Inside the Mirror


Inside the Mirror

A Novel

Parul Kapur

AWP Prize for the Novel Series

362 pages


March 2024


$26.95 Pre-order

About the Book

Winner of the AWP Prize for the Novel

In 1950s Bombay, Jaya Malhotra studies medicine at the direction of her father, a champion of women’s education who assumes the right to choose his daughters’ vocations. A talented painter drawn to the city’s dynamic new modern art movement, Jaya is driven by her desire to express both the pain and extraordinary force of life of a nation rising from the devastation of British rule. Her twin sister, Kamlesh, a passionate student of Bharata Natyam dance, complies with her father’s decision that she become a schoolteacher while secretly pursuing forbidden dreams of dancing onstage and in the movies.

When Jaya moves out of her family home to live with a woman mentor, she suffers grievous consequences as a rare woman in the men’s domain of art. Not only does her departure from home threaten her family’s standing and crush her reputation; Jaya loses a vital connection to Kamlesh.

Winner of the AWP Prize for the Novel, Parul Kapur’s Inside the Mirror is set in the aftermath of colonialism, as an impoverished India struggles to remake itself into a modern state. Jaya’s story encompasses art, history, political revolt, love, and women’s ambition to seize their own power.

Author Bio

Parul Kapur was born in Assam, India, grew up in the United States, and lives in Atlanta. She is a fiction writer, journalist, and literary critic whose writing has appeared in a number of publications, including Ploughshares, Pleiades, the New Yorker, Art in America, Guernica, Los Angeles Review of Books, and the Paris Review. Kapur holds an MFA from Columbia University and has received fellowships from the Hambidge Center and the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts.


Inside the Mirror is an extraordinary and moving story about twin sisters Jaya and Kamlesh as they struggle to pursue their passion and independence as women artists from a conservative society. Crafted with elegance and precision, and heartrending in its exploration of family drama, this novel is a beautiful and ambitious work of fiction.”—Brandon Hobson, National Book Award finalist and author of The Removed

“With breathtaking lyricism and scorching insight, Kapur captures women in flux brilliantly. This profound book complicates the impact of colonialism and throbs with life. Inside the Mirror is an extraordinary novel.”—Jennifer Maritza McCauley, author of When Trying to Return Home

Inside the Mirror is a complex and compelling story of a displaced family living in the shadow of post-Partition India. Parul Kapur has written a gorgeous novel about art, independence, and the roots that bind a family together.”—Devi S. Laskar, author of Circa and The Atlas of Reds and Blues

“A sparkling jewel of a novel, Inside the Mirror follows twins Jaya and Kamlesh as they pursue artistic ambitions. Battling their own fears, the young women wrestle with the familial and cultural expectations holding them back. Even as relationships splinter and trust is broken, Jaya and Kamlesh bravely seek lives without limits, lives in which they attain the grace they have long deserved.”—Heather Bell Adams, author of Maranatha Road and The Good Luck Stone

“Parul Kapur’s compelling debut novel, Inside the Mirror, explores the tension between family bonds and the pursuit of artistic passion. Set against the backdrop of post-Partition Bombay, this meticulously researched story follows twins Jaya and Kamlesh as they grapple with the quest for self-expression within a tightly-knit community that has predetermined their life paths. Kapur expertly recreates the social complexities of 1950s Bombay, illustrating the profound impact each twin has on their family and community as they pursue their chosen vocations—painting for Jaya and dance for Kamlesh. Every decision they make comes with a sense of guilt and shame. In eloquent prose Kapur explores themes of women’s roles, the power of art, familial obligations, and the sacrifices entailed in seeking self-determination.”—Geeta Kothari, author of I Brake for Moose and Other Stories

Table of Contents

Part 1. The Witnesses and Their Dreams
1. Chapter One
2. Chapter Two
3. Chapter Three
4. Chapter Four
5. Chapter Five
6. Chapter Six
7. Chapter Seven
8. Chapter Eight
Part 2. On the Precipice
9. Chapter Nine
10. Chapter Ten
11. Chapter Eleven
12. Chapter Twelve
13. Chapter Thirteen
14. Chapter Fourteen
15. Chapter Fifteen
16. Chapter Sixteen
17. Chapter Seventeen
18. Chapter Eighteen
Part 3. Dancing Girl
19. Chapter Nineteen
20. Chapter Twenty
21. Chapter Twenty-One
22. Chapter Twenty-Two
23. Chapter Twenty-Three
24. Chapter Twenty-Four
25. Chapter Twenty-Five
26. Chapter Twenty-Six
27. Chapter Twenty-Seven
28. Chapter Twenty-Eight
29. Chapter Twenty-Nine
30. Chapter Thirty


Winner of the AWP Prize for the Novel

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