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Drunk on Ink Q & A with Colleen Oakley and ‘Before I Go’

Drunk on Ink is a blast interview series conducted by Soniah Kamal, Jaggery Blog Editor and author of the forthcoming novel Unmarriageable: Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan. 

Colleen Oakley is an Atlanta-based writer and author of the novel Before I Go. Her articles, essays, and interviews have been featured in The New York Times, Ladies’ Home Journal, Marie Claire, Women’s Health, Redbook, Parade, and Martha Stewart Weddings. Before she was a freelance writer, Colleen was editor in chief of Women’s Health & Fitness and senior editor at Marie ClaireClose Enough to Touch is her second novel.

About Before I Go

Twenty-seven-year-old Daisy already beat breast cancer four years ago. How can this be happening to her again? On the eve of what was supposed to be a triumphant “Cancerversary” with her husband Jack to celebrate four years of being cancer-free, Daisy suffers a devastating blow: her doctor tells her that the cancer is back, but this time it’s an aggressive stage four diagnosis. She may have as few as four months left to live. Death is a frightening prospect—but not because she’s afraid for herself. She’s terrified of what will happen to her brilliant but otherwise charmingly helpless husband when she’s no longer there to take care of him. It’s this fear that keeps her up at night, until she stumbles on the solution: she has to find him another wife. With a singular determination, Daisy scouts local parks and coffee shops and online dating sites looking for Jack’s perfect match. But the further she gets on her quest, the more she questions the sanity of her plan. As the thought of her husband with another woman becomes all too real, Daisy’s forced to decide what’s more important in the short amount of time she has left: her husband’s happiness—or her own?

SONIAH KAMAL: First author/book you read/fell in love with?

COLLEEN OAKLEY: A Birthday for Frances by Russell Hoban

To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

Wine!

A novel, short story, poem, essay, anything you believe should be mandatory reading?

Too many to list!

Book: White Fragility by Robin Diangelo

Essay: The Case for Reparations by Ta-Nehisi Coates (published in The Atlantic)

Poem: Good Bones by Maggie Smith

Any classic you wished you’d pushed through in your teens?

No, I was a nerd and read everything required of me. However, I didn’t come to love Their Eyes Were Watching God until I re-read it as an adult. It’s now one of my favorite books of all time, which I think is an interesting, beautiful thing: how books don’t change, but the experience of reading them can vary wildly based on a reader’s perspective.

Favorite quote from your book 

“I suppose all couples feel this way at some point—that their bond is the most special, the strongest, the Greatest Love of All. Not all the time, just in those few and far between moments where you look at the person you’re with and think: Yes. It’s you.”

Favorite book to film?

Atonement. It perfectly evoked the very same emotions I had while reading the book. Which is to say, I cried buckets.

 Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

All of them! But I especially love Annell Gerson at The Book Miser in Roswell and all the foxy foxes at FoxTale in Woodstock.

The one think you wish you’d known about the writing life?

That the quicker you grow a thick skin the better— I’m still waiting for mine to come in.

Does writing/publishing/marketing get any easier with each story/novel published?

No.

Dog, Cat, Or?

Dogs!

Ideal vacation?

Somewhere picturesque, quiet, off the beaten path with perfectly crafted cocktails and endless books to read.

Favorite book cover?

The Immortalists  by Chloe Benjamin

Favorite song?

For Good, from Wicked the Musical

Recommend a Small Press and/or Literary Journal?

A Public Space Journal

Last impulse book buy and why?

Becoming, by Michelle Obama. How can anyone resist? She is everything.

Soniah Kamal’s novel Unmarriageable: Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan    a contemporary re-imagining of Pride and Prejudice and set in Pakistan, has received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Library Journal and is Library Reads Pick and An Amazon.com Best Book. Her debut novel An Isolated Incident was a finalist for the Townsend Award for Fiction, the KLF French Fiction Prize, and is an Amazon Rising Star pick. Soniah’s short story ‘Jelly Beans’ was selected for the Best South Asian Short Stories Anthology 2017. Her TEDx talk is about regrets and redemption. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, Buzzfeed, Catapult, The Normal School, Literary Hub, and has been widely anthologized. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Georgia State University where she was a Paul Bowles Fellow in Fiction. She currently teaches creative writing at Rhineheart University. Soniah will be giving a keynote address at the Jane Austen Summer Program Conference (2019) and she is a Jane Austen Literacy Ambassador. 

