The History of Literature Episode 35 – A Conversation with Ronica Dhar


In this episode, Jacke welcomes special guest Ronica Dhar, who presents Five Books (or actually Four Books and a Movie) To Lower Your Blood Pressure. Highlights include a poem by Ronica’s former teacher and mentor, letters to a samurai written by a zen master who invented a type of pickle, and a fourteenth-century Kashmiri mystic who wrestled with God and her in-laws with a fierceness that would have made Beyoncé proud.

Ronica Dhar graduated from the University of Chicago and was a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellow in Fiction. She holds an MFA in Fiction from the University of Michigan where she received the Meijer award and the Hopwood award.  Her first book, Bijou Roy, was called a “thoughtful, elegant novel” by the author Ann Patchett. After years spent living in Washington D.C. and New York City, Ronica recently returned to Detroit, the city of her childhood.

Works Discussed:

Bijou Roy (Ronica Dhar)

Praise Song for the Day (Elizabeth Alexander)

Aleutian Sparrow (Karen Hesse)

I, Lalla: The Poems of Lal Ded (tr. Ranjit Hoskote)

The Unfettered Mind: Writings from a Zen Master to a Master Swordsman  (Takuan Soho)

Samsara  (directed by Ron Fricke)


Sneak Preview: A Conversation with Ronica Dhar

Photo Credit: Kishni Bhattacharya

This is awesome! Tomorrow on the History of Literature podcast we’ll be posting my conversation with Ronica Dhar, who selects Five Works to Lower Your Blood Pressure.

In the meantime, you should all check out Ronica’s novel, Bijou Roy, a simply beautiful book.


“Ronica Dhar captures the struggles of family and cultural identity with such tenderness and depth of feeling that she makes these subjects completely her own. Bijou Roy is a thoughtful, elegant novel.” —Ann Patchett

Bijou Roy’s life in Washington, D.C. is not thrilling but it is steady. When she loses her father to a long illness, she travels to India to scatter his remains in the river that runs through his native city. With the weight of her grief still fresh, she leaves a career and relationship in limbo only to be thrust into unfamiliar territory.Never having fully understood why her parents severed their ties to India, she is drawn to Naveen, the son of her father’s closest comrade. Naveen holds over Bijou intimate details of their fathers’ past and their political involvements. Quickly, she is embroiled in the mysteries of love, grief, and family histories, questioning what happens next when the customs of neither an original nor an adopted culture provide comfort.In her quest for answers, Bijou sees how each generation must wrestle—often at great risk—with the one who came before, and, perhaps above all, comes to learn how to replace sorrow with hope.

Jacke’s Jacket: New Blurb

It’s a great day in Jacke news – a new blurb from the fabulous Ronica Dhar!

Jacke Wilson’s work has for many years engaged me with its themes about the Midwest, politics, and contemporary culture. Alternately full of intrigue or expertly rendered deadpan comedy, Jacke’s stories (or perhaps satires? I’d have to ask Jacke to remind me of the nuances at play here!) are products of a steel-trap memory, great writing and creative ambition. His novels are such fun to discuss with my friends. — Ronica Dhar #nomdeplume

Definitely one for the print version of The Race: A NovellaI’ve been a fan of Ronica’s work for a long time, and she’s been a great supporter of my work, so the blurb is particularly gratifying. Many thanks, Ronica!

You can read more about Ronica (and her stunning novel Bijou Roy) at