Thrity Umrigar is the author of a memoir and six novels, including the bestselling The Space Between Us (Harper Perennial), The World We Found (Harper Perennial), and her latest, The Story Hour (Harper). Her books have been published in more than fifteen languages and have been optioned for film. She is the winner of the Cleveland Arts Prize, the Lambda Literary Book Prize and was a finalist for the PEN/Beyond Margins award. A seasoned speaker, she inspires and encourages audiences to write and tell their own stories, and lectures on issues of class, gender differences, immigration, cultural differences, and about how to develop and foster community. Umrigar has spoken at universities, libraries, literary festivals, museums, and conferences across the country.
Umrigar was born in Bombay, India and came to the U.S. when she was 21. As a Parsi child attending a Catholic school in a predominantly Hindu country, Umrigar had the kind of cosmopolitan childhood that has served her well in her life as a writer. Accused by teachers and parents alike of being a daydreaming, absent-minded child, she grew up lost in the fictional worlds created by Steinbeck, Hemingway, Woolf, and Faulkner. She would emerge long enough from these books to create her own fictional and poetic worlds. Encouraged by her practical-minded parents to get an undergraduate degree in business, Umrigar survived business school by founding a drama club and writing, directing, and acting in plays. She began publishing short stories, essays, and poems in national magazines and newspapers in India at the age of 15.
Since writing fiction seemed too preposterous a way for a kid from India to earn a living, Umrigar did the next best thing. She became a journalist. After earning an M.A. in journalism from the Ohio State University, she worked as a reporter at the Lorain Journal. She then worked for the Akron Beacon Journal for the next 15 years, as an award-winning reporter, columnist, and magazine writer. She also earned a Ph.D. in English from Kent State University. In 1999, Umrigar won a one-year Nieman Fellowship to Harvard, which is given to mid-career journalists.
While at Harvard, Umrigar wrote her first novel Bombay Time. The publication and success of the novel allowed her to make a career change and in 2002 she accepted a teaching position at Case Western Reserve University, where she is today a professor and teaches creative writing, journalism and literature. She also writes for the Washington Post and the Boston Globe book pages.
Umrigar lives in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.
Praise for Thrity Umrigar:
"The South Dakota Festival of Books has encountered many world-class presenters and Thrity Umrigar is among the best. We've heard only great things from those who attended her sessions. She speaks with poise, wisdom, and energy. She's made a fantastic impression on South Dakota that won't soon be forgotten."
-- Samantha Hendricks, South Dakota Humanities Council
"Thrity Umrigar was the catalyst for our perfect afternoon. Her style, her simple eloquence and her humble demeanor engaged and captivated our audience. She entertained us with her stories, but also generated deep thinking about social issues. Our author luncheon event was the best ever!"
-- Lisa Lindauer, Chair, Rachel Coalition, Florham Park, NJ
Praise for The Story Hour:
“A taut, suspenseful page-turner with depth, heart, and psychological credibility whose believable and enduring characters ponder the meaning of friendship, the challenges of marriage, and the value of storytelling itself.”
-- Boston Globe
“Past misdeeds threaten the friendship of a psychologist and her immigrant patient in a fictional tale that asks, are we more than the sum of our mistakes?”
-- O Magazine, “10 Books to Pick Up Now”
“Thrity Umrigar has an uncanny ability to look deeply into the human heart and find the absolute truth of our lives. The Story Hour is stunning and beautiful. Lakshmi and Maggie will stay with readers for a very long time.”
-- Luis Alberto Urrea, author of The Hummingbird's Daughter
"The sixth novel from Umrigar (The Space Between Us) is a deeply moving portrait of connection, disconnection, and missed connections…. [T]his compassionate and memorable novel is remarkable for the depth and complexity of its characters.”
“Umrigar’s novel begins as a small domestic drama and develops into a forceful examination of identity, cultural isolation and the power of storytelling.…An impressive writer, Umrigar delivers another smart, compulsively readable work.”
-- Kirkus Reviews
"With grace, wisdom and incredible compassion, Thrity Umrigar has woven together the lives of two seemingly dissimilar women who must learn—against steep odds—to forgive each other and themselves. Lakshmi’s voice and stories found their way quickly into my heart and didn’t let up, or let go. I dare anyone to resist her or this wonderful novel.”
-- Paula McClain, author of The Paris Wife
Praise for The World We Found:
"The World We Found by Thrity Umrigar is a sparkling and sharp slice of life that, in presenting four personal stories, reflects and illuminates universal truths . . . As in all her novels, Umrigar is a beautiful genius at presenting the intimate side of large-scale (and widely accepted) practices of discrimination and bigotry . . . And because of the fluid mastery of Umrigar's writing, all four of her women will matter to readers (and resonate and disturb and inspire) and the world they found (equally disturbing and enlightening) will be known, and discussed, and remembered."
