The East Indian
by Brinda Charry
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Pub Date 8 Jun 2023 | Archive Date 31 May 2023
Meet Tony: the first Indian to set foot on American soil.
Among the settlers, slaves, and indentured servants that make the treacherous journey across the Atlantic to the New World in the early 1600s — for some, an exciting opportunity, for others, a brutal abduction — there is also Tony. As a child, his homeland on the Coromandel Coast of India becomes a trading outpost for the English; as an orphaned teenager, he finds himself kidnapped from the streets of London and bound to servitude on a Virginia plantation. But Tony is not giving up on his dreams just yet.
Under the rule of a sadistic plantation owner, he forms a tender bond with a young boy who will haunt his nightmares; on an exploration inland alongside a trader and Native Americans, he realises the world is vaster and more mysterious than he could have imagined; and in Jamestown, he finally earns himself a position as a physician’s apprentice, an ambition he has long harboured.
The East Indian is a Dickensian-style yarn about family, friendship, and finding oneself in the seeds of a new world.
‘History comes alive in this brilliant, highly-imaginative, and vivid novel. Immersive and revelatory — a stellar achievement.’ – E. C. Osondu, winner of the Caine Prize for African Writing, author of This House Is Not For Sale
‘Tony, the “East Indian” of the title of Brinda Charry’s utterly enjoyable debut novel, reads like a character straight out of Dickens. Based on an actual historical figure, the first person from India documented in the records of Colonial Virginia, Tony ventures into the entangled richness of a nascent America — a place he calls, “this precarious edge of the world.” It is peopled by “servants” — both white and black, female and male — who find themselves as bound to the New World as they are to the Englishmen who rule it. Picaresque in style, lyrical of voice, gripping and authentic, The East Indian is a real treat.’ – David Wright Falade, author of Black Cloud Rising