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Quarantine: Stories

3.56  ·  Rating details ·  284 ratings  ·  53 reviews
“The stories in Rahul Mehta's Quarantine amplify a surprising new voice: gentle, even tender, but powerful." —Pankaj Mishra, author of Butter Chicken in Ludhiana

Reminiscent of Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies and the work of Michael Cunningham, Rahul Mehta’s debut short story collection is an emotionally arresting exploration of the lives of Indian-American gay men
Paperback, 224 pages
Published May 31st 2011 by Harper Perennial (first published 2010)
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3.56  · 
Rating details
 ·  284 ratings  ·  53 reviews

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Jul 05, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-2012
Alright, alright, I get it, I get it! You're an overeducated, severely entitled East Coast homosexual who is so distracted by the work of dumping all his baggage on his parents/grandparents that he can't see how completely he's internalized these truly horrible classist, racist, bigoted, and sexist attitudes toward others -- and himself. But did you really need to reiterate that same point for 10 entire stories?
Aug 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed these nine short stories about Indian American gay men in West Virginia, New York City, India, and upstate New York. Occasionally they end in ways that are clearly meant to be meaningful -- protagonist chooses spaghetti instead of Indian food after visiting his family; symbolism? -- but mostly they're more subtle than that (that's the title story). While sometimes I felt like he didn't give old people enough credit -- his first generation immigrant Indian elderly characters are often s ...more
taken one at a time, these stories are nicely constructed and even, on occasion, truly powerful. taken as a collection, this book is unfortunately repetitive. it seems that some of the same themes get repeated over and over. in most of the stories the protagonist is an indian-american gay man with a white boyfriend. while the white boyfriend is generally rather nice, the indian-american guy is dislocated, unhappy, frustrated, and in a funk. since this happens over and over, after a bit one gets ...more
Jul 06, 2012 rated it liked it
If Madison Smartt Bell is telling the truth when he writes, on the cover of Quarantine, that the book is the “best first collection I have read in over twenty years,” one can only conclude that Bell doesn’t actually get all that much reading in, at least not of first short-story collections. What Quarantine has going for it – which, it is essential to realize, is not a literary quality at all – is a kind of demographic novelty. When’s the last time you read stories by a gay author about gay Indi ...more
Jun 05, 2018 rated it liked it
These stories feature young gay men whose parents have migrated to America from India; in some ways westernized, they struggle to break free from their parents' cultural heritage. In the title story a young man wrestles with the familial rites of respect due his grandfather. In the semi-humourous break-up story 'What we mean' Carson is leaving our narrator by means of a "Dear John" letter, and finds his life shrinking (almost literally). And in 'Citizen', Ranjan confounds her family's expectatio ...more
May 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via the Goodreads First Reads program. (Awesome!)

Let me preface this review by saying that I liked this collection of short stories a lot. They were all very well written and edited, etc. I love the quality of this author’s writing. Individually, each story was interesting and engaging and compelling.

As a collection, however, it became obvious that the main characters featured in each of the stories were more than a little autob
George Ilsley
Aug 28, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: short-stories, india, gay
There is something I call the "undisclosed first person narrator syndrome" wherein short stories are written from the first person and the reader is left wondering who this character is supposed to be, and if the "I" in the next story is the same person, and then the whole collection tends to collapse into an unpalatable mush. Sadly, this collection suffers from UFPNS, as well as the tendency for the first person narrator to be someone whose parents were born in India and moved to the US and who ...more
Debut short-story collection explores the lives of gay Indian-American men caught between multiple cultures.

The quarantine in Mehta’s eponymous story is not a medical situation but a kind of forced cultural dislocation imposed, as quarantines often are, for the presumed benefit of those secreted away. Typically it’s the elderly parents of Indian immigrants who must endure a painful relocation to move in with their adult children who are bound by competing feelings of duty and guilt. Trapped in a
Cole Jack
Mehta's collection of short stories range from descriptions of gay Indian American men's relationships to the struggles of Indian family members adjusting to a new life in the United States. The questions of race and sexuality are key components in most of the short stories and the plots are refreshing and interesting. Although many of the stories focus on the themes of family, belonging, and the separation between Indian and Indian American experiences, they all provide a slightly different tak ...more
Feb 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I still can't quite get into short stories. They're too short. They can give you that 'Ah!" of epiphany, but they never seem able to muster the "Oh!" of a really gut-wrenching or soul-touching novel.