-- Nina Sankovitch, Huffington Post
"The World We Found is absorbing and resonant . . . [Umrigar's] storytelling is deft, so we see not abstractions, but piercing instances of how the universal affects the individual . . . The World We Found is alive with finely drawn and richly developed characters . . . That the novelist can make such subjects not only palatable but enjoyable is a key joy of this book. The World We Found is affecting but not cloying, thoughtful but not preachy."
-- Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Marvelous . . . fascinating and disturbing by turns."
-- Boston Globe
"Umrigar renders a vivid portrait of modern-day India as she meditates upon the power of friendship, loyalty, and love. Like her previous works, The World We Found is eloquent and evocative, bitter and sweet."
-- Booklist (starred review)
Praise for The Weight of Heaven:
"The landscape and culture . . . [are] evocatively depicted . . . And such drama! . . . We're pulled along by the intensity of this sweepingly cinematic story."
"Powerful . . . Twisty, brimming with dark humor and keen moral insight, The Weight of Heaven packs a wallop on both a literary and emotional level . . . Umrigar is a master of delineating the ethical lines Frank and Ellie cross, with, at least at first, the best of intentions . . . Umrigar, a journalist for the Boston Globe, is a descriptive master."
-- Christian Science Monitor
"Umrigar carries a burden as heavy as the title by using a tale of personal tragedy to depict the balance of power in global economics . . . Her observations are dispassionate and astute enough to deliver at both levels. This is a morality tale tuned to our times."
-- Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Umrigar continues her exploration of cultural divides in this beautifully written and incisive novel about an American couple's experience in India . . . Umrigar digs into the effects of grief on a relationship and the many facets of culture clash -- especially American capitalism's impact on a poor country -- but it is the tale of how Frank's interest in Ramesh veers into obsession and comes to a devastating end that provides the gripping through line. Umrigar establishes herself as a singularly gifted storyteller."
-- Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Rich prose and vibrant descriptions of India . . . The Weight of Heaven is a bold, beautifully rendered tale of cultures that clash and coalesce."
-- Booklist (starred review)
"Umrigar beautifully illuminates how human relationships are complicated by cultural, geographical, and class divides."
-- More magazine
"Well paced . . . An unflinching portrait of parental bereavement."
-- Kirkus Reviews
"Umrigar . . . finely plumbs the depths of the human heart, from the heights of joy and passion to the very deepest despair. Recommended for all fiction collections."
-- Library Journal
Praise for The Space Between Us:
“Umrigar’s piercing second novel examines the class divide in Bombay through the complex relationship of two women, a middle-class Parsi widow and her longtime servant.”
-- New York Times Paperback Row
“[The Space Between Us] is a great book; I love it . . . I couldn’t stop reading until Bhima had her amazing epiphany of freedom at the edge of the sea. I am so happy for Thrity Umrigar! And proud of her as a woman, too . . . It is so precious to have a book about a woman one rarely even ‘sees’ in society, whether Indian or American.”
-- Alice Walker
“Umrigar is a perceptive and often piercing writer . . . Her portrait of Sera as a woman unable to transcend her middle-class skin feels bracingly honest.”
-- New York Times Book Review
“Thrity Umrigar has created two wonderfully sympathetic characters who do much to make [India’s] complex nature comprehensible . . . This is a story intimately and compassionately told against the sensuous background of everyday life in Bombay . . . The life of the privileged is harshly measured against the life of the powerless, but empathy and compassion are evoked by both strong women, each of whom is forced to make a separate choice. Umrigar is a skilled storyteller, and her memorable characters will live on for a long time.”
-- Frances Itani, Washington Post Book World
“Remarkable . . . What makes The Space Between Us so engrossing is its ability to make readers feel empathy for its subjects . . . To read Umrigar’s novel is to catch a glimpse of a foreign culture, for better and for worse. Yet while the class divide between Bhima and Sera provides much of the conflict in The Space Between Us, it isn’t the only source of disagreement. Class colors everything, but in the end, Umrigar shows, every one of life’s ups and downs are available to us all.”
-- San Francisco Chronicle
“With humanity and suspense, novelist Thrity Umrigar tackles love, loyalty, injustice — and survival.”
-- Marie Claire
“Thrity Umrigar has a striking talent for portraying pain and suffering and the sheer unfairness of life. The result is a vital social comment on contemporary India.”
-- Financial Times
“The Space Between Us is a novel that is hard to forget.”
-- The Times (London)