Summary and book reviews of Temporary People by Deepak Unnikrishnan

Temporary People

by Deepak Unnikrishnan

Temporary People by Deepak Unnikrishnan X
Temporary People by Deepak Unnikrishnan
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Paperback:
    Mar 2017, 272 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Lisa Butts
Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

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 debut novel Temporary People, Deepak Unnikrishnan delves into their histories, myths, struggles, and triumphs.

Winner of the Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing

In the United Arab Emirates, foreign nationals constitute over 80 percent of the population. Brought in to construct the towering monuments to wealth that punctuate the skylines of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, this labor force works without the rights of citizenship, endures miserable living conditions, and is ultimately forced 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 debut novel Temporary People, Deepak Unnikrishnan delves into their histories, myths, struggles, and triumphs. 

Combining the irrepressible linguistic invention of Salman Rushdie and the satirical vision of George Saunders, 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. With this polyphony, Unnikrishnan brilliantly maps a new, unruly global English. 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. 

IN MUSSAFAH GREW PEOPLE

(Complete short story)

Like the crow, Kerala's much maligned bird, Malayalees adapt well anywhere. Only our language Malayalam, a palindrome, is difficult.
– Wanted criminal Ramji Rao (1989)

Not many people know that 67.5 kilometers to Dubai's west sits an island, a little sultanate ruled by an envious little grump, Sultan Mo-Mo.


May 3, 2006

The sultan had enormous eyebrows, fibrous like angora wool. In moments of strife, his eyebrows twitched violently. Like now!

His Excellency's royal blood boiled. Once again another mesmerized American news anchor gushed about Dubai's vision, hailing the imagination of the al-Maktoum family.

"Where is this vision coming from?" probed Katie Couric.

"Ignorant Yankee!" Sultan Mo-Mo's British twang bore traces of Basil Fawlty.

The sultan wanted to retch. Dubai's showboating gave him indigestion but he continued to help himself to more chips and fiery salsa, downing cold Guinness, smoking excellent hash, ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

If it isn't obvious, this is a fantastical account of the lives of the UAE's immigrant work force, an oppressed people living in poverty and without the rights of citizens, and it is not intended as a documentary of the situation, though readers may be inspired to look into the facts for themselves. The whimsy can become a little overwhelming, like watching a very long Wes Anderson film. If the humor sounds like it is in poor taste, it often is, to say nothing of the more outrageous narrative elements like the apartment building plagued by a child-molesting elevator. That being said, there is a long literary tradition, from Jonathan Swift to Kurt Vonnegut and George Saunders, of making a political point via the inappropriate and absurd, and with this profoundly clever debut, Unnikrishnan exhibits the potential to join the ranks of these luminaries.   (Reviewed by Lisa Butts).

Full Review (660 words).

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.

Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Interspersed throughout are briefer pieces, from one paragraph to several pages in length, concise meditations that offer up the book's best expressions of what it means to be an outsider in a land far from home.

Booklist
A careful, patient reader will love Unnikrishnan's inventive and caring connected tales.

Library Journal
Starred Review. This first novel challenges readers with a singular inventiveness expressed through a lyrical use of language and a laserlike focus that is at once charming and terrifying. Highly recommended.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. An enchanting, unparalleled anthem of displacement and repatriation.

Author Blurb Alexandra Kleeman, author of You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine
These absurdist fables, fluent in the language of exile, immigration, and bureaucracy, will remind you of the raw pleasure of storytelling and the unsettling nearness of the future.

Author Blurb Deb Olin Unferth, author of Revolution
Deepak writes brilliant stories with a fresh, passionate energy. Every page feels as if it must have been written, as if the author had no choice . . . Important work. Work of the future. This man will not be stopped

Reader Reviews

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

The United Arab Emirates

The UAE Temporary People is set largely in the United Arab Emirates, a federation of seven states located on the Persian Gulf. Each of the seven, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, and Umm al-Qaiwan have their own local governments, which are overseen by a federal president in Abu Dhabi, the nation's capital. The current leader is Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, son of the UAE's founder and first president, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

Before the founding of the UAE, the area was populated by different groups of Muslim tribes, most notably the Bani Yas, but the area was plagued by pirates, which also impacted the European trade routes to India and the Far East. In 1820, the British signed a treaty of protection with ...

This "beyond the book" feature is available to non-members for a limited time. Join today for full access.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked Temporary People, try these:

  • American Histories jacket

    American Histories

    by John E. Wideman

    Published 2019

    About this book

    With characters ranging from everyday Americans to Jean-Michel Basquiat to Nat Turner, American Histories is a journey through time, experience, and the soul of our country.

  • My Sister, the Serial Killer jacket

    My Sister, the Serial Killer

    by Oyinkan Braithwaite

    Published 2018

    About this book

    A short, darkly funny, hand grenade of a novel about a Nigerian woman whose younger sister has a very inconvenient habit of killing her boyfriends.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Kinship of Secrets
    The Kinship of Secrets
    by Eugenia Kim
    Of our 20 First Impressions readers who submitted reviews for The Kinship of Secrets, all rated it ...
  • Book Jacket: Empire of Sand
    Empire of Sand
    by Tasha Suri
    Tasha Suri's debut novel, Empire of Sand, reads like something out of 1001 Arabian Nights, both ...
  • Book Jacket: In Byron's Wake
    In Byron's Wake
    by Miranda Seymour
    It's tempting to think that our age of celebrity worship coupled with the 24-hour news cycle is ...
  • Book Jacket: The Latecomers
    The Latecomers
    by Helen Klein Ross
    The Latecomers is the third novel written by acclaimed author Helen Klein Ross, following What Was ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Force of Nature
by Jane Harper

As atmospheric, tense, and explosive as her New York Times bestselling debut, The Dry!

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    At the Wolf's Table
    by Rosella Postorino

    The internationally bestselling novel about the women conscripted to be Hitler's food tasters.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win To Lay To Rest Our Ghosts

To Lay to Rest Our Ghosts

"Caitlin Hamilton Summie is our modern Chekhov."
- Savvy Verse & Wit

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

Everything I H-D

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.