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Your Driver Is Waiting: A Novel

Your Driver Is Waiting: A Novel

by Priya Guns

Narrated by Priya Guns

Unabridged — 6 hours, 25 minutes

Priya Guns
Your Driver Is Waiting: A Novel

Your Driver Is Waiting: A Novel

by Priya Guns

Narrated by Priya Guns

Unabridged — 6 hours, 25 minutes

Priya Guns

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A MOST ANTICIPATED BOOK OF THE YEAR ¿ In this electrifyingly fierce and funny social satire-inspired by the iconic 1970s film Taxi Driver-a ride share driver is barely holding it together on the hunt for love, dignity, and financial security...until she decides she's done waiting. ¿ “What you are about to read is a call to arms. Best to prepare for a confrontation." -New York Times Book Review

"A perfect gut punch of a novel...Full of love and real friendship and frustrations boiled over and the urge to burn everything down...[The] writing is laser-focused and hilarious and full of aching need. This is a hard-hitting masterpiece.-Kristen Arnett, author of With Teeth and Mostly Dead Things

Damani is tired. Her father just died on the job at a fast-food joint, and now she lives paycheck to paycheck in a basement, caring for her mom and driving for an app that is constantly cutting her take. The city is roiling in protests--everybody's in solidarity with somebody--but while she keeps hearing that they're fighting for change on behalf of people like her, she literally can't afford to pay attention.    

Then she gives a ride to Jolene (five stars, obviously). Jolene seems like she could be the perfect girlfriend--attentive, attractive, an ally--and their chemistry is off the charts. Jolene's done the reading, she goes to every protest, and she says all the right things. So maybe Damani can look past the one thing that's holding her back: she's never dated anyone with money before, not to mention a white girl with money. But just as their romance intensifies and Damani finally lets her guard down, Jolene does something unforgivable, setting off an explosive chain of events.

A wild, one-sitting read brimming with dark comedy, and piercing social commentary and announcing Priya Guns's feverishly original voice, Your Driver Is Waiting is a crackling send-up of our culture of modern alienation.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly


Guns’ sharp and bonkers debut reimagines Taxi Driver for the Uber era. Damani Krishanthan, 30, drives long hours for RideShare in an unnamed American city, where her low commission rate can’t cover her bills and rent on the apartment she shares with her recently widowed mother (the household has also lost the income of Damani’s father, who died while working a fast-food job). Damani grinds out her gig, fighting exhaustion and keeping weapons close at hand for protection; passes a steady stream of protesters carrying “FUCK-this signs”; and hangs out at an abandoned warehouse-cum-night club, the Doo Wop Club, where she commiserates with fellow gig workers. Things seem to brighten after she books a fare with Jolene, a wealthy white activist with whom she develops a whirlwind romance. But when Jolene accompanies Damani to the Doo Wop Club, an argument ensues as Damani challenges Jolene’s abstract anticapitalistic ideas about how to handle predatory companies like RideShare. The third act, featuring Damani sporting a mohawk à la Travis Bickle, leads to a somewhat overheated ending, but there’s plenty of rich commentary on gig work, race, and white privilege. This has plenty of bite. Agent: David Forrer, InkWell Management. (Feb.)

From the Publisher

Named a Most Anticipated Book of the Year by BuzzFeed, Vogue, Nylon, Bustle, LitHub, The Millions, Autostraddle, Good Housekeeping, & more

"Your Driver Is Waiting is an ambitious project, taking on performative allyship, racial discrimination and the class system all at once...The novel's greatest strength [is] a ferocity of voice that belongs to Guns alone...What you are about to read is a call to arms. Best to prepare for a confrontation."
Camille Perri, New York Times Book Review

"Priya Guns turns Martin Scorsese’s 'Taxi Driver' upside down and inside out. Readers are advised to buckle their seat belts before opening these pages...Priya Guns deserves a big tip for taking us on such an enthralling ride."
Washington Post

"Travis Bickle, meet Toni Morrison, in a socially probing, fiercely fun debut novel...From the book’s opening pages, our protagonist’s life of not-so-quiet desperation is driven home by her creator’s powerful prose...It’s rare for a writer to marry such deep social consciousness with a comic, sultry romance, rarer still to pull that off in a way that satisfies and provokes the reader."
Los Angeles Times

"A combustible debut novel...Told in electric first-person prose, Your Driver Is Waiting is a rip-roaring story of family — blood and chosen — fighting to survive under capitalism...Nuanced in its character development and bold in its plotting, Your Driver Is Waiting possesses a scintillating alchemy. It’s an uppercut to the chin of a novel and an instantly memorable debut."
Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya, Autostraddle

"A punchy page-turner imbued with dark comedy and trenchant social commentary. Sri Lankan-born Guns sets her drama in a place engulfed by civil unrest, a city — unnamed — that 'thrived on the dreams of the smothered.' In contrast, Guns’ protagonist is named. More than that, she is fully fleshed out and emerges as a dynamic force to be reckoned with...Strap yourself in and enjoy the ride."
Seattle Times

"Guns’ insight into the burnout and precarity—physical, emotional, financial—of her protagonist is a damning commentary on the reality of those who are barely getting by in America...This novel is a lightning-fast read that asks incisive and pressing questions about power, violence, inequity, and humanity."