More Drunk on Ink Interviews:

Emily Midorikawa:  A Secret Sisterhood: The Literary friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, George Eliot and Virginia Woolf

Shabnam Samuel: A Fractured Life, memoir

Elise Hooper: The Other Alcott, a novel

Anne Boyd Rioux: Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters, non fiction

Devoney Looser: The Making of Jane Austen, non fiction

Kristen Miller ZohnThe Currency of Taste- Gibbons Georgian Silver, coffee table book

Vanessa HuaA River of Stars, novel

Chaitli SenThe Pathless Sky, novel

Sonya HuberPain Woman Take Your Keys, memoir

Kathy Wilson FlorenceThree of Cups, a novel

Sara Luce LookCharis Books and More, independent book store

S J SinduMarriage of a Thousand Lies, a novel

Rosalie Morales KearnsKingdom of Men, a novel

Saadia FaruqiMeet Yasmin, children’s literature

Rene DenfeldThe Child Finder, a novel

Jamie BrennerThe Husband Hour, a novel

Sara MarchantThe Driveway has Two Sides, memoir

Kirsten Imani KasaiThe House of Erzulie, a novel

Thrity UmrigarThe Secrets Between Us, novel

John Kessel, Pride and Prometheus, novel

Lisa Romeo, Starting with Goodbye: A Daughter’s Memoir of Love After Loss

Rachel May, An American Quilt: Unfolding a Story of Family and Slavery

Rebecca Entel, Fingerprints of Previous Owners, novel

Jamie Sumner, Unbound: Finding from Unrealistic Expectations of Motherhood

Falguni Kothari, My Last Love Story, novel

Tanaz BathenaA Girl Like That, YA novel

Drunk on Ink Q & A with Emily Midorikawa and ‘A Secret Sisterhood: The literary friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolf, ’

Drunk on Ink is a blast interview series conducted by Soniah Kamal, Jaggery Blog Editor and author of the forthcoming novel Unmarriageable: Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan. 

Emily Midorikawa is the author of A Secret Sisterhood: The literary friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Bront?, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolf, co-written with Emma Claire Sweeney and with a foreword by Margaret Atwood. Emma and Emily also run the website Something Rhymed, which celebrates female literary friendship. Emily is a winner of the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize. Her journalism has appeared in, among others, the Daily Telegraph, the Paris Review, The Times and the Washington Post.

About A Secret Sisterhood

A Secret Sisterhood tells the stories of the literary friendships of Jane Austen and amateur-playwright / family-governess Anne Sharp; Charlotte Bronte and early feminist author Mary Taylor; the seemingly aloof George Eliot and ebullient Harriet Beecher Stowe; and Katherine Mansfield and Virginia Woolf, most often portrayed as bitter foes, but who, in fact, enjoyed a complex creative bond.

SONIAH KAMAL: First author/book you read/fell in love with? Why?

EMILY MIDORIKAWA: As a child, I loved Enid Blyton’s mystery stories and also her school stories, especially the Malory Towers series. I was a big fan of Judy Blume too.

To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

I love a cup of tea or a glass of red wine.

A novel, short story, poem, essay, anything you believe should be mandatory reading? 

Anything by Jean Rhys is worth reading. I read After Leaving Mr Mackenzie when I was a teenager and it completely blew me away. Her writing made me feel that (in skilled hands like Rhys’s) there were no limits to what language could do).

Any classic you wished you’d pushed through in your teens?

I’ve somehow never got round to reading War and Peace.

Favorite quote

I love Harriet Beecher Stowe’s comment in a letter to George Eliot that book-writing, from an author’s perspective, resembles ‘a hand stretched forth in the dark passage of life to see if there is another hand to meet it’.

Favorite book to film? 

Peter Weir’s 1975 film of Joan Lindsay’s novel Picnic at Hanging Rock is immensely atmospheric and stays true to the atmosphere of the novel. I love re-watching it. I think Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown, adapted from Elmore Leonard’s Rum Punch, is great too.

Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

This is really tough, since I have quite a few favorites, but perhaps it’s Persephone Books in London – home of the publisher of the same name. They publish works by neglected, mostly female authors from the mid-twentieth century, and their small shop is a lovely place to discover forgotten literary treasures.

The one think you wish you’d known about the writing life?

It’s easier with good friends. As a child, I bought into the well-worn stereotype of the isolated writer – someone shut away in a garret with only their words for company! As such, I imagined writing would be a very solitary profession. Of course, the nature of authoring a book means that you are bound to spend many hours cooped up on your own, but my interest in writing has also led me to make many wonderful fellow-writer friends. I’m lucky to have met my Secret Sisterhood co-author Emma very early on in our careers, and so I’ve had her at my side right from the beginning. We give each other writerly advice, swap early drafts of stories, celebrate the good times together and help to pick the other one up whenever the going gets tough.

Does writing/publishing/marketing get any easier with each story/novel published?

In a way it does. You at least have the knowledge that you have done this before. You know that you can finish writing a book or a story. Regarding the publicity side of things, you’re also able to learn from past successes and misfires, in terms of what has worked or not worked in the past. On the other hand, each new project brings its own challenges. In many ways, it was a joy to work with Emma on A Secret Sisterhood, but when you have two authors – both with strong opinions – working on a single book this means that you are going to spend a lot of time debating the fine detail. This could occasionally get frustrating, but in the end we realized that, by arguing things out between us at a desk, we had taken our manuscript through a really rigorous drafting process even before we showed the final draft to our editors.

Dog, Cat, Or?

I have no pets.

Ideal vacation?

My mother was Japanese and I lived in Japan for a couple of years when I was in my early twenties, so I always love revisiting Japan – both the nostalgia of returning to old haunts and the excitement of discovering new places.

Favorite book cover?

I feel very lucky that the cover designer for A Secret Sisterhood did an excellent job of conveying what lay inside. Aside from this one, though – which of course holds a special place in my heart – I really like the beautiful yet chilling design for The Wicked Cometh by Laura Carlin.

Favorite song?

Again, it’s very hard to pick just one, but ‘Think’ by Aretha Franklin would be right up there.

Favorite painting/ work of art?

Abstraction White Rose by Georgia O’Keefe

Any Lit Festival anecdote you want a share? A great meeting with a fan? An epiphany?

Back in the autumn of 2017, Emma and I were delighted to give the keynote speech at the George Eliot Fellowship’s 46th Annual Lecture. Among the audience members was a sixth-form student, Jess Molyneux, who had travelled some distance to be there. We enjoyed talking with Jess and were so happy when she got in touch many months later to ask if we would be interested in featuring a post by her – on the literary friendship between Charlotte Mew and  May Sinclair – on our blog Something Rhymed. It’s always nice to meet readers at festivals, and especially when that meeting turns out to be just the start of a connection that stretches into the future.

What is your favorite Austen novel, and film adaptation? 

Sense and Sensibility – the Ang Lee picture starring Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet – is full of warmth and humour. I first saw it at the cinema when it came out in the mid-nineties and I feel that it has stood the test of time.

Recommend a Small Press and/or Literary Journal?

The Good Journal – a new British magazine featuring the work of UK writers of color.

Last impulse book buy and why?

A writer I follow on Instagram posted an image of Did She Kill Him?: A Victorian tale of deception, adultery and arsenic by Kate Colquhoun. I was instantly intrigued by the sound of this Victorian true crime and ordered it right away.

Soniah Kamal’s novel Unmarriageable: Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan    a contemporary re-imagining of Pride and Prejudice and set in Pakistan, has received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Library Journal and is Library Reads January 2019 pick. Her debut novel An Isolated Incident was a finalist for the Townsend Award for Fiction, the KLF French Fiction Prize, and is an Amazon Rising Star pick. Soniah’s short story ‘Jelly Beans’ was selected for the Best South Asian Short Stories Anthology 2017. Her TEDx talk is about regrets and redemption. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, Buzzfeed, Catapult, The Normal School, Literary Hub, and has been widely anthologized. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Georgia State University where she was a Paul Bowles Fellow in Fiction. She currently teaches creative writing at Rhineheart University. Soniah will be giving a keynote address at the Jane Austen Summer Program Conference (2019) and she is a Jane Austen Literacy Ambassador. 

