"The Laughter," New Work of Literary Fiction by Dr. Sonora Jha

Image of book cover and photo of Sonora Jha
Written by Karen L. Bystrom
February 7, 2023

Dr. Sonora Jha’s new work of literary fiction, The Laughter, perfectly captures the privilege, radicalization, race, and class tensions that simmer in the world of modern academia and in present-day America. Kirkus Reviews, in a starred review, says, “Jha impressively avoids the trap of preachiness and moralizing that stories of identity politics on campus tend to fall into; rather, hers is a subtle and nuanced look at the subject. The novel plants seeds that turn out to be red herrings, building layer upon layer of assumptions—about campus culture, identity politics, religion, East versus West, racism, and terrorism. . . A powerful and darkly funny campus novel with an unexpected narrative perspective.”

You can read an excerpt of the book at The Adroit Journal.

Seattle area readers have two opportunities to meet the author in conversations about The Laughter, which has been described as tense, explosive, and illuminating. Books are available for purchase from partner, Elliott Bay Book Company, at both events. Seattle University students, staff, and faculty receive a 20% discount.

Dr.  Jha launches the publication with author Kim Fu, at Elliott Bay Books on Wednesday, February 15 at 7 p.m. The event is free. Learn more here.

Join Dr. Jha and her colleague, Dr. Nalini Iyer, On Tuesday, March 7 at 6 p.m. in Campion Hall on the Seattle University Campus. In her review for the International Examiner, Dr. Iyer called The Laughter “…wickedly funny and politically astute…Darkly funny and occasionally grim, this novel asks academia to examine itself and to determine how it might serve a vastly diverse, politically engaged community.” Dr. Jha will sign books after the program. Registration for the free event is requested.

The event is sponsored by the Seattle University Department of Communication and Media; English Department and Creative Writing Program; and Women, Gender, & Sexuality Studies.

Read the Seattle Times feature here.

Rave reviews continue to come in:

“To say “The Laughter” is just a campus novel is to vastly undersell it; it’s also the story of America’s changing cultural landscape and the major political and philosophical shifts needed to uplift and protect the marginalized. This is a smart and hilarious book not just for anyone who wants to laugh at the absurdity of academia, but for anyone who wants to become a better person by doing it.” New York Times

“A masterfully told, thrilling investigation of privilege, heritage and exoticization set against the backdrop of the American college campus. . .  Deeply complex and meaningful yet still an enthralling read, The Laughter is an ambitious novel that explores American social dynamics while never being preachy or overbearing. . .  It’s a must-read for those seeking to understand today and dream of a better tomorrow.” — Langston Collin Wilkins, BookPage (starred review)

“Readers will become immersed in Sonora Jha’s brilliantly crafted world, which explores the intersection of the politics of college campuses and a wild obsession.” — The Best Books for February 2023, Shondaland

“Astutely provoking, deeply disturbing and unexpectedly delightful. . .  Jha is an extraordinary storyteller, aiming her shrewd erudition directly at elitism, sexism and racism.” — Shelf Awareness

“[This] bitingly satirical tale of a maddeningly clever yet frustratingly myopic protagonist is a gem. . . Examining old prejudices, new fixations, and the sting of unrequited love, Jha offers a complete triumph.”.” — Stephanie Turza, Booklist

“Tense and propulsive . . . Jha’s gripping passion play will shock readers.” — Publishers Weekly

“…fiction that has been masterfully laced with the same opportunities for comfort and discussion that non-fiction offers all while, somehow, having an insufferable Chesterton-obsessed white professor, Oliver Harding, as the narrator.  — Kali Herbst Minino, The Spectator

"Sonora Jha expertly inhabits the perspective of a man so terrified of the old world slipping away, he can’t see the ground shifting beneath his feet. A deliciously sharp, mercilessly perceptive exploration of power, The Laughter explores how ‘otherness’ is both fetishized and demonized, and what it means to love something—a person, a country—that does not love you back.' — Celeste Ng, New York Times-bestselling author of Our Missing Hearts

The Laughter is a brilliant, dangerous novel. What Sonora Jha has done in this razorblade-tense story is create one of the most infuriating, compelling, and complex characters I’ve read in a long time, a man so at war with himself he threatens to come apart at the seams. Jha is an expert chronicler of the way civility and privilege can often mask such immense, ruinous rage, and what begins as a tale of a professor’s infatuation with his colleague soon spirals into something far more sinister, a cascade of individual and institutional malice.” — Omar El Akkad, author of American War and What Strange Paradise

'Lush, chilling, and admirably complex, The Laughter is wonderful: A book full of sly wisdom, cutting insight, and heart-pounding suspense.' — Julia May Jonas, author of Vladimir

“Sonora Jha’s The Laughter takes the old suffocating male narcissist of Coetzee’s Disgrace and Nabokov’s Lolita and gives him new, previously unexplored dimension with a modern dissection of the Whiteness at his core. Dr. Oliver Harding is the best type of narrator—one whose rich character makes his profound flaws fascinating on the page, and author Jha’s inspired prose channels him as if possessed.” — Mat Johnson, author of Pym and Invisible Things