BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

Now Hear This: Soneela Nankani [in Booklist]

She can sound like a frightened little girl on the run or a gruff old man who’s seen it all. She can talk financial crises, offer self-help guidance, embody fantasy worlds, and channel her inner Gisele Bündchen. She narrates in multiple tongues, donning accents and languages with ease as she guides headphoned listeners across borders and cultures. Bolstered by classical training (she’s Columbia MFA-ed and works in film, TV, and theater), Soneela Nankani’s audio credits have topped 100 performances – with more forthcoming.

 

Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao. 2018. 11.5hr. Macmillan, DD, $26.99 (9781427295705).

Rao’s debut novel, about the disparate lives of two Indian girls, finds the ideal narrator in Nankani. She’s consistently effective in individuating her dual protagonists while displaying impressively subtle adaptations for the diverse cast, from a powerless father to an angry mother-in-law, from a helpful airport stranger to a brutally abusive pimp.

 

Lucky Boy by Shanti Sekaran. 2017. 16.5hr. Books on Tape, CD, $50 (9781524703028).

Roxana Ortega and Nankani volley narration as two mothers of the same Lucky Boy, desperate to mother well, mother consistently, or mother at all. Ortega and Nankani perform with careful sensitivity, presenting appropriate multilingual accents that aurally confront the shifting definitions of what it means to be American today.

 

Sonora by Hannah Lillith Assadi. 2017. 6hr. Recorded Books, CD, $123.75 (9781501942389).

Assadi’s atmospheric debut is further enhanced by Nankani’s skillful narration. She subtly distinguishes between the present – as the adult Ahlam, who returns home to care for her hospitalized father – and the past – as younger Ahlam reveals her fraught relationship with the enigmatic Laura – by adroitly moderating her voice from eerie calm to frenetic desperation.

 

The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey. 2018. 14.5hr. Recorded Books, CD, $123.75 (9781501980152).

Nankani turns in an auspicious narration of Massey’s promising new series set in early 20th-century colonial India and starring feisty Perveen Mistry, India’s first female solicitor. She seamlessly adjusts tone and tenor to voice the vast cast, across age, gender, social station, international backgrounds, and more.

 

The Windfall by Diksha Basu. 2017. 10hr. Books on Tape, CD, $40 (9781524774097).

Money – who has it, how it’s spent, what it buys, what it can’t, what its true value is – drives Basu’s endearing and astute debut. Welcome to Delhi, where the have-enoughs and the have-too-muches live separate lives. Ever-versatile Nankani enhances the global experience by narrating seamlessly in both American English and the more lyrical Indian English for authentic conversations.

 

Published: “Now Hear This: Soneela Nankani,” Booklist, February 1, 2019

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