More Drunk on Ink Interviews:

Shabnam Samuel: A Fractured Life, memoir

Elise Hooper: The Other Alcott, a novel

Anne Boyd Rioux: Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters, non fiction

Devoney Looser: The Making of Jane Austen, non fiction

Kristen Miller ZohnThe Currency of Taste- Gibbons Georgian Silver, coffee table book

Vanessa HuaA River of Stars, novel

Chaitli SenThe Pathless Sky, novel

Sonya HuberPain Woman Take Your Keys, memoir

Kathy Wilson FlorenceThree of Cups, a novel

Sara Luce LookCharis Books and More, independent book store

S J SinduMarriage of a Thousand Lies, a novel

Rosalie Morales KearnsKingdom of Men, a novel

Saadia FaruqiMeet Yasmin, children’s literature

Rene DenfeldThe Child Finder, a novel

Jamie BrennerThe Husband Hour, a novel

Sara MarchantThe Driveway has Two Sides, memoir

Kirsten Imani KasaiThe House of Erzulie, a novel

Thrity UmrigarThe Secrets Between Us, novel

John Kessel, Pride and Prometheus, novel

Lisa Romeo, Starting with Goodbye: A Daughter’s Memoir of Love After Loss

Rachel May, An American Quilt: Unfolding a Story of Family and Slavery

Rebecca Entel, Fingerprints of Previous Owners, novel

Jamie Sumner, Unbound: Finding from Unrealistic Expectations of Motherhood

Falguni Kothari, My Last Love Story, novel

Tanaz BathenaA Girl Like That, YA novel

Drunk on Ink Q & A with Shabnam Samuel and ‘A Fractured Life’

Drunk on Ink is a blast interview series conducted by Soniah Kamal, Jaggery Blog Editor and author of the forthcoming novel Unmarriageable: Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan. 

Shabnam Samuel is a writer, coach, social media trainer, and the founder of the Panchgani Writers’ Retreat, an international writing retreat based out of Panchgani, India. The retreat incorporates mindful living along with creativity and wellness following Ayurveda principles, with yoga, meditation and writing workshops. As a writer, Shabnam has been writing ever since she can remember. Her essays have been published online in Brain Child Magazine and Your Tango.  Shabnam also hosts a local TV show called Dew Drops and Words that broadcasts to 2.4 million viewers on the MHz network in the Washington, DC area. You can find her on YouTube under the name ‘Dew Drops and Words’. Shabnam is also a business coach and she mentors with the Empowered Women International in Alexandria, Virginia, an organization that helps train low-income, immigrant, and refugee women on how to be a successful entrepreneurs.

About A Fractured Life.

Abandoned by her parents as a three-year-old, and ultimately leaving her home country India for a new life in America as a young mother of a three-year-old son, this is not only an immigrant’s story, but a poignant and powerful memoir that is at first, one of sadness and continuing adversity, but ultimately one of strength, purpose, and the universal triumph of hope. It is a story of dislocation, disruption, and despair, and brings focus to the silencing of girlhood and womanhood and how with time, love, and support we can work our way out of that silence.Raised by an orphan of the Russian Revolution and an Indian Sepoy who, during WWI was stationed in Iraq (Mesopotamia), her story arc begins in a small town called Cuttack in the East of India and takes her to the capital of the most powerful nation in the world, Washington DC. It is a humanizing story of mixed races, religion, and continents. Shabnam Samuel was twenty seven when she moved to the US, carrying with her a troubled marriage, an almost estranged husband, and a three-year-old son. Hoping to create a fresh start from everything that was holding her down, it took Shabnam twenty-five years of trials and tribulations to finally find her voice, her strength, and her place in this world.

SONIAH KAMAL: First author/book you read/fell in love with? 

SHABNAM SAMUEL: The first author I fell in love with was Enid Blyton. The families that she created with the Famous Five, were families that I longed to belong to. They had everything, that I did not have.

To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

Chai, Chai , all the way!

A novel, short story, poem, essay, anything you believe should be mandatory reading?

Okay, don’t laugh, Archie and Jughead comics!!  In your youth to show you that life should be one where you can laugh and as an adult to tell you not to take life too seriously.

Any classic you wished you’d pushed through in your teens?

Moby Dick. I gave up mid way.

