COVER STORY

A Place to BE

Sohrab Homi Fracis’ debut novel is a powerful, prescient tale of moving away and longing to belong

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Viraf Adajania is new to town. Nearly 8,000 miles from his homeland in Bombay, the 22-year-old Parsi civil engineering graduate student has immigrated to Newark, Delaware. In many ways, the dozing college town is the antithesis of the bustling metropolitan sprawl he has left behind. Yet eventually, Newark offers him opportunity and impasse, Deadheads and rednecks, the tedious work of being a teacher’s assistant and a broader, perhaps even unwanted, education outside of school that he could never have anticipated. The Iran Hostage Crisis of 1981 is unresolved for some Americans, the hostile feelings toward “foreigners” not released by the freeing of the U.S. captives. And now Viraf finds himself a target of xenophobia, which will change his perceptions, even his character, but not his determination to stand his ground, even after he’s been pushed.

The debut novel from celebrated author and Riverside resident Sohrab Homi Fracis, Go Home is a quest tale of the highest order, filtered through the prism of both early-’80s America and Bombay, where hostilities are both real and imagined. It is also a coming-of-age story of a young man experiencing universal moments of angst, alienation, inadequacy and even clarity. Over the course of its 250 pages, Go Home (Knut House Press) deals not only in truths, but also in unpredictable variables. That much-cited author Anonymous once wrote, “The fates lead the willing and drag the unwilling.” In Go Home, Viraf Adajania is both led and pulled by exterior events and interior reveries, and by tale’s end, the reader has been drawn into a well-crafted novel dealing in all-inclusive ideas; of who we are, where we are going, and even where — or when — we are welcome.
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In the backyard of Bold Bean Coffee Roasters on Stockton Street, a half-dozen hipsters sit on paint-chipped picnic tables, most covered in hoodies or even more protective winter wear in the relative November chill. A few defiant souls wear only short-sleeved shirts, as if flexing a muscle at the 50°F chill. There are plenty of ashtrays, but the mulch-and-pebbled ground is peppered with cigarette butts. A small, gray tabby pokes its head around the chain-link fence, and just as quickly turns away, apparently unimpressed by the sight of regulars sipping pour-over coffees and beers.

Sitting at a vacant picnic table, Sohrab Homi Fracis is wearing a zippered navy-blue fleece jacket; his face youthful and lean, the gray stubble in his short beard the only thing betraying his being in his late 50s. He cups a large chai latte, warming his fingers. “I’m an insomniac,” he explains with a grin, allowing that indulging in caffeine at this late hour is sure to keep him up half the night. Fracis is a measured, yet surely not evasive speaker. When guaranteed that whatever is said “off the record” and in confidence will not make it into print, he looks semi-perplexed. “Why?” he laughs. “I have nothing to hide.”
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On the written page, that same kind of transparency and candor fuels the believability of Go Home. Fracis is both a deft realist and master mesmerist with his prose. If there is an evident strength in the novel, it is its ability to hold the reader hostage. By book’s end, the reader is saddened to leave. Fracis explains the friction that drives the story.

“As far as the central conflict, on one hand, Viraf has his redneck oppressors, and on the other hand, he has his Deadhead neighbors,” he says. “And one of the lines from the book is, ‘He was so fresh off the boat and seasick that he couldn’t tell the one from the other.”

Viraf’s confusion isn’t based on some kind of self-conscious sense of alienation. The anger and peril are tactile, real. Following a raid on the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, from Nov. 4, 1979 to Jan. 20, 1981, Iranian radicals held 52 American hostages. The backlash by some Americans, already angered by the’70s fuel crisis, was fierce. A popular T-shirt of the day featured that American archetype, Mickey Mouse, flipping the bird at the viewer, with the caption, “Hey Iran!” When Viraf steps on American soil, he doesn’t enter a land of “United We Stand,” but rather a place where he is told in the opening paragraph of the novel: “Go home!”