"Engrossing with a strong narrative voice, this is a book that will grab you and never let go."

"A retelling of the movie Taxi Driver featuring a ride-share driver? An incredible premise for a novel that explores work, class, and solidarity (or the lack thereof)."
Lydia Kiesling, The Millions

"A queer feminist retelling of the 1970's film Taxi Driver, this one had me laughing loud enough to draw looks on the subway, and that takes some doing. It's a crackling social commentary on the social justice movements of our time, the gig economy, performative wokeness and who gets to speak on behalf of the disadvantaged. It's a fast-paced read that begs to be devoured."
Good Housekeeping

"Priya Guns’s Your Driver is Waiting is a fierce and dynamic debut about Damani, a gig worker for a driving app who’s just trying to make enough money to survive as the city she lives in erupts in protest. When she falls for Jolene, a rich white woman who attends every protest, their romance takes Damani down a path she can’t escape from. Darkly comedic and piercing in its social commentary, Guns’s debut immediately marks her as a writer to watch for years to come."
Chicago Review of Books

"A punchy page-turner imbued with dark comedy and trenchant social commentary...Strap yourself in and enjoy the ride."
Minneapolis Star Tribune

"Priya Guns’ darkly humorous satire follows a South Asian rideshare driver through her days dealing with passengers’ microaggressions, drunkards’ vomit, and an epidemic of bad tippers. Things go from bad to worse after she meets a femme fatale in the form of a white self-proclaimed ally who turns out to be nothing of the sort."

“Priya Guns’s Your Driver is Waiting is so real it’s scary. A young woman, living in a nameless city where new causes pop up daily like pubescent pimples, struggles to decide where her true duty––to self, family, humanity––resides. Guns expertly exposes the palpable dangers of ‘well-meaning’ white folks and calls into question who, if anyone, is to be held accountable for the growing ills of modern society. However, she also shows us that a brighter world isn’t in our rear-view, but right in front of us, so long as we choose to drive on. You’ll want to take this ride.”
Mateo Askaripour, New York Times bestselling author of Black Buck

“A ferocious new voice. A fierce and immersive debut. A story that made me rock back and forth with awe. Priya Guns's voice blazes on the page with humor, heart, and a fortitude that is inspiring to behold. There's no doubt who's in the drivers' seat. I was just grateful to be along for the ride.”
—Weike Wang
, author of Joan is Okay and Chemistry

"Your Driver Is Waiting is a perfect gut punch of a novel. This is my favorite kind of writing, full of love and real friendship and frustrations boiled over and the urge to burn everything down. Priya Guns is phenomenal here, her writing is laser-focused and hilarious and full of aching need. This is a hard-hitting masterpiece. I devoured it."
—Kristen Arnett, author of With Teeth and Mostly Dead Things

"A compelling character study with an electrifying ending, Your Driver is Waiting offers a potent social critique overflowing with love, despair, passion, and rage. Priya Guns brings to the page a voice infused with both bravado and vulnerability in this madcap story you won’t want to put down."
—Rachel Yoder, author of Nightbitch

"From page one, this novel had its hands around my neck. A voice that is somehow simultaneously fearless and intensely vulnerable. The only thing slicker than her narrator's driving is Guns's ability to deliver sharp social commentary that will make you unsure of whether you want to laugh or cry. Your Driver Is Waiting is an unhinged joyride—whether you buckle up or not, you're sure to be gripping the edge of your seat."
Jean Kyoung Frazier, author of Pizza Girl

"In powerful and unrelenting prose, Priya Guns's Your Driver is Waiting has accomplished a nearly impossible feat: scathing social commentary about the inequalities of modern day America in a propulsive, funny and tender story about love, community and loss. Damani is an unforgettable heroine that now lives rent-free in my heart. Welcome her into yours."
—Cleyvis Natera, author of Neruda on the Park

"Your Driver Is Waiting captures something vital about our contemporary moment, about the millions of lives spent on the margins. It’s deft enough to navigate questions of class, precarity, race and economic displacement, while managing to be so full of hope, full of fight, full of heart."
—Keiran Goddard, author of Hourglass

"Guns’ sharp and bonkers debut reimagines Taxi Driver for the Uber era...This has plenty of bite."
Publishers Weekly

"Six months after her father's death, ride-share driver Damani endures inconsistent hours, low pay, and disastrous interactions to support herself and her mother...It's Damani's ferocious heart that makes Guns' debut impossible to put down; Damani's a lover and a fighter, start to finish."
Booklist (starred review)

"Remarkable...A fast-paced narrative with bite and, above all, Damani—smart, funny, brave and feral—a character not soon forgotten."
Toronto Star

Kirkus Reviews

A gender-swapped retelling of Taxi Driver.

