Thrity Umrigar

Novelist & Children’s Author
NYT Bestseller
Travels from: Cleveland, OH

“The warmth and humanity that fills Thrity’s books was felt deeply in the room.” — Learning 4 All Seasons

Thrity Umrigar is the best-selling author of the novels Bombay Time, The Space Between Us, If Today Be Sweet, The Weight of Heaven, The World We Found and The Story Hour. She is also the author of the memoir, First Darling of the Morning, as well as children’s books Sugar In Milk and Binny’s Diwali. Her books have been translated into several languages and published in over fifteen countries. The sequel to The Space Between Us, is titled The Secrets Between Us, and was published in June 2018. Her most recent novel, Honor, was published in January 2022.

The Space Between Us was a finalist for the PEN/Beyond Margins award, while her memoir was a finalist for the Society of Midland Authors award. If Today Be Sweet was a Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle selection, while her other books have been Community Reads selections. Thrity is the winner of the Cleveland Arts Prize, a Lambda Literary award and the Seth Rosenberg prize.

Thrity was born in Bombay, India and came to the U.S. when she was 21. As a Parsi child attending a Catholic school in a predominantly Hindu country, she had the kind of schizophrenic and cosmopolitan childhood that has served her well in her life as a writer. Accused by teachers and parents alike of being a daydreaming, head-in-the-clouds child, she grew up lost in the fictional worlds created by Steinbeck, Hemingway, Woolf and Faulkner. She would emerge long enough from these books to create her own fictional and poetic worlds. Encouraged by her practical-minded parents to get an undergraduate degree in business, Thrity survived business school by creating a drama club and writing, directing and acting in plays. Her first short stories, essays and poems were published in national magazines and newspapers in India at age fifteen.

After earning a M.A. in journalism in the U.S., Thrity worked for several years as an award-winning reporter, columnist and magazine writer. She also earned a Ph.D. in English. In 1999, Thrity won a one-year Nieman Fellowship to Harvard University, which is given to mid-career journalists.

While at Harvard, Thrity wrote her first novel, Bombay Time. In 2002 she accepted a teaching position at Case Western Reserve University, where she is now the Armington Professor of English. She also does occasional freelance pieces for national publications and has written for the Washington Post and the Boston Globe’s book pages.

Thrity is active on the national lecture circuit and has spoken at book festivals such as the L.A. Festival of Books, the Tucson Book Festival and the Miami Book Fair International; at universities such as MIT, Harvard University, and Spelman College; and at literary societies, civic and business organizations and public libraries all across the country.

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Sugar In Milk

Running Press Kids |
Picture Book

A timely and timeless picture book about immigration that demonstrates the power of diversity, acceptance, and tolerance from a gifted storyteller.

An ALSC Notable Children’s Book of 2021
Kirkus Best Books of 2020
School Library Journal Best Books of 2020
Winner of the 2021 Ohioana Book Award
An Anne Izard Storytellers’ Choice Award, 2022

“An engaging, beautiful, and memorable book.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“Lush illustrations and a strong message of hope and perseverance make this a standout title.” —School Library Journal, starred review

When I first came to this country, I felt so alone.

A young immigrant girl joins her aunt and uncle in a new country that is unfamiliar to her. She struggles with loneliness, with a fierce longing for the culture and familiarity of home, until one day, her aunt takes her on a walk. As the duo strolls through their city park, the girl’s aunt begins to tell her an old myth, and a story within the story begins.

A long time ago, a group of refugees arrived on a foreign shore. The local king met them, determined to refuse their request for refuge. But there was a language barrier, so the king filled a glass with milk and pointed to it as a way of saying that the land was full and couldn’t accommodate the strangers. Then, the leader of the refugees dissolved sugar in the glass of milk. His message was clear: Like sugar in milk, our presence in your country will sweeten your lives. The king embraced the refugee, welcoming him and his people. The folktale depicted in this book was a part of author Thrity Umrigar’s Zoroastrian upbringing as a Parsi child in India, but resonates for children of all backgrounds, especially those coming to a new homeland.

