Sopan Deb’s Keya Das Second Act Highlights NJ’s Bengali-American Community

Sopan Deb, journalist and author, has made a habit of “doing something random every few years”.

The Howell native jumped from medium to medium, sometimes by choice and other times due to layoffs, before getting what he calls his ‘big break’ covering Trump’s 2016 campaign for CBS TV. As one of the few journalists of color to have done so, Deb says he was indiscriminately arrested at a rally in Chicago, which he remembers as a “heartbreaking experience” that “marked him from”.

After covering the countryside – in her thirties and exhausted from politics – Deb continued to write about culture and basketball for the New York Times. After writing his first memoirs in 2020, Missed Translations: Meeting the Immigrant Parents Who Raised Me, he decided to continue his tradition of doing something new. He wrote his first fiction novel during the pandemic.

“Three or four years ago, I didn’t expect to try my hand at writing fiction, but I happen to want to try new things,” says Deb, who is 34. .

The novel, Second act of Keya Daswhich was released in July (Simon and Schuster), weaves Deb’s own formative experiences into a story that explores grief, forgiveness and redemption, themes he says weighed heavily on his mind while writing the novel in quarantine.

Similar to Deb’s own upbringing, the story follows a Bengali-American family living in suburban New Jersey. After the parents’ nasty divorce and a tragic car accident that kills their youngest daughter, Keya, the family members find themselves isolated from each other and their community.

However, once the father, a Rutgers professor, finds an unfinished manuscript in the attic that Keya was writing with his girlfriend, he proposes that the family finish it and stage the piece as a tribute to Keya. This feat helps the family mend their broken relationships.

“I tried to make New Jersey as authentic as possible,” he says. “The Bengali community was a big part of my upbringing, and I really wanted to explore my relationship with that community in this book.”

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Robert M. Larson