Despite this, I enjoyed this book. The stories are well-plotted, and the characters generally likeable. It's interesting to see a book about gay Indian-Americans where the bigger issues stem from their race, not their sexuality. The writing is pretty good, too, though at times -- especially the final
Clay Brown
Feb 22, 2014 rated it liked it
Winner of the Lambda Awards Best Gay Debut FictionWriter’s Award, Quarantine is as insightful and telling as any collection of short stories you’re likely to read this year. Writer Mehta weaves a compelling tapestry of real life characters in this seemingly fictional autobiography. One assumes while reading these stories that it is Mr. Mehta’s own family and life. Not that we know that for true, but the fiction here seems almost non-existent as writer Mehta weaves an easy vibrancy in and about u ...more
Michael Prier
Feb 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lgbt, 2018-book-riot
Reading Challenge 2018 - Book Riot: book set in or about one of the five BRICS countries. A series of stories about Indian-American men, their lives and families, and each dealing with being gay. There were many cultural aspects about India I learned, as well as words from the language I had to look up. The stories were either intense and interesting, or predictable. They have been quarantined metaphorically from India, their families, and even lovers. I found it fascinating that even though the ...more
Anil Kamal
Jun 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was the first time I read a book where I felt like I could truly identify with the characters. Queer brown men trying to find their way through life...a similar want weaved through all of the stories. Rahul's writing style is seductive in its crisp pose and his detail to character development had me hooked. I can't wait to read his novel. This is a must for any LGBTQ anthology list.
Jul 22, 2017 rated it liked it
This authors debut collection of short stories. Well written, but didn't leave much of an impression on me. I don't think it's because I read a lot of short stories. Just not very memorable. The author has written some recent work that I will be reading.
Sonal Champsee
Jan 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
They aren't my stories, but they could be. Clean, clear writing, and so much relief to see the 2nd gen experience on the page.
May 02, 2019 rated it liked it
I enjoyed these stories by Rahul Mehta - however, I took a note from other reviewers stating they all felt very similar read together. I decided to break up my reading of these stories to avoid that and it was a good choice. If they had been read together I think they would've felt repetitive. That being said, they were good, not amazing but well written and though provoking. I enjoyed that many of the stories occurred at a turning point in the narrator's life - but I was then left with wonderin ...more
Sara Habein
Feb 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
What links together Rahul Mehta's nine stories in Quarantine is the longing for connection. Each story's protagonist feels at least one degree removed from their own life, either through their romantic relationships or their familial situation. Writing from the point of view of Indian-American gay men, "otherness" arrives without effort as Mehta tackles themes of loyalty, tradition, and yearning. The stories are both immersive and contemplative, and exactly the sort of lonely romanticism that my ...more
Mar 11, 2016 rated it liked it
Quarantine: Stories by Rahul Mehta

"Decidedly more assured and accomplished is another debut collection of short stories published by Random House last year. Rahul Mehta’s Quarantine flits between the US and India. In almost all the nine stories, the central character is a second-generation Indian-American gay man.

While some of this might seem familiar territory, what elevates this collection of stories is the author’s empathy for his characters. We do get characters who are out of place, lost be
Jerry Delaney
Jan 10, 2012 rated it really liked it

This is a great introduction to a wonderful writer. These are the stories of the children of immigrants who are balancing the western customs they grew up with and the Indian customs of their parents. We see the appeal of both cultures. It's certainly not a new topic in literature but Metha has his own insights to add.

When I started the book I planned to give it 5 stars but couldn't by the end. Although the protagonist of every story is a 20-something gay male of Indian descent, I don't think th
Sep 03, 2013 rated it liked it
The issue with short story collections is that there will inevitably be some you like and a few that you skim through once you discover they're not your cup of tea. While Quarantine is a collection of well-written stories from a different perspective (not a lot of LGBT lit seems to come from South-east Asian authors), each story progressively became less interesting as the book continued. I tore through the first four before I found myself half-reading the fifth and thumbing through the rest.

