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‘A love letter to R&B, youth, and the unforgettable agonies of one’s first love…I will read everything Patel writes from here on.’ Susie Yang, New York Times bestselling author of White Ivy

Lost in the jungle of Los Angeles, Akash Amin is filled with shame. Shame for liking men. Shame for wanting to be a songwriter. Shame for not being like his perfect brother. Shame for his alcoholism. And most of all, shame for what happened with the first boy he ever loved. When his mother tells him she is selling the family home, Akash must return to Illinois to confront his demons and the painful memory of a sexual awakening that became a nightmare.

Akash’s mum, Renu, is also plagued by guilt. She had it all: doting husband, beautiful house, healthy sons. But as the one-year anniversary of her husband’s death approaches Renu can’t stop wondering if she chose the wrong life thirty-five years ago and should have stayed in London with her first love.

Together, Renu and Akash pack up the house, retreating further into the secrets that stand between them. When their pasts catch up to them, Renu and Akash must decide between the lives they left behind and the ones they’ve since created.

By turns irreverent and tender, filled with the beats of ’90s R&B, Tell Me How to Be is about our earliest betrayals and the cost of reconciliation. But most of all, it is the love story of a mother and son each trying to figure out how to be in the world.


Refreshing...Defiant...Consistently surprising
The New York Times Book Review
Neel Patel writes with the wisdom and compassion of an old soul
Celeste Ng, bestselling author of Little Fires Everywhere
Surprising, funny...Brave
Patel turns his lens on Indian-Americans, addressing with depth and care subjects that are often overlooked or made into caricature: helicopter parents, conflicts between spouses, sibling rivalry, racism, sexual orientation, and identity
Vanity Fair
At turns heartbreaking and uplifting...Neel Patel upends stereotypes, especially Indian-American masculinity. He's at his most remarkable when illuminating the experience of queer men making sense of their sexuality, and allowing themselves to hope for a happy ending with the men they love
Patel's deep sense of empathy - and infuriatingly relatable characters - shines throughout. A melancholic pleasure with a sense of humour
A wonderful read: necessary, aching, and alive
Library Journal
A fresh new voice
Neel Patel pulls off something that I've rarely seen: stories about Indians in America which feel unique and thrilling without relying on stereotypes or tropes. His characters manage to be both sympathetic and deeply flawed, complicated people who don't give you clean answers. His stories will make you laugh, then cry, then feel uncomfortable, then feel free, all within a few pages. When you're done reading, you'll want to flip back to the beginning and read it all over again
Scaachi Koul, author of One Day We'll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter
Once in a while there comes a book that reminds us of why we read: to feel, to question, to grow. This is that book. A love letter to R&B, youth, and the unforgettable agonies of one's first love. The emotional truth of this indelibly portrayed family and their messy lives will leave you weeping and shattered. I will read everything Patel writes from here on.
Susie Yang, New York Times bestselling author of White Ivy