Favorite quote  

I do not understand the mystery of grace-only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us”-

Anne Lamott. I am not sure which of her books this is from. I want to say Bird by Bird, but I could be wrong.

Favorite book to film? 

The Godfather. Everything was so brilliantly portrayed. The voice, the intonations, the accent, just about everything.

Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

Curious Iguana in Frederick, MD

The one think you wish you’d known about the writing life?

That once you write a book (non-fiction) you are supposed to keep writing essays that revolve around your theme.

Does writing/publishing/marketing get any easier with each story/novel published?

I am not so sure. This is my first book.

Dog, Cat, Or?  

Parrot.

Ideal vacation?

Sea, sun and my ideal partner.

Favorite book cover?

Can I say mine?

Favorite song?

As of now a Bollywood song called Hawayein from the movie  Jab Harry Met Sejal.

Favorite painting/ work of art?  

My son’s drawing  of a lion and a poem he wrote to go with it when he was 9.

Any Lit Festival anecdote you want a share? A great meeting with a fan? An epiphany?

I was at the Bangalore Literature Festival in October and the women and girls who came up to tell me, how my book inspired them to write their own stories.

What is your favorite Austen novel, and film adaptation?

Sense and Sensibility. I loved the costumes, the drama, the humor the bonnets!!

Recommend a Small Press and/or Literary Journal?

Green Writers Press out of Vermont.

Last impulse book buy and why?

You know, I actually never buy books impulsively. I buy a lot of them but each one is carefully considered. I read mostly memoirs, but will buy all friends books that I am connected to.

Soniah Kamal’s novel Unmarriageable: Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan    a contemporary re-imagining of Pride and Prejudice and set in Pakistan, has received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Library Journal and is Library Reads January 2019 pick. Her debut novel An Isolated Incident was a finalist for the Townsend Award for Fiction, the KLF French Fiction Prize, and is an Amazon Rising Star pick. Soniah’s short story ‘Jelly Beans’ was selected for the Best South Asian Short Stories Anthology 2017. Her TEDx talk is about regrets and redemption. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, Buzzfeed, Catapult, The Normal School, Literary Hub, and has been widely anthologized. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Georgia State University where she was a Paul Bowles Fellow in Fiction. She currently teaches creative writing at Rhineheart University. Soniah will be giving a keynote address at the Jane Austen Summer Program Conference (2019) and she is a Jane Austen Literacy Ambassador. 

More Drunk on Ink Interviews:

Elise Hooper: The Other Alcott, a novel

Anne Boyd Rioux: Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters, non fiction

Devoney Looser: The Making of Jane Austen, non fiction

Kristen Miller ZohnThe Currency of Taste- Gibbons Georgian Silver, coffee table book

Vanessa HuaA River of Stars, novel

Chaitli SenThe Pathless Sky, novel

Sonya HuberPain Woman Take Your Keys, memoir

Kathy Wilson FlorenceThree of Cups, a novel

Sara Luce LookCharis Books and More, independent book store

S J SinduMarriage of a Thousand Lies, a novel

Rosalie Morales KearnsKingdom of Men, a novel

Saadia FaruqiMeet Yasmin, children’s literature

Rene DenfeldThe Child Finder, a novel

Jamie BrennerThe Husband Hour, a novel

Sara MarchantThe Driveway has Two Sides, memoir

Kirsten Imani KasaiThe House of Erzulie, a novel

Thrity UmrigarThe Secrets Between Us, novel

John Kessel, Pride and Prometheus, novel

Lisa Romeo, Starting with Goodbye: A Daughter’s Memoir of Love After Loss

Rachel May, An American Quilt: Unfolding a Story of Family and Slavery

Rebecca Entel, Fingerprints of Previous Owners, novel

Jamie Sumner, Unbound: Finding from Unrealistic Expectations of Motherhood

Falguni Kothari, My Last Love Story, novel

Tanaz BathenaA Girl Like That, YA novel

Drunk on Ink Q & A with Elise Hooper and ‘The Other Alcott’

Drunk on Ink is a blast interview series conducted by Soniah Kamal, Jaggery Blog Editor and author of the forthcoming novel Unmarriageable: Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan. 

