When Doctors Write the Story

Death, love, and birth are the greatest themes of both literature and of medicine. Brown doctors are now telling these stories through novels.

Jihii Jolly

November 19, 2020

When Doctors Write the Story
A reclining Nayar lady on a velvet couch with a book open in front of her (Raja Ravi Varma)

“In a culture that deals more and more with surface and sheen and falsity, we in our offices and house calls and surgeries are present with the deep, hard truth that comes out at crucial moments of our patients’ lives,” wrote psychiatrist and author Samuel Shem in an essay. “The great themes of fiction are love and death. Death is always a theme in medicine. So too, I would argue, in its many spirits, is love.”

A new crop of Indian American authors are using fiction to do just that — to convey the deep, hard truths behind a stereotype America knows all too well but asks few questions about: the Indian doctor. The year 2020 has seen the North American publication of three novels by Indian American doctors: Madi Sinha’s The White Coat Diaries, Vikram Paralkar’s Night Theater, and Saumya Dave’s Well-Behaved Indian Women. Two are the author’s debut work of fiction; each captures the multi-faceted experience of practicing and studying medicine.