories 2021: The PEN America Dau Prize are open now

Virginia Quarterly ReviewThe Georgia Review

Virginia Quarterly Review.

Where did you find the idea for this story?

s class at the University of Michigan’s MFA program and I was supposed to write about a stranger who's either new in town or leaving town but I found myself writing about the shape of my life. The long flights back home, the calculations you make as an immigrant, the fear of losing one’s parents, all that heavy stuff.

What was your writing process like for this story?


In the story, you write “Home is the recognition of the lives we led together once, the things that only we knew of.” How has writing this story impacted your relationship to the concept of home?

You combine evocative prose with coding language to illuminate the complexity of the immigrant experience. What inspired this particular stylistic choice?

Sometimes I think literary fiction places too much importance on detail. Let’s say Person A likes to have oatmeal for breakfast and Person B prefers frosted corn flakes. I get that those two breakfasts are different and those two people are different, but the capitalist framework we are all living with emphasizes this difference; fragmentation over solidarity. We spend too much time thinking about how we are different and not enough time thinking about how we are similar. Granularity is good, specificity makes fiction alive, but I didn’t want to lose sight of what I was writing against.

How has the Robert J. Dau Prize affected you?

What is the best or worse writing advice you’ve received, and why?

Finally, where do you discover new writing?

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