Boston Book Festival

October 25, 2014

One City One Story


The 2013 story has been chosen! The pick for One City One Story this year is “Karma” by Rishi Reddi. It was originally published in Karma and Other Stories and was the winner of the 2008 PEN New England / L.L. Winship prize for fiction. Distribution starts the week of September 2 in locations in and around Boston!

About 1C1S

The mission of the Boston Book Festival is to celebrate the power of words, to promote a culture of literature and ideas, and to enhance the vibrancy of the city of Boston, and in 2010 we launched One City One Story to do just that. One City One Story is the BBF’s version of an all-city read, but instead of a book, we print and distribute a short story. Our goal is to make a short story available to all free of charge, to spread the joy of reading for pleasure among the teens and adults of our city, and to create a community around a shared reading experience.

The Story and Its Author

The pick for One City One Story this year is “Karma” by Rishi Reddi. It was originally published in Karma and Other Stories and was the winner of the 2008 PEN New England / L.L. Winship prize for fiction.

Rishi Reddi Full Headshot
Rishi Reddi is the author of Karma and Other Stories and winner of the 2008 PEN New England / L.L. Winship prize for fiction. Her short stories have been aired on National Public Radio, performed at New York City’s Symphony Space, and published in Best American Short Stories, Harvard Review, and Prairie Schooner, among other journals. Her essays and translations have appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the Asian American Literary Review, and the Partisan Review. Her first novel, West, is forthcoming.

Rishi has been practicing environmental law for state and federal government for the past twenty years and has served on the boards of Grub Street Inc., Boston’s beloved creative writing center, and SAALT, a national nonpartisan organization that serves the South Asian-American community. She has lived in the Boston area for most of her adult life; the city and its suburbs provide the setting for much of her fiction.


In 2010, One City One Story’s inaugural year, we distributed thousands of free copies of Tom Perrotta’s story, “The Smile on Happy Chang’s Face,” offered online translations and downloads, and led citywide discussions leading up to a town-hall style discussion with the author at the Boston Book Festival. Our selection for 2011 was Richard Russo’s “The Whore’s Child.” We held library discussions, distributed the story throughout the city, offered the story in four different languages, and held a writing contest for the public. The 2012 selection was Anna Solomon’s “The Lobster Mafia Story.” We held an online reading group for the first time, in addition to library discussions, and a special discussion with the author. We offered a printed version in Spanish for the first time, as well as offering the story in four different languages electronically. We also held a writing contest.

Previous 1C1S Selections:

2012: “The Lobster Mafia Story” by Anna Solomon

2011: “The Whore’s Child” by Richard Russo

2010: “The Smile on Happy Chang’s Face” by Tom Perrotta

Find the Story

Local Places and Events

Find “Karma” somewhere near you! We will be distributing copies at the following locations and events. Thanks to our sponsors, Dunkin' Donuts, copies are available at select Dunkin' locations (see below). We hope to see you there!

Starting September 4th, copies will be available at:

All branches of the Boston Public Library

*Spanish edition available at:

Central Library
Codman Square
East Boston
Egleston Square
Grove Hall
Jamaica Plain
Parker Hill
South End
Uphams Corner

Copies also available at the following neighborhood locations:

Arlington Public Library

Back Bay
Barnes & Noble, Prudential Center
Ben & Jerry’s, 174 Newbury Street
Boloco, 1080 Boylston Street
Cafe 939
Dunkin' Donuts, 430 Stuart Street
Dunkin' Donuts, 333 Newbury Street
Dunkin' Donuts, 153 Massachusetts Avenue
Finagle a Bagel, 535 Boylston St
Newbury Comics
Pavement Coffeehouse, 1096 Boylston St
Pavement Coffeehouse, 286 Newbury St
Raven Used Books
Shop at Trinity
Starbucks, 443 Boylston St
Starbucks, 165 Newbury St
Trident Booksellers and Cafe

Belmont Public Library

Brookline Booksmith
Brookline Public Library, Main Branch
Brookline Public Library, Coolidge Corner Branch

Main Library
CPL Collins
CPL O'Connell

1369 Coffeehouse, 757 Massachusetts Ave
b.good, 24 Dunster St
Crema Cafe
Clover, 7 Holyoke St
Grolier Poetry Bookshop
Harvard Book Store
Harvard Coop
Million Year Picnic
Newbury Comics
Porter Square Books
Raven Used Books
Rodney’s Bookstore

Chelsea Public Library
Chelsea City Hall

Dunkin' Donuts, 1580-A Dorchester Ave
Subway, 1576 Dorchester Ave

Dunkin' Donuts, 8 Park Plaza
Dunkin' Donuts, 80 Boylston Street
Grub Street, Inc.

