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The Folger Spotlight

Words, Words, Words: 'We That Are Young' by Preti Taneja

Bust of Shakespeare wearing thick rimmed glasses on an aqua background
Bust of Shakespeare wearing thick rimmed glasses on an aqua background

The Folger’s virtual book club, Words, Words, Words continues on Thursday, September 2 with a discussion of Preti Taneja’s We That Are Young. To get ready for the conversation, we’ve compiled some introductory information on this rich retelling of Shakespeare’s King Lear.

What is We That Are Young about?

We That Are Young by Preti Taneja

When a billionaire hotelier and political operator attempts to pit his three daughters against one another, a brutal struggle for primacy begins in this modern-day take on Shakespeare’s King Lear. Set in contemporary India, where rich men are gods while farmers starve and water is fast running out, We That Are Young is a story about power, status, and the love of a megalomaniac father.

A searing exploration of human fallibility, Preti Taneja’s remarkable novel reveals the fragility of the human heart—and its inevitable breaking point.

Critical Reception

“A page-turner that’s also unabashedly political—with the complex, ambiguous, fiercely felt politics of our time.” —The Guardian

“Taneja’s novel is brave and compulsively readable . . . The absolute mastery of her narrative style and the precision of her language is unforgettable; Shakespeare’s dominance over an imperialist educational system is rightly answered back by its inheritors . . . We That Are Young’s restaging of the core conundrums of Shakespeare’s tragedy in the light of global capitalism, in an era of competing superpowers, where truth and loyalty, too, comes at a price, will haunt readers for many generations to come.”— Los Angeles Review of Books

“A long, challenging, but inspired modernization of a classic—engaging, relevant, and very dark.”—Kirkus Reviews

Why did we pick this book?

The Folger Shakespeare Library’s collection explores not only Shakespeare’s life and works, but also the plays’ historical context, source material, critical and performance histories, and the ways in which they inspire and are adapted by contemporary novelists.

We That Are Young borrows its plot structure and character inspirations from Shakespeare’s King Lear, setting the story in modern-day India for a new cultural perspective on this centuries-old tale.

About the author: Preti Taneja

Preti Taneja was born in the England to Indian parents and spent most of her childhood holidays in New Delhi. She has worked as a human rights reporter and filmmaker in Iraq, Jordan, Rwanda, and Kosovo, and her work has been published in The Guardian and openDemocracy. A fellow at Warwick University, Preti’s 2014 novella, Kumkum Malhotra, won the Gatehouse Press New Fictions Prize. She is also the editor of Visual Verse and was selected as an AHRC/BBC Radio 3 New Generation Thinker for 2014.

Meet our Bookshop Partner: Solid State Books

For this session, we are excited to once again partner with Solid State Books. Ideally situated in the heart of the bustling and historic H Street Corridor, Solid State Books provides our neighborhood with a vital intellectual and social hub. To learn more, visit their website at

Orders may be placed by phone (202.897.4201 or 202.897.4202), email (, or by filling out this form. The shop is open everyday from 10am-7pm, and curbside pickup is available. You can also order through

This title can also be ordered as an e-book or as an audiobook from

Make a plan to join us on Thursday, September 2 to discuss We That Are Young. Visit our website to register and stay tuned for additional Folger resources to enrich the conversation.

We would like to thank the following organizations for their generous support of this program:


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