Kickstarter Update — $1185 pledged!

Blast from the past — here’s our keynote speaker for the first Kriti festival,Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. Doesn’t she look all writerly? She gave such a gracious keynote talk, highlighting all the younger desi writers she thought were doing exciting work in 2005. Manil Suri is going to have to work hard to match her! 


We’re up to $1185 pledged of our $3000 goal, with just 7 days to go. The funds will enable us to hire a professional videographer, and also bring out an agent and an editor to the festival. If you can help spread the word, that would be super-helpful. There are some fun rewards at the various levels (dinner with me and the Guests of Honor, critiques, book bundles, tote bags and posters, etc.), but mostly, this is a great way for people to help support desi arts and literature.

Focus on: Vinita Agrawal, Anjali Mitter Duva, and Fawzia Mirza

Registration rates go up on August 1st! —

Three more of our wonderful panelists!

Vinita Agrawal, Author

Vinita Agrawal, author

Vinita Agrawal is a Mumbai based, award winning writer and poet. Her poems have been published in Asiancha, Constellations, The Fox Chase Review, Spark, Open Road Review, The Taj Mahal Review, CLRI, SAARC Anthologies,, Touch – The Journal of healing, Museindia,, Mahmag World Literature, The Criterion, The Brown Critique, Contemporary Literary Review of India (CLRI),, Sketchbook, Poetry 24, Mandala, Spark and have found place in several international anthologies.


Words Not Spoken, cover

Words Not Spoken, cover

Her poem was nominated for the Best of the Net Awards 2011 by CLRI. She received a prize from MuseIndia in 2010. Her poem was awarded a prize in the Wordweavers Contest 2013 and the First prize in the Feb 2014 Hour of Writes Contest. Her debut collection – Words Not Spoken – published by Brown Critique/Sampark was released in November 2013.

She can be reached at


Anjali Mitter Duva, author

Anjali Mitter Duva, author

Anjali Mitter Duva is a writer who grew up in France and has family roots in Calcutta, India. She was educated at Brown University and MIT. Her first novel,Faint Promise of Rain, is due out with She Writes Press in October 2014. She is a co-founder of Chhandika, an organization that teaches and presents India’s classical storytelling kathak dance. Anjali lives near Boston with her husband and two daughters, and is at work on her second novel, set in 19th century Lucknow.

Faint Promise of Rain, cover

Faint Promise of Rain, cover


Fawzia Mirza, filmmaker

Fawzia Mirza, filmmaker

Fawzia Mirza is an actor, writer, and educator and has performed at theatres all over Chicago, most recently starring in Brahman/i produced by Silk Road Rising and About Face Theatres. She’s been featured in Chicago Fire, and a number of indie films. She writes and produces short films (The Queen of My Dreams & One Night Stand) and web series, most notably, Kam Kardashian. Her ‘day job’ has her touring yearlong to universities and military installations performing Sex Signals, the most popular sexual violence prevention show in the world.

Me, My Mom & Sharmila, poster

Me, My Mom & Sharmila, poster

Call for UIC desi folks — South Asian American History and Culture: Images and text from the UIC and Chicago communities

Call for University of Illinois at Chicago South Asian / Diaspora Photography Submissions (Students/Faculty/Staff/Alumni)

Deadline: Monday, August 4, 5 p.m.

DesiLit’s Kriti Festival, in partnership with UIC’s Asian American Resource and Cultural Center, Asian American Studies, Asian Studies; Campus Programs, and the South Asian American Policy and Research Institute (SAAPRI), invite your photographic contributions to a collaborative exhibition, to be held in the Ward Gallery in Student Center East.

We welcome submissions of your own or family photos featuring South Asians and their families/communities, to be presented in conversation with informative panels from the Smithsonian’s Beyond Bollywood exhibit and SAAPRI. Both contemporary and older photos are welcome; we’re especially interested in seeing images from earlier years of South Asian presence in Chicago.

Possible topics include:

· Family
· Culture and Identities
· Immigration & Citizenship
· History
· Youth & Youth Cultures
· Community Organizing
· Chicago and or Community neighborhoods
· Arts and Literature, including dance, music and theater
· Food
· Religion and Spirituality

Media: Please send in up to 5 digital images (in .jpg format) for consideration; if you need help scanning photos in, AARCC has a scanner that you may use. Many libraries can also help with scanning. When submitting, smaller images are welcome (maximum 500K file size per image).

Work Size: The final work, once accepted, should be high res images (300 dpi), suitable for printing. Larger images are welcome, to maximize potential printing size.

Entry requirements: This exhibit is open to UIC students / alumni / faculty / staff.
Exhibit Run: August 25-October 30, 2014; reception on September 25
Entries Due: August 4, 2014, 5 p.m. by e-mail
Selection Process: By a committee consisting of UIC faculty and staff; we will review the week of August 4
Notification: By August 8, we will notify all submitters by e-mail
Accepted Work: If accepted, UIC will install and print images; students will be able to pick up work after November 1
Reception: Thursday, September 25, from 4-6 p.m.
Sales: No artwork will be offered for sale

Submit to: Neha Kumar, Festival Assistant Director,; In e-mail subject line, please put – “Kriti Exhibit Submission”

Contact with questions: Dr. Mary Anne Mohanraj, Festival Director,

Focus on: Nura Maznavi

We’re thrilled to announce that Nura Maznavi, co-editor of Love, InshAllah and Salaam, Love, will be joining us for the festival!