In many ways, when played out on the page, Viraf is Fracis and Fracis is Viraf. Much of the novelist’s biography on his website sets the cornerstone for the character. Both were born in Bombay and attended the Campion School, a private Jesuit school for children and teens. Both studied civil engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology in Kharagpur, and then received a scholarship to pursue graduate studies at the University of Delaware, in Newark. And they share the experiences of being on the receiving end of volatile xenophobia and seething hate for the mortal error of being strangers on American soil. “Oh, I absolutely experienced hostility when I came here,” says Fracis. “But that was also a rough time to arrive.”

Fracis quickly dismisses the idea of Go Home being anchored solely in his real life. “It’s sourced from personal experience, but it’s far from memoir. You could say it’s loosely autobiographically based.”
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Sohrab Homi Fracis was born in Bombay (now Mumbai) in “late ’58.” In Go Home, the soundtrack of Viraf’s childhood is scored by the sounds of his mother’s records by American recording artists like Jim Reeves, Harry Belafonte and Connie Francis. Throughout the book, Viraf is hip to everyone from The Doors to Dire Straits. Music is just one of the recurring refrains that help propel Go Home. Right away, Viraf (and surely his creator Fracis) take pleasure in the sensorial to the height of the sensual. Delicious Indian dishes mingle with a heightened awareness of the seasons, and Viraf’s pressing romantic desires span two continents.

One poignant scene in the novel where music, senses and self-awareness merge tells of Viraf and his friend Nitin stopping in a rural Delaware tavern for beer and seafood. This passage features Fracis at his spellbinding best. The pacing is measured to a languid and unhurried pitch. There’s a soft possibility of trouble as Viraf and Nitin step into the darkened bar where gruff-looking locals hunch over their drinks, staring over at the two newcomers. The pair of outlanders grabs a table, orders and are served plates of food and cold beers. As Nitin tears into his meal (“Bloody prawn; why do they call it shrimp?”), Viraf leans on the jukebox and selects “Good Ol’ Boys Like Me,” a song by one of his mother’s favorite singers, Don Williams. As the honky tonk ballad plays, Viraf is pulled through a kind of waking dream of memory and emotion, his mind traveling briefly to a moment in Kharagpur, then a flash to his maternal grandmother, the ever-fretting Mamaji, and then finally into a shared space where he imagines fragments of his own childhood fused with Williams’. As the songs ends, the bar is silent, as if every man had experienced his own inner journey as well. In an imagined space of minutes, Viraf the suspicious foreigner, maybe even a hated “I-ray-nian,” has gained entry into the formerly hostile camp through the shared bond of country song. When he pays the bartender, an unspoken accord exchanges between them before Viraf and Nitin head out the door.
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In another world, Sohrab Homi Fracis might have been destined for city plans rather than narrative plots. Fracis’ father Homi was a civil engineer and worked for his father-in-law, also named Homi, in the elder’s civil engineering firm. “I was being groomed to be a civil engineer,” says Fracis. “A family business just like in the book.” Fracis’ mother Dinsi was a homemaker, who also held a bachelor’s degree and teaching certificate in piano from Sophia College in Bombay, one of the best all-women’s colleges in the city. His older sister Nuli completed the family of four.

While civil engineering was the family trade, literature was its retreat. “My mom was a big reader all her life. She was always reading and had shelves filled,” says Fracis. “In his past life, my dad had to have been a good reader because he had his favorites and he would guide Nuli and me when we’d pick through the illustrated classics.”

Now more of a collector’s item than literary launch-pad for kids, Fracis’ treasured stories were the widely read Classics Illustrated, works presented in comic-book style. From 1941 to 1971, these condensed versions of everything from the Aeneid and Hamlet to Moby Dick and Dickens’ works primed the mind of many a future reader and visual artist, including underground comics guru Robert Crumb.

