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Winner of the Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing, Deepak Unnikrishnan’s Temporary People is a fearlessly original and urgently necessary novel of linked stories that give voice to the unsung lives of the “guest workers” of the Persian Gulf.
In the United Arab Emirates, the vast majority of the population consists of foreign nationals brought in to construct the towering monuments to wealth that bristle the skylines of Abu Dhabi and Dubai. This labor force works without the rights of citizenship, endures miserable living conditions, and, after enforced retirement, is required to leave the country. Until now, the humanitarian crisis of the so-called “guest workers” of the Gulf has barely been addressed in fiction. With his stunning, mind-altering book Temporary People, debut author Deepak Unnikrishnan delves into their histories, myths, struggles, and triumphs, and illuminates the ways in which temporary status affects psyches, families, memories, stories, and languages.
Combining the irrepressible linguistic invention of Salman Rushdie and the darkly funny satirical vision of George Saunders, Deepak Unnikrishnan presents twenty-eight linked stories that careen from construction workers who shapeshift into luggage and escape a labor camp, to a woman who stitches back together the bodies of those who’ve fallen from buildings in progress, to a man who grows ideal workers designed to live twelve years and then perish—until they don’t, and found a rebel community in the desert.
In this polyphony of voices, Unnikrishnan brilliantly maps a new, unruly global English, and in giving substance and identity to the anonymous workers of the Gulf, he highlights the disturbing ways in which “progress” on a global scale is bound up with dehumanization. Temporary People announces the arrival of an important new American writer.