Members Only (Hardcover)
Some of my favorite novels appear to be the most autobiographical. This is a first novel about a University lecturer in Southern California who was born in India, and moved here as a young man, written by an author who was born in India, teaches in Santa Barbara, etcetera. It's a testament to how good this book is, that I haven't spent much time wondering about how many of the events in the book have happened to the author, because they are so specific and universal at the same time. Raj Bhatt is in trouble with his tennis club for mindlessly blurting out loud an offensive rap lyric during just the wrong time at a new members selection committee meeting. And the very next day, some students in Raj's popular cultural anthropology course decide to label him anti-Christian and demonstrate to have him fired. As his very bad week humorously unfolds from crisis to crisis, we all ask with him: how far are we ''from our own moment of communal violence?"
“If 'Things Fall Apart' hadn’t already been taken, it would be an apt title for Pandya’s novel, which is as witty as it is woeful.”
— Elisabeth Egan, New York Times Book Review
"In Sameer Pandya’s heart-pounding novel, every word Raj Bhatt says, every action he takes, is consequential...This is a nail-biting read because Raj’s fate—a comfortable life unraveled by misinterpretations and words taken out of context—is all too familiar in today’s world."
"I binged-read Members Only and it did not disappoint. ... Smart, funny, topical, and it does tennis right."
— Jon Wertheim, Sports Illustrated's Beyond the Baseline
“A grand slam. … Pandya’s writing here is smooth, clear, funny, and often subtly beautiful. Members Only is the thoughtful page-turner we need right now.”
— Booklist (starred review)
“An intense, funny, and absolutely necessary novel about our current times. Accomplished storyteller Pandya has given all of us teachers a compulsive read for the days, the weeks, when we feel unmoored and even a slightly bit crazy.”
— Weike Wang, author of Chemistry and Joan is Okay
“Is extremely enjoyable anxiety a thing? Because that’s how I felt as I sped through Professor Raj Bhatt’s very bad week. A vital, tightly-written dive into our current swirl of confusion over privilege and power.”
— Jade Chang, author of The Wangs vs. The World
"Members Only perfectly portrays how our careless words and casual comments have unintended ripple effects that couldn't possibly be predicted. This is a riveting story of misunderstanding and misrepresentation."
— Laurie Gelman, author of Class Mom and You've Been Volunteered
“In Pandya’s tense, sly debut novel (after the collection The Blind Writer) a college lecturer faces accusations of racism and anti-American bias in a California suburb over the course of a fateful week. The taut, heartrending narrative offers deep insight into the ways the characters are shaped by racism. Pandya’s sympathetic portrait of Raj’s quest for acceptance will resonate with readers.”
— Publishers Weekly
"As provocative as it is comedic. ... Facing social, professional, personal implosion—all in one week—might seem impossibly overdramatic, but Members Only proves remarkably convincing. ... That said, don't expect all doom-and-gloom here: without ever eliding the gravity of serious social issues like racism, privilege and power, Pandya deftly manages to create a tragicomedy of errors driven by surprising wit, irreverent humor and razor-sharp insight."
— Shelf Awareness