Anita Desai (dĕsī´), 1937–, Indian fiction writer, b. Mussoorie as Anita Mazumdar, grad. Delhi Univ. (B.A., 1957). A prolific novelist, she often paints a subtly intelligent and darkly evocative picture of modern India. Desai is particularly noted for her portrayal of women and of the vicissitudes of middle-class Anglo-Indian family life. She published her first novel, Cry, the Peacock. the story of a failed marriage that ends in violence, in 1963. Since then, her novels have included the semiautobiographical Clear Light of Day (1980); In Custody (1984, film 1994), about a declining Urdu poet; Baumgartner's Bombay (1988), in which a Jewish refugee confronts Indian culture; and Fasting, Feasting (1999), which explores Indian and American family life. Desai has also written short stories, e.g., Diamond Dust (2000); three novellas, brought together in The Artist of Disappearance (2011), and childrens' books. She has taught at English and American colleges and is an emeritus professor at the Massachusetts Institue of Technology. Her daughter, Kiran Desai, 1971–, also a novelist, won the Man Booker prize for The Inheritance of Loss (2006).
See biography by E. Y. L. Ho (2005).