Binny’s Diwali

Scholastic Press |
Picture Book

Binny woke up happy but nervous. It was her day to share about Diwali, the Festival of Lights!

Binny is excited to talk to her class about her favorite holiday. But she struggles to find the words.Taking a deep breath, she tells her classmates about the fireworks that burst like stars in the night sky, leaving streaks of gold and red and green. She shares with them delicious pedas and jalebis. And she shows them clay lamps, called diyas, which look so pretty all the children ooh and aah.Featuring a heartwarming story by Thrity Umrigar, enchanting illustrations by Nidhi Chanani, and detailed information about the Hindu festival of lights, Binny’s Diwali is a holiday treat.

Honor

Algonquin Books |
Novel

THE JANUARY 2022 REESE’S BOOK CLUB PICK

“In the way A Thousand Splendid Suns told of Afghanistan’s women, Thrity Umrigar tells a story of India with the intimacy of one who knows the many facets of a land both modern and ancient, awash in contradictions.” —Lisa Wingate, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Before We Were Yours 

In this riveting and immersive novel, bestselling author Thrity Umrigar tells the story of two couples and the sometimes dangerous and heartbreaking challenges of love across a cultural divide.

Indian American journalist Smita has returned to India to cover a story, but reluctantly: long ago she and her family left the country with no intention of ever coming back. As she follows the case of Meena—a Hindu woman attacked by members of her own village and her own family for marrying a Muslim man—Smita comes face to face with a society where tradition carries more weight than one’s own heart, and a story that threatens to unearth the painful secrets of Smita’s own past. While Meena’s fate hangs in the balance, Smita tries in every way she can to right the scales. She also finds herself increasingly drawn to Mohan, an Indian man she meets while on assignment. But the dual love stories of Honor are as different as the cultures of Meena and Smita themselves: Smita realizes she has the freedom to enter into a casual affair, knowing she can decide later how much it means to her.

In this tender and evocative novel about love, hope, familial devotion, betrayal, and sacrifice, Thrity Umrigar shows us two courageous women trying to navigate how to be true to their homelands and themselves at the same time.

The Secrets Between Us

Harper |
Novel

A powerful, urgent novel that wields issues of gender and class like a blade. . . . This intergenerational novel asks hard questions about who we are, who we can become, and what awaits on the other side of our becoming. Thrity Umrigar is known as a bold and generous writer, and The Secrets Between Us only further establishes her reputation.”  — Wiley Cash, author of The Last Ballad

Bhima, the unforgettable main character of Thrity Umrigar’s beloved national bestseller The Space Between Us, returns in this triumphant sequel—a poignant and compelling novel in which the former servant struggles against the circumstances of class and misfortune to forge a new path for herself and her granddaughter in modern India.

Poor and illiterate, Bhima had faithfully worked for the Dubash family, an upper-middle-class Parsi household, for more than twenty years. Yet after courageously speaking the truth about a heinous crime perpetrated against her own family, the devoted servant was cruelly fired. The sting of that dismissal was made more painful coming from Sera Dubash, the temperamental employer who had long been Bhima’s only confidante. A woman who has endured despair and loss with stoicism, Bhima must now find some other way to support herself and her granddaughter, Maya.

Bhima’s fortunes take an unexpected turn when her path intersects with Parvati, a bitter, taciturn older woman. The two acquaintances soon form a tentative business partnership, selling fruits and vegetables at the local market. As they work together, these two women seemingly bound by fate grow closer, each confessing the truth about their lives and the wounds that haunt them. Discovering her first true friend, Bhima pieces together a new life, and together, the two women learn to stand on their own.

A dazzling story of gender, strength, friendship, and second chances, The Secrets Between Us is a powerful and perceptive novel that brilliantly evokes the complexities of life in modern India and the harsh realities faced by women born without privilege as they struggle to survive.