“My dad’s favorite author was O. Henry,” says Fracis. “And he loved O. Henry for what has gone out of favor today: the trick ending. You’d have the ailing wife during a bleak winter waiting for things to change and she’s sinking. Then she sees a leaf plastered against the window and she starts to brighten up and recovers. And it’s only afterward that you learn, at the end, that it was painted on the wall by her husband. That’s the classic O. Henry ending.”

Fracis’ family was Parsi, followers of the pre-Christian faith of Zoroastrianism. The Fracis family was seemingly observant but not obligated in their beliefs. “I wouldn’t call them religious,” he says. “But they practiced all of the traditional stuff.” Fracis is no longer an adherent to the faith. “I would say I’m agnostic in a specialized sense of the word. I don’t believe there’s a God-like figure up in the heavens. I know there isn’t. But really no one knows what the real origins were. Not even the best scientists, although scientists are much more to be relied upon.”

While there are an estimated 150,000 Zoroastrians on the planet, the population of living Parsis is dwindling rapidly. “There are 100,000 or fewer now and globally probably in the 80,000 range,” says Fracis. “Bombay used to be by itself home to 75,000 and now it’s probably down to 50,000 or fewer. And Canada and UK have several thousand.”

Fracis says he never felt self-conscious about his Parsi heritage while among his classmates at the Campion School. “The school was pretty eclectic, mostly Scottish Jesuit-run school taught by mostly Christian teachers; but the students were Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Parsi and Sikh. Anyone other than the majority Hindu students could feel like they were a minority in class; I didn’t.”

Along with the pressure to be a civil engineer, Fracis was living under the tacit obligation to eventually continue not only the family, but also Parsi, bloodline. “It was being not very subtly ingrained into me that Parsis marry Parsis and have Parsis with the encouragement of, ‘We’re dying! We’re dying! Don’t let us die!’” he laughs. “But who you’re attracted to has nothing to do some box that you’re put in at birth or some label that’s attached to you.” This schism between his romantic attractions and family’s desires for his marital partnership was a reality of Fracis’ late adolescence. “They ran against each other in your mind and your heart. All you could do was work through it. You’re not very wise at that age and you didn’t know how the world worked. You didn’t even know how you yourself worked.”

Upon graduating from the Campion School, Fracis was accepted to the Indian Institute of Technology and headed to Kolkata. After graduating with a degree in civil engineering, as dictated by familial obligation, he received a scholarship from the University of Delaware. And so he headed west.
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The novel has a relatively small cast of characters, yet each one is critical to the cohesion and flow of Go Home. At his apartment complex, Deadhead neighbors Doug and Ali offer an earnest albeit intermittent welcome to the newcomer Viraf. On campus, his fellow teaching assistant Will, an African-American student, seems to give Viraf a kind of non-Caucasian anchoring in America. Fellow Indian student Nitin is both comic relief and sounding board. And at home in Bombay, Viraf’s family serves as a reminder that his old life is always back there, waiting, regardless of the changes he experiences. These people buffet and guide Viraf’s life, and he acts and responds in kind like any young person: with passion, bafflement, affection and longing.

Yet it is a late-night encounter with an unforeseen adversary that cuts a deeper and seething drama into the story.

Driving his used Pinto down an empty Newark street, Viraf is nearly blindsided by a Bronco barreling down the road. Unexpectedly, the four-wheel drive vehicle begins chasing the hapless Viraf, and soon he’s cornered in an empty parking lot as a hulking urban cowboy climbs out of the SUV. The man bellows at Viraf.

“You hear me? DO YOU HEAR ME, YOU GODDAMN DAGO?”

The redneck punctuates these words with fists and then drives away, leaving Viraf bloodied, eyeglasses broken, and with a newly shattered view of America.
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Metaphors and altered perceptions thrum a current throughout the narrative of Go Home. Within the first 30 pages of the book, Viraf drops his first hit of LSD with Doug and Ali. Wandering through Pennsylvania’s Longwood Gardens, Viraf’s acid trip becomes a de facto vision into a “new world” within his new American world. Looking at the world through dilated, acid-enhanced eyes, Viraf is in turns fascinated and terrified by this place that has turned on him, not unlike the surface of the town of Newark now revealed itself as the sight of xenophobia and violence.

