Kitaab Book Review

Martin David Hughes

I’m proud to announce that Jaya Nepal! was recently reviewed on Kitaab, one of the preeminent websites focusing on South Asian literature. Kitaab (which means “book” in Nepali) is a curated website and online literary journal that highlights “the most important stories on Asian writers and writing.” Founded by writer and journalist Zafar Anjum in 2005, Kitaab is a site that both “celebrates and critiques” stories taking place in Asia.

Kitaab’s Assistant Managing Editor, Elen Turner, who also works for Kathmandu-based Himal Southasian magazine, was the reviewer for Jaya Nepal! Here is an excerpt from Turner’s review of Jaya Nepal!:

Hughes’ descriptions of Kathmandu are spot-on. If a reader hasn’t been to Nepal, Hughes’ attention to detail and the accuracy of his observations are very trustworthy means through which to imagine the country.

Turner goes on to say

it is promising that North Americans with extensive first-hand knowledge of Nepal are presenting the country in a manner not seen before.

One of my main goals in writing Jaya Nepal! was to share with readers the utter uniqueness of Nepal and Kathmandu. I wanted to transport people into that world, with its powerful sights, smells, and tactile sensations, as well as into the headspace of a young person striving for a greater understanding of the world and its workings. The fact that Turner noted this in her review is a tremendous compliment.

One criticism that Turner presents in her review is my seeming inability to “be critical of those aspects of Nepal that warrant criticism.” My response to this charge is that there are a lot of other books out there that focus on just this, and Jaya Nepal! is not intended to be a commentary on everything that’s wrong with Nepal. I believe that not every novel set in a developing country needs to give equal weight to the negative and positive aspects of that society. Jaya Nepal! is an unabashedly happy story—a celebration of my great love for Nepal and its people. I wanted to emphasize and highlight the great kindness that I experienced as a guest in Nepal and present the country and its people in a way that felt most genuine to me.

Overall, Turner’s review of Jaya Nepal! is mixed, though I appreciate both her positive comments and her critical feedback. It’s an honor simply to be reviewed on Kitaab, and I’m grateful for the chance to share my work with literature lovers in Asia and beyond.