Praise for “Ode to Lata”

Banker by day and denizen of Los Angeles’ clubs by night, the protagonist of Ghalib Shiraz Dhalla’s groundbreaking, critically-acclaimed novel has left behind a tempestuous childhood in postcolonial Kenya, the mother who raised him on a steady diet of Bollywood cinema, an emotionally abusive bisexual lover, and inescapable memories of his father’s violent death at the hands of a mistress. Passionate and unflinchingly honest, Ode to Lata scavenges the depths of one man’s misguided and relentless search for love in a world of emotionally void encounters and tangled memories. All the while Ali’s story is intertwined with the unraveling of his parents’ own doomed relationship and the film music of Bollywood’s eminent singer, Lata Mangeshkar. This edition also features the bonus short story, A.

Ode to Lata was turned into the major motion picture, The Ode starring Sakina Jaffrey, Wilson Cruz, Rebecca Hazlewood, Anil Kumar Bhardwaj, Sachin Bhatt.


‘Ode to Lata’ is quite an achievement. In his first novel, Ghalib Shiraz Dhalla traces the history of a life over three continents, through three generations of a family, exploring multiple facets of human sexuality in the process. Read the full review:
— Los Angeles Times

“Ghalib Shiraz Dhalla’s Ode to Lata is a multicultural gem that transcends all borders of race, ethnicity, and sexuality. The sharply written story of Ali unravels like a beautiful tapestry, treating the reader to exotic locales and universal longings.”

— Mark Jude Poirier, author of Goats.

“At long last, a suitable boy! This wonderful novel is about Indian writing coming out of the closet. It is also about being a new American under artificial moonlight. It has Melrose Place in it, but also Meena Kumari. A tender, teasing reminder that before there was Hollywood, God made Bollywood, Amen! Dhalla makes a tasty dish, with chutney on the side.”

— Amitava Kumar, author of Passport Photos

“There are only two things in life worth living for. Passion and Truth”, begins Ghalib Shiraz Dhalla’s first novel. Ode to Lata serves up deeply gratifying portions of both. It is a reinvigorated tale of one gay man’s search for love. Dhalla’s undeniable narrative power carries the reader through an emotional terrain where West Hollywood nightclubs and ancient Kenyan mosques stand side-by-side. His insight into questions of sexuality and race helps craft a universal tale of longing, loss and the capacity for change. It is a rare, great novel that manages to be both deeply sad and ultimately uplifting.”

— Christopher Rice, author of A Density of Souls and The Snow Garden

“Just in case there was any doubt, Ghalib Shiraz Dhalla proves once and for all that West Hollywood just ain’t no place for sissies. Yes, Ode to Lata delivers, reassuringly, all the usual glittering cliches — the boys, the bodies, the bars — and those moments will have you squealing in recognition and delight. But soon Dhalla leads you into far more dangerous territory. What is really going on with that group of friends you like to call “family?”. Why does the thought of your mother’s visit fill you with such shame and longing? How much of your soul are you willing to give up on those Saturday night sex odysseys? These and other disturbing questions will haunt you long after you have finished this dazzling, unforgettable novel.”

— Doug Guinan, author of California Screaming

“Out of the Indo-African Diaspora comes this searingly frank novel that breaks new ground in its portrayal of a coming out journey spanning Kenya and Los Angeles. Dhalla’s writing vividly evokes the losses and also the pleasures of migration, and the oscillation between throbbing desire and aching melancholia as memory and fantasy seduce each other between the sheets and on the dance floor.”

— Sunaina Maira, author of Desis in the House: Indian American Youth Culture in New York City and coeditor of Contours of the Heart: South Asians Map North America.

“Dhalla unapologetically rips the cobwebs out of L.A.’s closet and spins them into an engrossing silk tapestry of life and love.”

— Genre Magazine

“Raw and edgy…Ghalib Dhalla’s first novel leaves the reader hungering for more with his witty and poetic storytelling…hauntingly engaging as he pulls you into Ali’s world of love and lust, driven by a fierce yet heartfelt quest for inner truth….”

— Nora Wong, Detour Magazine

“A devilish indulgence…this author gets kudos for creating Ali, a chatty, outrageously embittered protagonist. The references to Kenyan mosque culture are enlightening (the glossary in back is interesting in its own right) and several auxiliary characters stand out.”

–Publishers Weekly

“Ali is a fairly complex bundle of doubts and neuroses. A native of Kenya but of Indian heritage, he is a banker making a decent living in Los Angeles but also a gay man stumbling through a variety of culture clashes. As he is searches for his version of “Mister Wonderful,” we learn a lot about growing up in a culture that accepts men sleeping with men as long as they also marry and have children and where the lighter the skin, the more value on has. Add to the mix of obstacles an abused, overly protective mother, a father who was killed by his mistress when Ali was five; and Ali’s having acquired an abusive bisexual lover by the age of 13. Much more than a “coming out” story, this is a brilliant study of culture, religion, body image, racism, sex, and friendship that cuts to the soul. Dhalla’s first novel will touch anyone who has felt out of place, unattractive, and unloved. Highly recommended.”

— Library Journal

“Halfway through this highly readable first novel, Ali, an Indian for whom West Hollywood assimilation means nightly bar crawls with his pack of cronies, is confronted with his visiting mother’s distaste for his life and sexual orientation. The gay and Indian cultures clash, and author Dhalla seizes the opportunity to explore this conflicting duality…the struggle becomes poignant, and Ali has some heft…by that point Dhalla has found his voice and given one to an entire community”

— Eddie Shapiro, OUT

“Young, gay Ali is a Los Angeles banker by day, a denizen of West Hollywood’s bars, gyms, and sex clubs at night. He enters into destructive relationships and empty sexual encounters easily, and he winds up feeling empty and longing for some sort of normalcy. When his mother comes from Kenya for an extended visit, Ali experiences mixed feelings of comfort, gratitude, and frustration. Afterward, relations with his self-selected family of his best friend, a South Asian organization he helped found, and an AIDS outreach program seem in constant flux. After a series of bad decisions, Ali comes to terms with himself and how he arrived where he is. Comfortable with his sexuality but with friends who aren’t, Ali is a grown-up professional whose emotional stability is that of a child. Yet he has a great capacity for change. Dhalla turns gay life from cliché to reality as few other novelists have as he tells Ali’s story in a racy, edgy manner that is delicious to read.”


“Talk about multiculturalism, this book has it. Last year’s Nobel Prize for literature was won by V.S. Naipaul…In Ghalib Dhalla we just may have the gay V. S. Naipaul.”

–Robert Hodges, Orange County BLADE

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