“There’s all this talk of crossing over into this new world,” says Fracis. “And this little piece of blotter paper had opened the gates of, and his feeling of disorientation and paranoia within that new world. And his attempts to hold onto the old world, which was increasingly hard to hold onto.”

During Viraf’s acid peak, Doug tells him to “Go with the flow.” Yet Viraf swims into even more writhing visual and mental confusion.

“That scene had to stay,” says Fracis. “It was a metaphor for the kind of disorientating experience, when you transfer yourself from an entirely different, old world culture, to the other side of the world to a whole new culture.”

Set some 50 pages after the opening salvo acid trip, Viraf’s experience with xenophobia and violence-born paradigm shift becomes the crux of Go Home.

“My experience was not that different. When you come to this country in a xenophobic atmosphere as Viraf did, and I did, during the post-Iran Hostage Crisis, you are going to experience all of these things,” says Fracis, over 30 years after his entry to this country. “And a lot of mainstream America wasn’t entirely aware that such things were happening. In effect, these kinds of experiences were swept under the rug, because they weren’t convenient for the mainstream to know or understand. It was more convenient to go about their own lives, in denial.”

Within Go Home, Fracis goes deeper into American xenophobia. The polyglot of his fellow Parsis, Hindus and Muslims back in Viraf’s homeland are given their chance to show the ancient resentments of culture clashes. After his assault, Viraf decides to upgrade to contact lenses in lieu of clunky spectacles, and again, he soon “sees” his friends in a new light as they travel together, trapped in a car as a prejudice-fueled yelling match breaks out.

“Perception and reality had to be a thread through the themes. You had that with the acid trip,” says Fracis. “Viraf having glasses was always a thing. It represented vision, it represented changing vision, and a visionary reaction to what happened to him.”
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On April 2, 1988, the then-29-year-old Fracis moved to Jacksonville. “I avoided moving here on April Fool’s Day because I was so tired of the nomadic life that I wanted to avoid any ‘vibes,’ and make that move my last move,” he laughs. “And almost three decades later, I’m still here.” He’d spent the previous two years in Detroit as a “techie” consultant, programming computer systems with old-school languages like COBOL and FORTRAN for the Ford Motor Company.

His first impressions were noxious.

“Initially, Jacksonville was not so great because it stank,” he laughs, recalling the days when the paper mills’ pungent odor was identified with the city as much as the river.

As the ’80s rolled away, the furor of the Iran Hostage Crisis faded. But a few years after Fracis’ arrival in Jacksonville, Operation Desert Storm began blowing up more Middle Eastern dust in Iraq.

“It was really a case-by-case basis, of dealing with Americans, living in America,” says Fracis. “I had my little tests with anyone that gave me the lay of the land.” Fracis learned how to assess how people reacted to his ethnicity. “I learned quickly to gauge how people reacted to me,” he says. “And if they didn’t pass my little test? See ya.”

If anything had come from his experiences in America, it was a thicker skin and a softer heart.

“You know, I’d surely changed,” he says. “And America had changed.”

While in Detroit, Fracis’ impetus to begin writing fiction started in truly novelistic regard. After sending a handwriting sample to a Detroit news columnist that analyzed readers’ handwriting, he received a response that an analysts’ club had determined Fracis had the innately creative, insightful script of a writer. “And I wasn’t doing any writing at all,” he laughs. “Go figure.”

Prior to this, the only real “writing” Fracis had done was during his Campion School days, when at times his teachers, impressed by his skills as an essayist, would have his work published in the school paper.

“Because I was a big reader, I always used storyline as a way of conveying things and trying to hold the reader’s interest.”

Working for a Jacksonville company (“Just call it computer consultants-something-or-other,” he laughs), Fracis was feeling burned out by the cathode rays and code crunching of the tech world.

