A sweeping, vibrant first novel following a family of Indian sharecroppers at the onset of World War I, revealing a little-known part of California history
1913: Ram Singh arrives in California’s Imperial Valley, reluctantly accepting his friend Karak’s offer to come work on a small cantaloupe farm. Ram is unmoored: fleeing a traumatic incident in Oregon, he desperately longs to return to his wife and newborn son in India—but is duty-bound to make his fortune first.
In the Valley, civilization is still new and the rules are ever-shifting. Alongside Karak, his uncle Jivan, and Jivan’s nephew Amarjeet, Ram joins in the struggle to make ends meet as a sharecropper in the unforgiving desert. The Valley is full of immigrants from other continents and the stakes are unceasingly high—just one bad harvest or unfair sale could destabilize the entire family. As anti-immigrant sentiment begins to rise among the white Valley residents, and as new laws are passed to support their position, all immigrants are threatened and there is murder in the air. The livelihood for which the family sacrificed everything is suddenly at risk. And when a simmering rivalry develops between Ram and Karak, the tensions of life in the West threaten to finally boil over.
In this unforgettable debut novel, Rishi Reddi unflinchingly asks the foundational question: Who is welcome in America? Atmospheric and richly told, Passage West offers a profoundly moving portrait of a cobbled-together family in search of belonging.