Kumar speaking at the Asian American Writers Workshop in 2011.
17 March 1963|
University of Minnesota
|Occupation||Writer, journalist, and Professor of English on the Helen D. Lockwood Chair at Vassar College|
Kumar was born in the city of Arrah in the Indian state of Bihar on 17 March 1963. He grew up close to his birthplace in Patna, also in Bihar. There he spent his formative years at St Michael's High School. In India, Kumar earned a bachelor's degree in political science from Hindu College, Delhi University in 1984. He holds two master's degrees in Linguistics and Literature from Delhi University (1986) and Syracuse University (1988) respectively. In 1993, he received his doctoral degree from the Department of Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature at the University of Minnesota. He lives with his family in Poughkeepsie, New York.
Kumar is the author of Husband of a Fanatic (The New Press, 2005 and Penguin-India, 2004), Bombay-London-New York (Routledge and Penguin-India, 2002), Passport Photos (University of California Press and Penguin-India, 2000), the book of poems No Tears for the N.R.I. (Writers Workshop, Calcutta, 1996), the novel Home Products (Picador-India, 2007 and as Nobody Does the Right Thing in 2009).
His prize-winning book is A Foreigner Carrying in the Crook of His Arm a Tiny Bomb: A Writer’s Report on the Global War on Terror (Duke University Press, 2010; and as Evidence of Suspicion, 2009). In his review, Dwight Garner (critic) at the New York Times called it a "perceptive and soulful – if at times academic – meditation on the global war on terror and its cultural and human repercussions." It was also awarded the Best Non-Fiction Book of the Year in the Asian American Literary Awards.
Husband of a Fanatic was an "Editors’ Choice" book at the New York Times; Bombay-London-New York was on the list of "Books of the Year" in New Statesman (UK); and Passport Photos won an "Outstanding Book of the Year" award from the Myers Program for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights in North America. His novel Home Products was short-listed for India’s premier literary prize, the Vodafone Crossword Book Award.
Kumar was the scriptwriter for two documentary films: Dirty Laundry — about the national-racial politics of Indian South Africans — and Pure Chutney — about the descendants of indentured Indian labourers in Trinidad.
His academic writing and literary criticism has appeared in several journals, including Critical Inquiry, Critical Quarterly, College Literature, Race and Class, American Quarterly, Rethinking Marxism, Minnesota Review, Journal of Advanced Composition, Amerasia Journal and Modern Fiction Studies.
As a journalist, Kumar has regularly authored articles for newspapers and magazines across the world such as New Statesman, The Nation, The Caravan, The Indian Express and The Hindu. In 2008, on Al Jazeera's Riz Khan Show, Kumar was interviewed on the use of terror threats by governments to advance their own political agendas; the interview aired on the Al Jazeera English Network. In February 2011, Kumar interviewed Indian novelist Arundhati Roy for Guernica Magazine.
Kumar, Ruchir Joshi, Jeet Thayil and Hari Kunzru, were threatened with arrest for reading excerpts from Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses, which is banned in India, at the 2012 Jaipur Literature Festival. In March 2013, Kumar collaborated with Teju Cole on a text-with-photographs entitled "Who's Got the Address?"
- Lunch with a Bigot: The Writer in the World
- A Matter of Rats: A Short Biography of Patna
- A Foreigner Carrying in the Crook of His Arm A Tiny Bomb, a non-fiction book about the war on terror, and the literary as well as artistic responses to it.
- Home Products (published in the U.S. under the title Nobody Does the Right Thing by Duke University Press)
- Husband of a Fanatic, book on writing and religious violence.
- Bombay-London-New York, literary memoir cum critical report on Indian fiction
- Passport Photos, multi-genre book on immigration and postcoloniality
- No Tears for the N.R.I., a book of poems
- Away: The Indian Writer as an Expatriate, edited volume of essays.
- World Bank Literature, edited volume of essays on global economies and literature.
- The Humour and the Pity, edited volume of essays on V.S. Naipaul.
- Poetics/Politics: Radical Aesthetics for the Classroom, edited volume of essays on radical aesthetics and pedagogy.
- Class Issues: Pedagogy, Cultural Studies, and the Public Sphere, edited volume of essays on radical teaching.
Forewords and introductory notes
- The Little Book of Terror, by Daisy Rockwell
- Where the Wild Frontiers Are, by Manan Ahmed.
- “Duty-Free Indians,” a Foreword to Suburban Sahibs: Three Immigrant Families and their Passage from India to America by S. Mitra Kalita.
- “In Class,” a Foreword to Class and Its Others, edited by J.K. Gibson-Graham.
Awards and fellowships
Most recently, Kumar has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship (2016). He has also been awarded the Lannan Foundation Marfa Residency, residency at Yaddo, a Fiction Fellowship at the Norman Mailer Writers Colony, a Barach Fellowship at the Wesleyan Writers Festival, and has received awards from the South Asian Journalists Association for three consecutive years. In addition, he has been awarded research fellowships from the NEH, Yale University, SUNY-Stony Brook, Dartmouth College, and University of California-Riverside. A Foreigner Carrying in the Crook of His Arm a Tiny Bomb was also judged the Best Non-Fiction Book of the Year in the Asian American Literary Awards.
- Official website
- New York Times review of Husband of a Fanatic
- Interview for the Wisconsin Book Festival, 2008
- Interview on blogsite "Between the Lines"
- Amitava Kumar's short story "Postmortem" on NPR
- WYNC interview on The Leonard Lopate Show, 2010
- WNYC interview on the Brian Lehrer Show, 2015
- Amitava Kumar on the PEN-Charlie Hebdo controversy
- Interview on Full Stop
- "Vassar College Department of English Web site". Vassar College. Archived from the original on 20 July 2011. Retrieved 9 July 2011.
- "Kumar's Official Web Site". Archived from the original on 27 May 2011. Retrieved 9 July 2011.
- Pandita, Rahul (30 January 2010). "Innocence Lost". Open. Retrieved 27 January 2012.
- "Dwight Garner on Kumar". The New York Times. 5 Aug 2010. Retrieved 9 July 2011.
- "New Statesman Web Site". Retrieved 9 July 2011.
- "Business Standard Article". Business Standard. 10 Jun 2008. Retrieved 9 July 2011.
- "Amitava Kumar – About". Archived from the original on 27 May 2011. Retrieved 11 July 2011.
- Khan, Rizwan (9 November 2010). "Politics of terror threats". Al Jazeera. Retrieved 27 January 2012.
- Kumar, Amitava (February 2011). "The Un-Victim". Guernica. Retrieved 27 January 2012.
- Singh, Akhilesh Kumar; Chowdhury, Shreya Roy (23 January 2012). "Salman Rushdie shadow on Jaipur Literature Festival: 4 authors who read from 'The Satanic Verses' sent packing". The Times of India. Retrieved 23 January 2012.
- "Amitava Kumar – About". Retrieved 13 July 2011.