“I’d asked myself the simple question: ‘Can I do this day in and day out for the rest of my life?’ And the answer was an unequivocal, ‘No.’”

Fracis knew that whatever he did, it would need to hold him “by his very nature.” He wasn’t even sure what that nature was.

“But I started to read again.”

He consumed fiction, anything that “read well,” going by book covers, blurbs, snippets and intuition, poring through the works of Kurt Vonnegut, Isak Dinesen, Carson McCullers, Jack Kerouac, Zora Neale Hurston and John Steinbeck, as well as Indian writers like Rabindranath Tagore, Anita Desai and Bapsi Sidwha.

He was drawn to some works due to their ethnic connection, like William Saroyan’s My Name is Aram and Siddhartha by Herman Hesse.

Siddhartha actually was sort of instrumental in giving me a sense of courage to write as I started to contemplate changing my career,” he says of Hesse’s 1922 Hindu-Buddhist-born tale of material renunciation and spiritual thirst. “The guts of the character to leave everything, leave his riches and nobility, and just be a mendicant on the road of life, a seeker. And I asked, ‘If he can do that, why can’t I just change my field?’”

His re-immersion into literature, a kind of clearing an amnesiac of a pleasure that was first initiated reading comic classics some two decades earlier, gave him clarity of purpose.

And at 30, Fracis started to write.
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After enrolling in evening writing classes at then-Florida Community College of Jacksonville, Fracis took classes taught by Frank Green, whom he describes as a “legendary figure” in the Jacksonville writing community. “I was methodical, conscientious and almost laboriously slow,” he says. This nascent ethic would serve him well over the years.

From 1991-93, Fracis studied at the University of North Florida, where he earned an MFA in English and Creative Writing, with an emphasis on the latter. Upon graduation, he began teaching at UNF. In 1994, Fracis was a fiction and poetry editor at the now-defunct State Street Review, a position he held until 2001. It was there that he met fellow writer-editors Howard Denson, Michele Boyette and John Hunt. “It was like a little mini-family, reading piles of manuscripts and discussing which we liked and didn’t like,” Fracis says with a smile. “And even to this day, decades later, we are all still famous friends and still just love each other to death. It’s only the thing that a family dynamic can create over time.”

During his years teaching, Fracis says he was critical yet fair, although he expected the same devotion to the story from his students that he invests. “I enjoyed the aspect of the immediate reward, the feeling that you were making a difference with these youngsters and you were passing on some of your wisdom and experience,” he says. “And that they were imbibing it.” Each year offered a new influx of hopeful fiction writers, some heavily influenced by the metafictional conventions of late 20th-century writing.

While Fracis is quick to acknowledge the works of authors such as Thomas Pynchon and Don DeLillo, two literary revolutionaries who helped pave the way for mid-to-late 20th-century experimentation of plot construction, language and narrative, he thinks that many of his former students were trapped in the quicksand of their own preciousness and self-indulgence. “When you can do it as well as Pynchon and DeLillo, and still tell a damn good story? That impresses me.”

Fracis was well into his adult years when he read Miguel Cervantes’ masterwork, Don Quixote. The book only reinforced his belief that “content always comes before form, and form reflects content.”

“Current writing students can believe that they’re so fresh and refer to a writer like Cervantes as kind of a put-down. But centuries ago, Cervantes was doing metafiction and all of these contemporary devices and was still holding the reader, because of the story,” he says. “My school of thinking, which I think will never go out of style, is: The story is paramount. Quality, not popularity.”

In the same way that Fracis warned his students to not be inspired by Hollywood blockbusters and TV (“because they don’t do a good job representing the real world”), he assured them that a strong, clear story always wins over acrobatic vocabularies, narrative devices and stylistic filigrees.

