The daughter of Indian immigrants who raised her in Bible Belt Georgia, Sanjena Anshu Sathian connected with her twin cultures through the page. She grew up reading Hindu mythological comic books and Arundhati Roy, the New Testament and Flannery O’Connor. The granddaughter and great-granddaughter of respected South Indian translators, she always hoped to become a writer.
Sanjena earned a BA in English from Yale University, where she served as editor-in-chief of the Globalist magazine. She received multiple grants to report from three continents, writing about striking Chilean miners, Nepali Gurkha soldiers in training, and the conflict zone in Cyprus. She was awarded the English Department’s highest honors for each of her two senior theses: one on the novels of Zadie Smith, the other a series of linked short stories.
After school, Sanjena worked as a health reporter for the Boston Globe before joining the media start-up OZY as an early employee. At OZY, she wrote widely, covering the unseen mobile home economy, the ethical implications of artificial intelligence, and the boom in Asian American retirement communities. For one piece, she successfully masqueraded as a movie star on Hollywood Boulevard in order to muse on celebrity worship culture. In 2015 she moved to India, where she investigated the rise of Hindu nationalism, cattle-smuggling rings on the Indo-Bangladesh border, the impact of automation on handloom industries, and the rise of a new street drug in Mumbai.
Sanjena is thrilled to begin study at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, the same institution that educated O’Connor. Sanjena’s work engages Hindu and Buddhist philosophy, technology, diaspora, and gender. She is also a student of meditation and a CrossFit evangelist. Once upon a while ago, she was the national policy debate champion and still speaks at a Gilmore Girls pace because of it.