Damani works long hours driving for a ride-share app in an unnamed city. She lives with her mother, who has been left so deeply depressed by her husband’s sudden death that she rarely leaves the couch. This debut novel is a retelling, of sorts, of Martin Scorsese’s classic film Taxi Driver. On a superficial level, Damani does resemble Scorsese’s Travis Bickle. She drives; she doesn’t sleep; she lifts weights. Unlike Bickle, though, who is profoundly alienated from everything and everyone he encounters, Damani has a circle of friends and an attachment to a kind of utopian, socialist community known as the Doo Wop. Bickle’s alienation has given way to Damani’s sense of solidarity. She is a queer woman of color, and her city has erupted into a series of protests aimed at everything from climate change to wealth disparities and police brutality. Near the end, a protester runs past Damani, shouting, “Abolish the military! Stop killing Muslims! Black lives matter!” The real trouble starts when Damani falls for a wealthy White woman named Jolene, as oblivious in her privilege as Damani is trapped in debt. Jolene fancies herself an activist, but her activism is lukewarm, and her parents pay for her lifestyle. A political argument between Jolene and Damani’s friends becomes excruciatingly awkward. Unfortunately, it isn’t clear what Guns’ intention is, either in this conversation or the book as a whole: While she seems to have meant the novel as a satire, the humor falls flat. The characters speak as though they are mouthpieces for someone else’s point of view. Neither Damani nor anyone else ever emerges as a fully fledged character. As a whole, the novel feels confused: vaguely dystopian, blurrily political, and not especially original.

Despite its ambitious premise, this debut novel never comes to life.

Product Details

BN ID: 2940174885165
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Publication date: 02/28/2023
Edition description: Unabridged

Read an Excerpt


If you’re going to be a driver, you’d better hide at least one weapon in your car. Especially if you’re a driver that looks like me. Not because I’m dashing or handsome, but because I am a woman, of course. I think it has something to do with tits even though not all of us have them. I sort of do, but that’s beside the point.

I’d been driving for RideShare using Appa’s old car, whose make I will not disclose. I had a switchblade in the glove compartment (which I normally kept in my back pocket), a tire iron under my seat, pepper spray by my door, and a pair of scissors under the mat by the pedals, taped down to avoid any sliding. In the trunk there were six bottles of water, a bucket, a bottle of bleach, some rope, a baseball bat, a few rolls of paper towels, a can of antiperspirant and another of spray paint, some condoms, tampons, pads, and diapers. As humans we have an assortment of bodily fluids and by then I’d tasted about eight of them. In the bucket—and I didn’t like keeping much in it—there was a roll of duct tape because duct tape will do just about anything you want it to. I also had some dishcloths, a towel, a crowbar, cleaning products, a toothbrush, baking soda, vinegar, and a squeegee buried under some rags in a corner of the trunk, because things got messy. Oh, and there was a pair of black rubber gloves too. These were difficult to find, but I wanted black.

All the drivers I’ve ever met say it’s crucial to drive prepared. Go ahead and ask one. If they tell you there’s not even one weapon hidden in their car, they’re lying. As a driver, you have to protect yourself. Out there in the city, we’re on our own.


I had only closed my eyes for a second and in this new place behind my eyelids, my hair was made of peacock feathers and I was riding a silver pony. The world here was simple. Smiley sun, fluffy clouds, grass that was greener than green on all sides. Then my head hit the steering wheel and I woke up to a long annoying honk reminding me that I was logged into the app, on the road, and in traffic. The driver behind me in a green hybrid flailed his arms around like he was late for his yearly dick suck.

“Fucking drive, bitch!”

“All right, all right. Good morning to you too,” I murmured to myself, smiling at him in my rear-­view. Of course I am allowed to nap—maybe not stuck in traffic, but if it happens it happens. I’m sorry?

My morning routine was straightforward. I wish I could say I started the day with the four highly effective habits of the wealthy. You know, they wake up at five a.m. and go for a walk without a care in the world. They brush their horses in their stable, masturbate at the breakfast bar in the house they own on their private island that they flew to on their personal jet. But I had too much work to do. I had no kids, no pets—just one job and a whole load of responsibilities. I mean, I’d love to wake up earlier and smash out a few sets. Only, I get home at two or three some mornings, struggle to sleep most nights, and am up again by seven. That’s not enough hours to properly rest my muscles, my mind, or even my thoughts.