“When you’re writing stuff that’s abstruse, obscure and just playing with language … anyone can be smart. I can be smart with the rest of them, you know? But I choose not to be because I don’t want to talk down to my reader. I don’t want to be read for the cleverness. I want to be read for the story that I’m telling.”
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While still in the master’s program, Fracis’ thesis of a small group of stories began winning awards and getting accepted by notable publications like India Currents, The Antigonish Review, and Weber Studies. In 1999, he was awarded the Florida Individual Artist Fellowship in Literature. A dozen of his short stories became A Ticket to Minto: Stories of India and America, a collection portraying the universal human experience played out through the specific lives of Indian and Indian-American children, young adults and elders living in both India and the U.S. In 2001, A Ticket to Minto won the esteemed Iowa Short Fiction Award and was published by the University of Iowa Press. “It blew me away that they selected me,” Fracis says, “out of literally 600-plus manuscripts sent in that year. That pretty much still represents the peak of my career. But let’s see what happens with Go Home.”

Fracis was the first Asian-American writer to ever win the prize. Since then, a Chinese-American has won, but he remains the only South Asian-American from India to win. Yet Fracis remains modest about this achievement. “I guess someone has to be the first one. And I like that little piece of history that I somehow managed to create. I’m not sure how I pulled it off,” he laughs. “But I’m glad I did.”

The ensuing decade was propulsive for Fracis creatively and professionally. In 2002, he was awarded a full fellowship to the Sewanee Writers’ Conference in Tennessee. After returning to Jacksonville, Fracis began sketching out the earliest fragments of a story about a young Parsi who moves to America. Teaching full semesters at school left him little time to work on his own projects, so the next year he ended his tenure at UNF to focus on his writing. In 2007, Fracis was invited to be an artist-in-residence at the world-renowned art colony Yaddo in Saratoga Springs, New York. Three years later, he was again invited to the creatives’ enclave. It was during this time that he began working on material that evolved into Go Home. “The expansion of the scope, of something I could not wrap my head around in the conceptual stage, like with short stories? That was the stumbling block,” says Fracis of the initial creation of Go Home. “Once it expanded to this sprawling monster that is a novel, then I learned the hard way. Because it’s so easy to go wrong somewhere and then you’ve written, taken a turn, and misjudged or misgauged, you can mess up the entire thing.”

Initially a 500-page manuscript, it was then edited to 300, and finally its 250-page published version. Prior to publication, six excerpts from Go Home had been published in even more esteemed publications such as The Normal School, South Asian Review and Slice Magazine. The chapter “Distant Vision” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Once Go Home had been collated into its final form, Fracis ran into what he feels like were coded words from some in the publishing world about the manuscript. “One phrase they used was ‘entirely sensitive,’” he says of comments made by one literary agent’s assistant. “It’s an interesting phrasing that doesn’t come around organically. I read her report, where she felt like the story was talking about race and racism, ultimately hinting at the fact that it’s not bestseller material. I think ‘entirely’ stood for ‘too sensitive.’”
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Go Home is divided into three sections: New World, World Gone Bad and No Simple World, not unlike Dante’s Divine Comedy. Yet over the course of the book’s 30 chapters, Viraf Adajania’s travels and troubles are squarely in the real world, and hardly divine. At the end of the story, Viraf has relocated to America only to relocate again. And again. Many of his trips are interior, as Fracis’ non-linear narrative has Viraf time traveling from childhood to adulthood, Bombay to Newark, attempting to make sense of adapting to a place that can seem intent on him leaving. Yet Viraf is no saint. Throughout Go Home he succumbs to dark moods, lashing out at times. But in the end, a poetic flash of foreshadowing leads to full resolve, a bridge that seems like an immovable barrier that is eventually crossed.
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Four empty cups with rings of coffee and cocoa sit on the picnic table. A dark-haired barista walks out the backdoor carrying a bus pan clinking with dishes. “We’re closing. Do you guys want takeout cups?”

“You know, I don’t think they’ll care if we stay here,” says Fracis, motioning with his head to the three young men who’ve been sitting and quietly talking since we arrived hours ago.

