Sameer Pandya

Contemporary fiction often offers a window into what ails us and what consumes us. Tackling a hot-button topic like race is never easy, and yet many novelists are drawn to the challenge that controversial topics present—for purposes of sorting things out, sending a message, or capturing a moment. In this week’s episode we talk to guest Sameer Pandya about writing provocative (and debut) fiction, and Grant and Brooke reveal whether or not they work in pajama pants.


Sameer Pandya is the author of the story collection The Blind Writer, which was long listed for the PEN/Open Book Award. He is also the recipient of the PEN/Civitella Fellowship. His fiction, commentary, and cultural criticism has appeared in a range of publications, including the Atlantic, Salon, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, and Narrative Magazine. He is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Asian American Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Members Only is his first novel.


Some writers are conflict-oriented, so we throw our characters into the fire. Others of us are more conflict-averse, perhaps especially when it comes to cultural sensitivities and debates, so we avoid conflict. But conflict can be cathartic and open up new possibilities for discourse, especially when it happens on the page. So imagine a conflict moment for one of your characters. Place them in a situation where they inadvertently say something offensive or are simply misunderstood. How do they react? Are they combative? Apologetic? Do they learn from the moment, or do they entrench themselves in defensiveness? How can you reveal many sides of your character through one such moment.

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