It had only been about ten minutes since I left the house, and my phone was already buzzing. It was Amma. I hit “end” as I always did, wishing that sometimes it had more power than just ignoring a call. Again and again, her name flashed on my screen, and each time I did the same. Then she sent me the first round of the many messages she will send in a day.

7:57    We need $350 for the electricity bill. What happened to minimum payments?


8:00    Did U pay last months?

8:03    Garlic Causes Blood Clots—click here—SEE I TOLD YOU!

8:03    Dont drive like a crazy today

8:04    bye

They say mothers are in tune with their children even if the relationship they have with them is beyond what one might describe as “shitty.” Amma was sure that she knew me inside and out when she couldn’t even remember how to function like she used to. Somehow, she believed life was more draining for her than it was for me.


“That’ll be twenty-­three twenty-­five.” She must’ve been twenty-­three herself, and there she was judging me as I glanced at the items on the conveyor one last time. Iced coffee in a can, ginger ale, actual ginger, garlic, onions, cold rub, chilies, Epsom salts, two vanilla protein bars, dates, and some chocolate almonds. Twenty-­three dollars and twenty-­five cents. I’d need to either do two short rides or one in high surge to make the money back.

“I don’t need these actually.” I pushed the almonds to one side, knowing I’d regret it later.

The fluorescent lights in the shop were stupefying. I had noticed, in my quick perusal, that the organic foods were no longer in a separate section, but now had an aisle to themselves directly opposite the value options. On the left, a can of baked beans for half a dollar. On the right, a can of baked beans for three-­fifty. Someday I’ll buy one just to know what they taste like. If they melt in my mouth without a hint of aluminum, then they will be worth every penny. But if you’ve got culinary talent gurgling in your veins like I do, you don’t need the organic shit to make something near-­genius.

Row upon row behind me was packed full of boxes, bottles, and Tetra Paks colored in wisps of every hue: 100% Juice, Completely Sustainable, Ethically Made and Sold by Cherubs in Fancy Dress, No Orangutans Were Killed in the Process, Fair Fucking Trade. Nothing about any of the exchanges in this hellhole were fair. The city was trying to fool us all.

The old woman waiting for her turn behind me smiled while I rummaged through my pockets for another few coins. She wore yellow high socks and held a bag of oranges in her hands, with some milk and a packet of raisins. I was beyond any point of embarrassment that would allow me to care what she or the twenty-­three-­year-­old teller thought of my grown self looking for more money in my lint-­filled pockets.

“You can never find those coins when you need them.” I winked at the teller.

“And don’t they just love to hide. Did you check your back pocket? In your shoe? In your bra?” The old woman jested at my expense, laughing jovially at my predicament. She had had her fair share of living too seriously, it seemed—she threw jokes into the air as if she was going to die tomorrow. I plopped the change I found in my back pocket on the counter. I had hid a twenty-dollar bill in my hand and pulled it out from my hair. The old woman slapped her knee with the bag of oranges and I worried she’d fall over. She chuckled and I could tell she had been a smoker. I nodded at the teller, smiled at the old lady and grabbed my things. My phone vibrated. The shopping bag with all my twenty dollars and twenty cents’ worth of goods probably weighed about four pounds.

Outside there were kids playing in the street. Good for them, I thought. Better than losing their minds in front of a screen. But their motor skills weren’t fully formed. Their lanky arms and oversized palms clapped haphazardly into the air, missing their ball every now and then. All I could see were my wing mirrors cracking, and if that were to happen it would be another bill on top of the bills I already could not afford—even with Shereef’s discount at the garage—stacked on the kitchen counter.

“Watch it, kids. Don’t play near parked cars.”

“There are cars everywhere, lady. We’re all gonna die!”

Kids these days are so well-­informed. I got my phone out. “Hello, one sec, Amma. I’ll call you back.” Key in the ignition, I took a deep breath. The first of many for the day. A traffic light ahead, a left then right turn before waiting at a school crossing. I could do this drive in my sleep, but I wouldn’t, of course.

It was 8:16 in the morning. Mrs. Patrice’s bingo started at nine and she was usually my first ride of the day, and my favorite (5.0 stars). She had on her thin taupe trenchcoat with a motley-­colored scarf tied round her neck. I could smell her musky amber perfume even as she walked down the steps of her building. She was slow, so slow that most mornings I had time to smoke a whole cigarette before she got to the car.

“Good morning, Mrs. P.”

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