JLF Houston is proud to felicitate novelist Bapsi Sidhwa, iconic raconteur of diasporic voices, legendary chronicler of the Indian sub-continent, for her work, voice, and vision. 

Houston resident Bapsi Sidhwa is an American-Pakistani writer of Parsi descent. The author of five acclaimed novels, she is also known for her collaborative work with Indo-Canadian filmmaker Deepa Mehta, whose film Earth was based on Sidhwa’s acclaimed novel The Ice Candy Man

Sidhwa will deliver her keynote address where she speaks of her journey with words, across cultures, and continents. 


At a time when women are increasingly reclaiming their narratives, award-winning Indian-American writer and poet Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s new novel The Forest of Enchantments tells the story of the ancient Indian epic the Ramayana but from the perspective of its female protagonist Sita. By placing Sita at the center and bringing to the fore female characters often relegated to the margins, she transforms the tale into a contemporary one. Banerjee Divakaruni will speak about her book and inspirations with television journalist Rekha Muddaraj.

Priyamvada Natarajan is a Professor in the departments of Astronomy and Physics at Yale University. Noted for her work in mapping dark matter, dark energy and black holes, she has authored Mapping the Heavens: The Radical Scientific Ideas That Reveal the Cosmos. Her extraordinary gift for making abstract and complex scientific ideas accessible to general audiences and her commitment to developing strategies to enhance numerical and scientific literacy for the public at large make her an ambassador for learning. She speaks of the missing pieces of the puzzles in our understanding of black holes, and how some of her early theories have recently been vindicated. A fascinating and engrossing session, introduced by Director of the Rice Space Institute David Alexander, that gives us insights into the nature of our universe.

Considered the greatest Indian novelist of the 20th century, K. Raja Rao’s works were deeply rooted in metaphysics. A professor of philosophy at the University of Texas from 1966-1986, he was a recipient of the International Neustadt Prize for Literature. His archives have been acquired by the University of Texas. In conversation with intellectual and political commentator Sunanda Vashisht, Indian scholar and poet Makarand R. Paranjape pays tribute to Raja Rao’s work and legacy, and speaks of the Raja Rao Publication Project at the University of Texas.


Texas is a Republican state in the heart of Trumpland that hasn't elected a Democrat to a statewide office in more than 20 years. But it is also a state where minorities already form a majority, including the largest number of Muslim adherents in the United States. The cities are Democrat and among the most diverse in the nation. Oil is still king but Texas now leads California in technology exports and has an economy only somewhat smaller than Australia's.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Looming Tower, Lawrence Wright takes us on a journey through what is sometimes described as the most controversial state in America. Having spent most of his life there while remaining deeply aware of its oddities, Wright is as charmed by Texan foibles and landscapes as he is appalled by its politics and brutality. With its economic model of low taxes and minimal regulation producing both extraordinary growth and striking income disparities, Texas, Wright shows, looks a lot like the America that Donald Trump wants to create. Here, he discusses his work with author Chandrahas Choudhury.

“Code Blue” is the phrase customarily announced over hospital public address systems to alert staff to an urgent medical emergency. In his book, doctor and medical historian Mike Magee offers a compelling expose of the American health care system. In this pertinent session, Magee discusses the many challenges of modern healthcare, the personal side of being a doctor, and ways to improve the system with editor of the Texas Medical Centre's Pulse magazine Maggie Galehouse.

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is an award winning Indian-American poet and writer whose work addresses themes of immigration and self-discovery where the women often struggle to carve their identities as they move from their homes to new worlds. Mira Jacob’s graphic memoir Good Talk looks at questions of race and identity through the eyes of a brown mother raising her biracial son in America. Ussama Makdisi is Professor of History, Arab-American Educational Foundation Chair of Arab Studies at Rice University, and author of the upcoming Age of Coexistence which looks at the making of the modern Arab world. Together, they speak about their work and the process of breaking myths and stereotypes in their writing.