Bold Bean’s interior lights click off. The tabby cat from earlier shoots across the backyard. Talk turns to Fracis’ participation in the Jax By Jax literary festival. The brainchild of author, educator, and Folio Weekly contributor Tim Gilmore, this is the third year that invited local writers to gather at low-key venues like bars and tattoo parlors in Riverside. For a few hours each year, King and Park streets become Ground Zero of the local lit scene, where authors read their works, sign books and raise their glasses at the afterparty.

“Locally, Tim is definitely a force,” says Fracis. “I’ve often said to Tim that the set-up is so unusual and sort of unique to itself. I’ve done readings around the country and even crossing over into India, and I’ve never done this kind of format before where you have ‘back-to-back-to-back’ readings.”

With its back-to-back readings, revolving venue and writers alternating with one another, celebrating a local writing scene that he describes as “very vibrant” and growing in ways he could not have foreseen, Fracis finds the Jax By Jax experience intriguing and challenging. “During this last week’s festival, I made the parallel in my mind that it’s like the Super Saturday of the U.S. Open where they’d have the two men’s semifinals and the women’s final, sandwiched together.”

Go Home has already received advance praise from authors including National Book Award-winning author Bob Shacochis (The Woman Who Lost Her Soul), NPR and BBC commentator-author Deepak Singh (How May I Help You?), and Diane Johnson (Le Divorce). Fracis originally met Johnson 14 years ago at the Sewanee Writers Conference. “Diane was faculty and I was on a full fellowship due to Ticket to Minto being out for maybe a year before. All I had to do was assist Alice McDermott and Claire Messud with their workshop,” says Fracis, who was given the task of reading other attendees’ manuscripts. McDermott told Fracis to “speak up” when he found a particular submission either solidly written or in need of improvement. “I probably spoke up too much since I went to the extent of contradicting Alice on occasion,” says Fracis with a laugh. “And she said eventually, ‘Don’t speak up that much.’

For the past two hours, Fracis has talked expansively about Go Home, his past, his craft, accomplishments, critical thinking injected into literature, and his much-loved local community of writers and old friends. Yet there’s one last subject that inevitably comes up.

It is less than three weeks into Donald Trump’s conquering of the White House, and at press time, a disturbing amount of stories of pro-Trump, white supremacy aggression is cutting across the news feeds. Since the beginning of Trump’s campaign, the word “immigrant” has been emphasized and bracketed inside the sharpened quotations; more recently there has been talk of a mandatory registry awaiting those a mere wall won’t keep out.

“I think it ties back to mainstream America being caught up in a kind of denial mode about some of these things that have come sort of boiling up to the surface,” says Fracis. “But now it’s to the extent where they cannot deny it anymore because it’s right in their face: It’s in the White House. They have to take some responsibility for all of this time telling us to shut up about these things. When we tried to tell them what was happening.”

Like many, Fracis believes some of the discontent comes from simmering disappointment, not in President Obama’s policies, but rather his pigmentation. “I think Obama is the best president that I’ve had in my duration here. But the pendulum swung back hard. And Trump has ridden these ‘white identity’ politics from the start and now right into the White House.”

One chapter in Go Home appropriates a term commonly used as a terror tactic to warn of the ongoing “invasion” of non-whites in this country: “The Browning of America.”

“That fear of ‘the browning of America’ is so monolithic. But what they’re afraid of isn’t monolithic at all,” says Fracis. “Yet that fear drives this backlash that ‘they are taking over’ and ‘we have to take back America’ and ‘make it what it was.’”

In the fictional realm of Go Home, Viraf ultimately survives his aggressors and finds a place he belongs. And now, after spending more than half his life in America, Sohrab Homi Fracis thrives as a well-respected author, educator, friend and even just another face in the crowd in his Riverside neighborhood.

“I feel more at home here than I really do in India,” he says. “Or, let’s put it this way: I feel more out of step there than I do here.”

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