Nura Maznavi, author

Nura Maznavi, author

Nura Maznavi is an attorney, writer, and Fulbright Scholar. She has worked with migrant workers in Sri Lanka, on behalf of prisoners in California, and with a national legal advocacy organization leading a program to end racial and religious profiling. Nura is the co-editor of the groundbreaking anthologies “Love, InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women” and “Salaam, Love: American Muslim Men on Love, Sex & Intimacy.” She is an alumna of VONA/Voices of Our Nations writers’ workshop. She lives in Chicago.

Salaam, Love, cover

Salaam, Love, cover

Love, InshAllah, cover

Love, InshAllah, cover

Focus on: Vidhu Aggarwal, Sonali Dev, and Arvind Venugopal

Three more of our fabulous panelists!

Vidhu Aggarwal

Vidhu Aggarwal, poet

Vidhu Aggarwal grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana and Sugar Land Texas, and currently lives and teaches in central Florida. Her poetry and video are a mash-up of cultural forms such as Bollywood, Star Trek, video games, internet porn, anime, minstrel shows, and tourist attractions.
Her poems can be found in Sugar House Review, The Pedestal Magazine, Juked, Nimrod, PANK, desi-lit, and interlope among others. Readings and videos are available at the website
She is the found editor of SPECS, a journal of arts and culture with issues on Toys, The Perverse, and Homuncular Flexibility —


Sonali Dev, author

Sonali Dev, author

Sonali Dev’s first literary work was a play about mistaken identities performed at her neighborhood Diwali extravaganza in Mumbai. She was eight years old. Despite this early success, Sonali spent the next few decades getting degrees in architecture and written communication, working as Assistant Editor at The Indian Architect and Builder and blogging for and

A Bollywood Affair, cover

A Bollywood Affair, cover

With the advent of her first gray hair her mad love for telling stories returned full force and she combined it with her love of Bollywood films and her outrage at archaic social customs to conjure up her debut novel, A Bollywood Affair, which was a 2013 finalist in the Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart contest. Sonali believes that the modern face of the romance genre is the perfect feminist platform- stories of women, by women, for women, and she is excited to bring diversity and social awareness to it while still indulging her faith in a happily ever after.

Arvind Venugopal, singerArvind Venugopal is a trained Carnatic vocalist from Chennai, India. Carnatic music from South India is one of the oldest systems of music in the world. For almost a decade, Arvind trained at Sri Thyaga Brahma Gana Sabha under the guidance of two gurus, the late Sri Gopalakrishna Sarma and Sri Ranganathan Sarma. Arvind grew up in a musically gifted family where music permeates daily life. His mother has dual degrees in Classical Hindustani and Carnatic Music, his father is a learned classical music connoisseur, and his extended family fills family gatherings with melodious ragas.

Arvind believes that the beauty of music is that it is fundamentally universal and simplistic. Like his transcontinental life across America and India, he believes that the fusion of different genres of music across East and West is a symbol of our shared worlds. With his roots in classical music theory, Arvind experiments with multiple instruments and music apps on his tablet – creating unique hybrid sounds that serve as his inspiration.

Arvind has performed at various events around the DC/Baltimore area, and has featured at soulful venues like BloomBars and Culture Coffee.

Announcing some of our program participants

Nayomi Munaweera

Nayomi Munaweera, author

Nayomi Munaweera is a Sri Lankan-American author. Her debut novel, Island of a Thousand Mirrors, was initially published in South Asia in 2013. It was long-listed for the Man Asia Literary Prize and the Dublin IMPAC Prize. It won the Commonwealth Regional Prize for Asia and was short listed for the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature. It will be released in the  on September 2nd 2014 by St. Martin’s Press. She is currently at work on her second novel and lives in Oakland, California.

Riti Sachdeva

Riti Sachdeva, playwright

Riti Sachdeva is a theatre maker, dancer, and cultural worker. She is a 2014-16 Women’s Project Theatre Lab fellow and an alumnus of the Emerging Writers Group at The Public Theater. Her plays have been developed by The Civilians, The Lincoln Center Director’s Lab, The Minneapolis PlayWrights Center, and the National New Play Network. Her play, Parts of Parts & Stitches, received the Kennedy Center’s Quest for Peace award and a world premiere in NYC produced by Manhattan Theatre Works. Riti is a devoted student of flamenco and is primary instigator at midNites cHiLd Productions (





Ankur Thakkar bio photo

Ankur Thakkar, writer

Ankur Thakkar is the City of Chicago’s first Digital Director and a Fiction Editor for

TriQuarterly Magazine. His writing has previously appeared in Guernica, TriQuarterly, and as
part of the 2014 Twitter Fiction Festival. He has an MFA in creative writing from Northwestern
University and is writing his first novel.

Call for Papers

Call for Papers: South Asian and Diaspora Arts and Culture
DesiLit Kriti Festival, University of Illinois at Chicago, 9/25 – 9/28, 2014

DesiLit seeks original academic papers focusing on the place and space of South Asian literature and culture in the United States and in the American academe. This is our inaugural year for academic papers and we are casting a wide net and would like to see the range of work being produced. We are open to various topics and approaches. Suggested panels might include essays focusing on individual authors or titles, body issues, diaspora, gender roles, class, transnationalism, postcolonialism, South Asian Studies literary theory, or migration. Graduate students are encouraged to apply.

While the festival covers Thursday 9/25 – Sunday 9/28, academic presentations will primarily take place on Friday, 9/26.

Please send questions and proposals (approximately 500 words) to

Deadline: July 15, 2014

Call for Papers PDF Flyer version