Everybody’s Son

Harper |
Novel

Everybody’s Son probes directly into the tender spots of race and privilege in America. . . . With assured prose and deep insight into the human heart, Umrigar explores the moral gray zone of what parents, no matter their race, will do for love.” — Celeste Ng, author of Everything I Never Told You

During a terrible heat wave in 1991—the worst in a decade—ten-year-old Anton has been locked in an apartment in the projects, alone, for seven days, without air conditioning or a fan. With no electricity, the refrigerator and lights do not work. Hot, hungry, and desperate, Anton shatters a window and climbs out. Cutting his leg on the broken glass, he is covered in blood when the police find him.

Juanita, his mother, is discovered in a crack house less than three blocks away, nearly unconscious and half-naked. When she comes to, she repeatedly asks for her baby boy. She never meant to leave Anton—she went out for a quick hit and was headed right back, until her drug dealer raped her and kept her high. Though the bond between mother and son is extremely strong, Anton is placed with child services while Juanita goes to jail.

The Harvard-educated son of a US senator, Judge David Coleman is a scion of northeastern white privilege. Desperate to have a child in the house again after the tragic death of his teenage son, David uses his power and connections to keep his new foster son, Anton, with him and his wife, Delores—actions that will have devastating consequences in the years to come.

Following in his adopted family’s footsteps, Anton, too, rises within the establishment. But when he discovers the truth about his life, his birth mother, and his adopted parents, this man of the law must come to terms with the moral complexities of crimes committed by the people he loves most.

When I Carried You In My Belly

Running Press Kids |
Picture Book

Love Your Forever meets On the Night You Were Born in this heartwarming picture book about a mother’s love for her child.

The special bond between a mother and her child begins well before the baby is born. But once the baby is born and starts to grow into her own person, traits from both parents begin to show themselves in delightful and humorous ways. When I Carried You in My Belly is a mother’s song to her growing daughter, capturing the warmth and magic of the time when her daughter was housed inside her belly. The girl’s laugh, her love of music, her sweet disposition, and her carefree attitude can all be traced back to her time in her mother’s tummy, when her mother would laugh, sing songs, eat yummy treats, and dance the day away.

Thrity Umrigar’s lyrical and playful text are well complemented by Ziyue Chen’s soft and delightful illustrations, and together they create a sentimental and insightful book about the special bond between parents and children. With a similar tone to On the Night You Were Born and the spirit of I Loved You Before You Were BornWhen I Carried You in My Belly is primed to become a new timeless classic.

The Story Hour

Harper Perennial |
Novel

“Thrity Umrigar has an uncanny ability to look deeply into the human heart and find the absolute truth of our lives. The Story Hour is stunning and beautiful. Lakshmi and Maggie will stay with readers for a very long time.” — Luis Alberto Urrea, author of The Hummingbird’s Daughter

From the critically beloved, bestselling author of The World We Found and The Space Between Us, whom the New York Times Book Review calls a “perceptive and . . . piercing writer,” comes a profound, heartbreakingly honest novel about friendship, family, secrets, forgiveness, and second chances.

An experienced psychologist, Maggie carefully maintains emotional distance from her patients. But when she meets a young Indian woman who tried to kill herself, her professional detachment disintegrates. Cut off from her family in India, Lakshmi is desperately lonely and trapped in a loveless marriage to a domineering man who limits her world to their small restaurant and grocery store.

Moved by her plight, Maggie treats Lakshmi in her home office for free, quickly realizing that the despondent woman doesn’t need a shrink; she needs a friend. Determined to empower Lakshmi as a woman who feels valued in her own right, Maggie abandons protocol, and soon doctor and patient have become close friends.

But while their relationship is deeply affectionate, it is also warped by conflicting expectations. When Maggie and Lakshmi open up and share long-buried secrets, the revelations will jeopardize their close bond, shake their faith in each other, and force them to confront painful choices.