“Words are the enemy of impunity.” Sohaila Abdulali writes as a survivor, counselor and activist about the global conversation around rape. In The Other Side and The Reckoning, Lacy M. Johnson talks about her personal experience of sexual violence, and shares her thoughts on retribution and justice. Tarfia Faizullah's collection Seam explores the experiences of the thousands of Bangladeshi women raped by Pakistani soldiers during the Liberation War of 1971. Together they speak of the issues and silences around the subject. A moving session on what we talk about when we talk about rape.


Good Talk is a graphic memoir that grapples with tough conversations about family, race, love, identity, and the ways they change us. Here, Mira Jacob, one of the most recent stars of the South Asian literary diaspora, talks about her latest book, with author Coert Voorhees.

Writers speak about ways of seeing and recording, and how they navigate words across countries and cultures. Novelist Monique Truong’s latest book, The Sweetest Fruits, imagines the extraordinary lives of three women who loved an extraordinary man, the globe-trotting writer Lafcadio Hearn. Palestinian novelist, poet, and political essayist Susan Abulhawa's The Blue Between Sky and Water explores the legacy of dispossession across continents and generations through the stories of flawed yet profoundly courageous women. Playwright, illustrator, and author Edward Carey’s Little is a wry, macabre, and unforgettable tale of an ambitious orphan in revolutionary Paris. Chandrahas Choudhury is the author of Clouds, which is a double-sided story about three people in search of love in 21st-century Mumbai alongside that of an ancient Indian religion devoted to the beauty and mystery of clouds. In a session of readings and conversations, they speak of the voice and nuance of their work. 


Bollywood actor Manisha Koirala shares the highs and lows of her life, her career, relationships, and her battle with ovarian cancer. In conversation with Sanjoy K. Roy, Managing Director of Teamwork Arts, she speaks of the pressures of her film career, the life choices she was compelled to make, and how she redefined her priorities and regained a sense of balance and well-being. A no-holds-barred session about the emotional roller-coaster ride of Koirala’s life post-diagnosis, her learnings and inspirations, and the process of healing.

Susan Abulhawa is one of the most political of Arab-American novelists who, through her work, has grappled with the human consequences of western foreign policy on the region of her ancestry. Lawrence Wright has done the same but from the perspective of a Pulitzer-winning writer of nonfiction. Here, the two talk about their different perspectives with William Dalrymple.

Searching for the sources of the poetic imagination, five poets speak of the muses that inspire them. Award-winning Tarfia Faizullah is the author of two poetry collections, Registers of Illuminated Villages and Seam. Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton is the first African-American Poet Laureate of Houston. Usha Akella is the founder of Matwaala, the first South Asian Poetry Fest in the USA, and most recently author of the poetry collection The Waiting. Makarand R. Paranjape is currently Director of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study in Shimla, India and the author/editor of dozens of books. In a powerful session of readings and conversation, in conversation with Rich Levy, Executive Director of Inprint and author of the poetry collection Why Me?, they invoke the power of the word and give voice to their poetry.

In August 1765, the East India Company defeated the young Mughal emperor and forced him to set up in his richest provinces a new administration run by English merchants who collected taxes through means of a ruthless private army, what we would now call an act of involuntary privatization.

The East India Company’s founding charter authorized it to “wage war” and it had always used violence to gain its ends. But the creation of this new government marked the moment that the East India Company ceased to be a conventional international trading corporation dealing in silks and spices, and became something much more unusual: an aggressive colonial power in the guise of a multinational business. In less than 500 years, it had trained up a security force of around 200,000 men and had subdued an entire subcontinent, conquering first Bengal and finally, in 1803, the Mughal capital of Delhi itself. The Company’s reach stretched until almost all of India and was effectively ruled from a boardroom in London. 

The Anarchy charts how one of the world’s most magnificent empires disintegrated and how it came to be replaced by a dangerously unregulated private company. In his most ambitious and riveting book to date, William Dalrymple tells the story of the East India Company as it has never been told before.