May 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
Quarantine is Rahul Mehta’s debut short story collection. Nearly all of the nine stories in it center around gay Indian-American male protagonists who are trying to navigate the murky overlap between sexuality and cultural heritage. With the exception of “Citizen,” all of the stories feature second- or third-generation young men whose beliefs and lifestyles are often at odds with those of their close relatives. Mehta masterfully uses restraint, honesty, and humor throughout his stories, producin ...more
Jul 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
I was unsure at first of how much I would like this collection; I picked it up at the library on a whim from the Pride Month display because it sounded vaguely interesting. I love short story collections, but they're really hit or miss, depending on the writer. This book, though, was pretty good overall!

The stories were raw and very atmospheric. At times, they could get depressing - one called What We Mean was just the agonizing death of a relationship between two pretentious writers. But they
May 14, 2011 rated it really liked it

I won this book from a Goodreads First Reads Giveaway, and it definitely wasn't what I was expecting. Quarantine is a collection of nine short stories relating the lives of gay Indian-American men. It alternates between being set in America and being set in India.

The stories were all so good, and I found myself entranced by the characters over and over again. I wish that some of them had been made into longer stories. I was disappointed when I was not able to find out what happened to the charac

Jun 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I enjoyed these stories. The writing is minimalistic, I would say, but I like that since it goes well with the stories which are like snapshots of a certain time in each character's life (there are not really any endings when the story ends). And while the characters are not ones that I really could say I typically have a lot of similarities - indians, homosexuals, grandmonthers, etc - I nevertheless did connect with them, and wanted to keep reading each story to see what happened. The books is ...more
Aug 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
I love a good short story collection. I'm always hesitant to pick them up, but always glad when I do. The stories here are about more or less lonely gay first generation Indian-American men, and they run the gamut of coming to terms with a native culture that feels somewhat alien to navigating the more selfish impulses of desire (infidelity, a resistance to compassion/empathy, etc). At times the settings and themes can feel repetitive - many stories involve aging grandparents or are set in subur ...more
Jul 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
Knowing the author tainted my perspective as I kept seeing him in each story. Very autobiographical , the stories relate various insights and experiences he had during his evolution as a gay, Indian-American. The writing is inviting and open, so that anyone might walk into the scene and feel he or she was privy to what was happening. My personal favorites were the ones dealing with cultural insights. Some of the more sexual, gay issues were less palatable to me, but that is strictly a personal b ...more
Sep 04, 2012 rated it liked it
Good effort for a first time author. He sticks with what he knows. All the stories are from the perspective of an American born boy of East Indian parents (and grandparents - who appear in most of the stories). I especially liked "Floating", the only tale that takes place in India. It opens with, "His clothes make me think he is one of us." One of us in that he is American born? One of us in that he is gay? One of us in that he is in a relationship with a non-Indian? It was the only story with a ...more
Jul 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
Mehta's collection had a buzz, I think, because he is Indian-American and gay. The stories all have a gay, Indian-American protagonist who is in some way probably Mehta himself (the main character in "Yours" comments on how the people in autobiographies aren't themselves even when they are). I like Mehta's writing style, and I liked the characters' awkward conversations and interactions. The stories have different protagonists in name only (they are all very similar), so for some reviewers it be ...more
Oct 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
In the Story of a Happy Marriage, Patchett extolled the power of the collection of short stories. One of her articles made me curious why I never tried out short stories. I picked this book up at the library and I was pleasantly surprised. The stories were from 10 to 25 pages and were about openly gay men who usually had parents who had immigrated from India. The stories were essentially about relationships and how to navigate them.

There was a very interesting exchange in one story about a man
Mar 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book is amazing. I cannot believe the depth of this author. The stories are about Indian Americans second generation and their adjustment to life here. Once again beautiful language, imagery and story lines. I think what I truly liked about this book is that it has universal themes. Yes the characters are Indian but their situations of dealing with family, parents aging, relationships and struggles with creativity can apply to anyone. Another voice that I will be reading on a consistent bas ...more
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