Tania James

Tania James was raised in Louisville, Kentucky after a brief stint in Chicago from ages 0 to 4. She graduated from Harvard University with a degree in filmmaking and received an MFA from Columbia’s School of the Arts. Her debut novel Atlas of Unknowns was published by Knopf in 2009, and was a New York Times Editor’s Choice, an Indie Next Notable, a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection, and a Best Book of 2009 for The San Francisco Chronicle and NPR. Atlas was also shortlisted for the DSCPrize for South Asian literature. Tania is the recipient of fellowships from the Ragdale Foundation and the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities. From 2011-2012, she was a Fulbright fellow to India living in New Delhi. Now she lives in Washington DC.

Books and Lesson Plans

  • Aerogrammes

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    In their various locales--from London to the American Midwest to Sierra Leone--the men and women of these nine tales navigate unfamiliar worlds to sometimes comic, often heartbreaking effect.

    In “Lion and Panther in London,” a turn-of-the-century Indian wrestler arrives in London desperate to prove himself champion of the world, only to find the city mysteriously absent of challengers. In “Light & Luminous,” a gifted dance instructor falls victim to her own vanity when a student competition allows her a final encore.  In “The Scriptological Review: A Last Letter from the Editor,” a young man obsessively studies his father’s handwriting in hopes of making sense of his death. And in the marvelous “What to Do with Henry,” a white woman from Ohio takes in the illegitimate child her husband left behind in Sierra Leone, as well as an orphaned chimpanzee who comes to anchor this strange new family.

    With exuberance and compassion, Tania James once again draws us into the lives of damaged, driven, and beautifully complicated characters who quietly strive for human connection.

    Appropriate for grades 9 and up.

    Course lesson plans for Aerogrammes is currently in development.

  • Atlas of Unknowns

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    A poignant, funny, blazingly original debut novel about sisterhood, the tantalizing dream of America, and the secret histories and hilarious eccentricities of families everywhere.

    When seventeen-year old Anju wins a full scholarship to study in New York City for a year, she jumps at the chance to leave her home in Kerala—in southern India—even though it means betraying her older sister, Linno.  A social outcast and gifted artist, Linno resigns herself to painting advertisements in shop windows for the rest of her life, haunted by old memories of their mother’s mysterious death.  But soon after Anju arrives in New York, she goes missing, leaving Linno to strike out on an unusual journey of her own to find her vanished sister.

    Appropriate for grades 9 and up.

    Course lesson plans for Atlas of Unknowns are currently in development.

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