Place Published: Braddock, PA
Publisher: Braddock Avenue Books
Date Published: October 2023
Timely. Relevant. Deeply felt. The stories in Khem K. Aryal’s new collection present a deeply human perspective on the travails—and triumphs—of a group of Nepalese immigrants struggling with the consequences of their decision to come to America. Having been told that immigration to the U.S. would lead to a decent and fulfilling life, they one by one discover that the truth is hardly so simple. Arriving in the U.S. at a time when the culture wars are raging, many of Aryal’s characters confront a reality that often reduces their individuality to stereotypes and their personal journey to little more than political fodder. In “Shopping for Glasses” a man suffering from chronic headaches follows a recommendation to get new glasses only to discover that the kind of personalized attention he customarily received in Nepal is nowhere to be found amid the cold calculus of American consumerism. In “Laxman Sir in America” a family man who had been a well-respected teacher in Nepal sees his sense of professional self-worth vanish into the hectic rhythms of an Amazon fulfillment center while at home this once loving father and spouse is torn apart by a growing estrangement from his own family as they manage to find more successful ways of adjusting. And in “Mrs. Sharma’s Halloween” a woman visiting her children and grandchildren at their new house in the U.S. watches with growing despair as she comes to understand that their emigration has been at the cost of traditional ways when it is clear that they will not return to Nepal to care for her in old age. In stories that reveal the heartrending ambivalence of not being part of a new culture while being unable to return to the old, Aryal’s The In-Betweeners forms a compelling portrait of the price we pay in pursuit of our dreams.
Praise for The In-Betweeners
Unflinching, sweeping and stunningly intimate, Aryal’s stories unfold with careful measure and well-earned grace. Aryal tenderly lays bare and brilliantly complicates cultural mores and meditates with adroit ease on the human condition. These stories are a must-read.
—Jennifer Maritza McCauley, author of When Trying to Return Home
Khem Aryal's debut short story collection The In-Betweeners is a beautifully nuanced meditation on the in-between status of new immigrants, in this case from Nepal. Aryal poignantly mines the emotions between desire and fulfillment, hopes and hopelessness, and the spaces between gain and loss in these stunning stories which chart the changing relations between husbands and wives, parents and children, friends, bosses, strangers. Aryal's excellent ear for dialogue and deft character portrayals illuminate each multi-faceted tale. A gorgeous addition to Nepali immigrant fiction as well as American literature, The In-Betweeners is an extraordinary gem, intense and intelligent, and Khem Aryal a sparkling writer.
—Soniah Kamal, author of Unmarriageable
The In-Betweeners probes the lives of Nepalis who find themselves at crossroads of cultures, politics, and identities. Aryal’s sharp yet compassionate gaze at his characters’ struggles deepens our understanding of the American immigrant experience. A heartfelt and important book by a talented new writer.
—Samrat Upadhyay, author of Arresting God in Kathmandu
The stories in The In-Betweeners are written with love, compassion, a great sense of humor, and a profound sensitivity to the difficulties of trading one country for another, especially when that country is this one, the America we live in today. The predominating theme—immigration to the US—is timeless, but our times are uniquely ours, as is the gauntlet it throws at the feet of its newest arrivals. In stories that are constantly surprising and which never disappoint, we watch a varied cast of resilient characters navigate these profoundly troubled waters, in a book that is as necessary as it is a pleasure to read.
—Robert Long Foreman, author of I Am Here to Make Friends