The World We Found

Harper Perennial |
Novel

“Stunning . . . . This is a novel that rewards reading, and even re-reading. The World We Found is a powerful meditation.” —Boston Globe

Thrity Umrigar, acclaimed author of The Space Between Us and The Weight of Heaven, returns with a breathtaking new novel—a skillfully wrought, emotionally resonant story of four women and the indelible friendship they share.

As university students in late 1970s Bombay, Armaiti, Laleh, Kavita, and Nishta were inseparable. Spirited and unconventional, they challenged authority and fought for a better world. But over the past thirty years, the quartet has drifted apart, the day-to-day demands of work and family tempering the revolutionary fervor they once shared.

Then comes devastating news: Armaiti, who moved to America, is gravely ill and wants to see the old friends she left behind. For Laleh, reunion is a bittersweet reminder of unfulfilled dreams and unspoken guilt. For Kavita, it is an admission of forbidden passion. For Nishta, it is the promise of freedom from a bitter, fundamentalist husband. And for Armaiti, it is an act of acceptance, of letting go on her own terms.

The World We Found is a dazzling masterwork from the remarkable Thrity Umrigar, offering an unforgettable portrait of modern India while it explores the enduring bonds of friendship and the power of love to change lives.

The Weight Of Heaven

Harper Perennial |
Novel

From the bestselling author of THE SPACE BETWEEN US comes an emotionally-charged story about unexpected death, unhealed wounds, and the price one father will pay to protect himself from pain and loss.

“Powerful. . . . Twisty, brimming with dark humor and keen moral insight, The Weight of Heaven packs a wallop on both a literary and emotional level. . . . Umrigar . . . is a descriptive master.” — Christian Science Monitor

From Thrity Umrigar, bestselling author of The Space Between Us, comes The Weight of Heaven. In the rich tradition of the acclaimed works of Indian writers such as Rohinton Mistry, Akhil Sharma, Indra Sinha, and Jhumpa Lahiri, The Weight of Heaven is an emotionally charged story about unexpected death, unhealed wounds, and the price one father will pay to protect himself from pain and loss. Additionally, it offers unique perspectives, both Indian and American, on the fragmented nature of globalized India.

If Today Be Sweet

Harper Perennial, |
Novel

“Ultimately, [If Today Be Sweet] reflects on what makes an individual part of a community, and movingly depicts the heartaches, responsibilities, and rewards of family life—among one’s own blood relatives as well as one’s ‘family of choice.’ . . . [A] meditation on the complex process of building a new life.” — Charlotte Observer

The recent death of her beloved husband, Rustom, has taken its toll on Tehmina Sethna. Now, while visiting her son, Sorab, in his suburban Ohio home, she is being asked to choose between continuing her old life in India and starting a new one in this unfamiliar country with her son, his American wife, and their child. Her destiny is uncertain, and soon the plight of two troubled young children next door will force the most difficult decision she has ever faced. Ultimately the journey is one that Tehmina must travel alone.

Eloquently written, evocative, and unforgettable, If Today Be Sweet is a poignant look at issues of immigration, identity, family life, and hope.

Bombay Time

Picador |
Novel

Bestselling author Thrity Umrigar’s deeply felt first novel set in modern India, Bombay Time.

At the wedding of a young man from a middle-class apartment building in Bombay, the men and women of this unique community gather together and look back on their youthful, idealistic selves and consider the changes the years have wrought. The lives of the Parsi men and women who grew up together in Wadi Baug are revealed in all their complicated humanity: Adi Patel’s disintegration into alcoholism; Dosamai’s gossiping tongue; and Soli Contractor’s betrayal and heartbreak. And observing it all is Rusi Bilimoria, a disillusioned businessman who struggles to make sense of his life and hold together a fraying community.

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Honors, Awards & Recognition

NYT Bestseller
Lambda Literary Award
Cleveland Arts Prize
Reese’s Book Club

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