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India's eager young readers

By / February 3, 2009

"Write about what you know," may be the oldest writing adage on record, but it is perhaps one that young Indian authors should take to heart. About half of India's one billion citizens are under the age of 25 and many are hungering to see themselves in the pages of the books they read.

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Outside India , we may swoon over literary types like Salman Rushdie, Kiran Desai, Arundhati Roy, and Aravind Adiga, but inside India itself, despite winning the Booker Prize, Adiga's "The White Tiger" has sold only 100,000 copies. The heroes of young Indians are writers more along the lines of Chetan Bhagat (author of "One Night @ the Call Center")  and Anuja Chauhan ("The Zoya Factor") who write stories grounded in the kind of middle-class urban settings that are familiar to many young Indian readers.

Indian publishers are "shifting gear, as readers lap up mainstream contemporary novels set closer to home,"  says a piece in the National, the UAE's English-language daily. Indian publishers are looking for books that are "sharper and sassier"

“It’s not high-end literature but it is very accessible writing," one Indian publishing source told the National. It is literature "for a generation influenced by Facebook, YouTube and mobile technology."

In a post-"Slumdog Millionaire" world (and "Slumdog Millionaire" comes, of course, from "Q&A," a novel by Vikas Swarup), the tastes of India's young readers should be of interest to all of us. It seems that a hunger for stories that unfold in Mumbai is not restricted to readers who live there.

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