Jamaica Plain
Boomerangs,716 Centre St
City Feed and Supply
Dunkin' Donuts, 757 Centre St
Dunkin' Donuts, 684 Centre St
Hyde Square Task Force
JP Comics and Games
JP Licks, 659 Centre St
The Real Deal, 736 Centre St
Ula Cafe
Video Underground

Bestsellers Cafe

Newtonville Books

826 Boston
Dunkin' Donuts, 1926 Columbus Ave

Somerville Public Library, Main Branch
The Boston Shaker

South Shore
Hingham Public Library
Paul Pratt Memorial Library

Wellesley Books

Portsmouth, NH
Portsmouth Book & Bar

Distribution Schedule:

Sunday, September 1
Boston Ahts Festival (12pm)

Thursday, September 5
J.P. Centre/South First Thursday (6pm)

Sunday, September 8
Cambridge Carnival International (12pm)

Tuesday, September 10
Dewey Square Farmers Market (11:30am)

Saturday, September 14
Dorchester/Fields Corner Farmers Market (9am)

Sunday, September 15
SoWa Open Market (10am)

Saturday, September 21
Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration at Villa Victoria Center for the Arts (3pm)
*Spanish edition

Sunday, September 22
Hub on Wheels (11am)

Saturday, September 28
Berklee Beantown Jazz Festival (12pm)

Sunday, October 6
Boston Local Food Festival (11am)


We hope 1C1S will inspire readers to participate with us again this year!

Local Discussions

Discussion groups are scheduled at the following locations of the Boston Public Library:
Parker Hill: September 19th, 6:30pm
Faneuil: September 24th, 8pm
Roslindale, at the Roslindale House Senior Center: September 18th, 11am

Discussion Questions

1. “Karma” starts by comparing Shankar and Prakash. What does the story suggest that each of them values, and what does the story suggest are the more important things to value?

2. Tradition is important to the Balareddys, but there are times within the story that breaking from tradition is shown to be a way to grow—where in the story is tradition treated as important, and where do you see it shown as too restricting?

3. Shankar is fired from his job at the convenience store for being rude to a customer, even though the customer accused him of something he did not do. Does the story suggest he should have acted differently? Do you think he should have deferred to the customer? What would you do in his situation? Or, if you have experienced a similar dilemma, what did you do and how did it turn out?

4. We find out that one of the reasons Prakash asks Shankar to leave is because Prakash works with the man who cost Shankar his job at the convenience store. Does the story suggest that Prakash acted incorrectly, or does his past behavior and sacrifice excuse his choice?

5. “Tower kills” happen when birds become disoriented and lost in the city, and most of them that crash are ignored by the people of the city. Do you see any parallels between these birds and any of the people in the story? What do these connections imply?

6. Homelessness is a problem throughout the world, and it can be especially visible in big cities like Boston. Think about the scene between the homeless man and the business woman, and the scenes between Shankar and the “sober veteran”—are these familiar to you? What would you have done in Shankar’s place? How do you approach this issue in your life?

7. Is the ending of the story hopeful or frustrating? Based on how the story characterizes Shankar, does it seem likely he will grow, in his own time, or that he is not able to see himself as someone who can make a difference.

8. Think about the title, “Karma.” What do you know about the idea of “karma”? What does this suggest for how we should view the actions of the two brothers throughout the story? What does this suggest for their future?

9. We learn that, in his childhood, Shankar killed a lovebird at his brother’s urging—Is Shankar’s work with the animals in the hospital meant to be a penance for this action, or does it indicate something else? Does the story show Prakash, who urged his brother to kill the bird, receiving any kind of punishment?

10. Shankar often compares himself to his wife, Neha, and he does his best to ensure that he is putting as much effort forward as she is. In what ways is Shankar right in his comparison, and in what ways does he miss things that we as readers can see?

11. Have you been to any of the places in Boston described in the story, like Angell Memorial Hospital, or the Small Business Administration? Was your experience similar to Shankar’s? If not, how did it differ?

12. Shankar dreams of being a chef, but is worried that it will be too difficult and that those things are “for dreamers.” Is there something you have always dreamed of doing? How have you approached your dreams?

Writing Prompt

Write a short story (500-700 words) in which someone is forced to break from a tradition.

Additional Readings

Learn more about “tower kills” from and the New Jersey Audubon Society
The problem of Homelessness in Boston
Cultural background, including the Colonial History of India, Family Traditions, and a broad overview of Indian culture


Ask a question. Let us know what you think.

The Boston Book Festival
1100 Massachusetts Ave., Suite 300B
Cambridge, MA 02138

P: 617-945-9552


FB: 1C1S

T: @bostonbookfest (#1C1S)


News media requiring additional information should contact:

Joyce Linehan
Ashmont Media

T: (617) 282-2510



Taking a Page from Boston’s One City One Story

Panorama blog post announcement

One City One Story Project Manager

Nadine Frassetto

1C1S Committee

Callie Crossley, Nicole Lamy, Henriette Lazaridis Power, Ladette Randolph, Christina Thompson


Akshay Ahuja, Alicia Anstead, Elisa Birdseye, Kate Brown, Mark Krone, Katie Lynn Murphy, Sheila Scott, Betty Southwick, and the staff of WriteBoston.