Elise Hooper lives with her husband and two young daughters in Seattle, where she writes and teaches literature and history. The Other Alcott is her first novel. Learning to See will be releasing January 29, 2018.

About The Other Alcott

Elise Hooper’s debut novel conjures the fascinating, untold story of May Alcott—Louisa’s youngest sister and an artist in her own right. We all know the story of the March sisters, heroines of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. But while everyone cheers on Jo March, based on Louisa herself, Amy March is often the least favorite sister. Now, it’s time to learn the truth about the real “Amy”, Louisa’s sister, May.  Stylish, outgoing, creative, May Alcott grows up longing to experience the wide world beyond Concord, Massachusetts. While her sister Louisa crafts stories, May herself is a talented and dedicated artist, taking lessons in Boston, turning down a marriage proposal from a well-off suitor, and facing scorn for entering what is very much a man’s profession.  Life for the Alcott family has never been easy, so when Louisa’s Little Women is published, its success eases the financial burdens they’d faced for so many years. Everyone agrees the novel is charming, but May is struck to the core by the portrayal of selfish, spoiled “Amy March.” Is this what her beloved sister really thinks of her?So May embarks on a quest to discover her own true identity, as an artist and a woman. From Boston to Rome, London, and Paris, this brave, talented, and determined woman forges an amazing life of her own, making her so much more than merely “The Other Alcott.”

SONIAH KAMAL: First author/book you read/fell in love with?

ELISE HOOPER: I’ve loved books for as long as I can remember, but I didn’t think much about the authors behind them until I was about nine or ten and visited Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House in Concord, MA. It sounds silly, but it wasn’t until I traipsed through her little bedroom and saw the desk at which she wrote Little Women that I realized that actual people wrote books and maybe I could write them too.

To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

Depending on the time of day, I’m happy to unwind with an iced tea or cocktail.

A novel, short story, poem, essay, anything you believe should be mandatory reading?

Oh boy, how about the Constitution?

Any classic you wished you’d pushed through in your teens?

This is an unpopular opinion, but I’m not a huge fan of Wuthering Heights. I’ve tried several times and just can’t slog through it.

A favorite quote from your book 

“I long to turn back the clock and mend the rift between us, though now that I think on it, if I could go back in time when would I go back to? When was our relationship ever simple?”

Your favorite book to film?

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen it, but I remember thinking that The Joy Luck Club adapted surprisingly well to the big screen.

Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

I have so many favorites! My daughter’s swim team practice is close to Island Books (Mercer Island, WA) so this is the independent bookstore that I visit the most. The staff is awesome and they always offer great book recommendations.

The one thing you wish you’d known about the writing life?

I held off on trying to write a book telling myself I needed to wait until life settled down and my kids got older. Well, it took a while, but finally I realized that life doesn’t settle down one bit as kids get older, it just changes. So I just dove in and started working and have been surprised by the delight I’ve taken in writing as my girls have developed as readers and writers. My daughters have seen my books take shape and I love that there’s no mystery about the creative process for them. They understand that if you want to produce something, you have to sit down and work on it for a long time. Creative work doesn’t just appear in a poof of special magic sparkle dust. It comes from hard work and a whole lot of elbow grease.

Does writing/publishing/marketing get any easier with each story/novel published?

I’m not sure yet because I only have one book out, but I can let you know after Learning to See is released (January 29, 2018).

Dog, Cat, Or?

Dogs all the way.

Favorite book cover?

This is a tough one! I just got up and scanned my bookshelves. Stolen Beauty by Laurie Lico Albanese is gorgeous. All of that gold? Mmmm.

Favorite song?

We’re still gaga for Hamilton at my house. I’m still trying to get all the words down to “Satisfied.”

Recommend a Small Press and Literary Journal?

Flights, the literary journal produced by students at the school where I teach.

Last impulse book buy and why?

A staff recommendation tag at Elliott Bay Book Company drew me into buying Sawbones by Melissa Lenhardt a couple of weeks ago. It described it as a feminist Lonesome Dove and I was SOLD!

Soniah Kamal’s novel Unmarriageable: Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan is forthcoming from Penguin Random House. PRE ORDER . Her debut novel An Isolated Incident was a finalist for the Townsend Prize for Fiction, the KLF French Fiction Prize, and an Amazon Rising Star pick. Soniah’s TEDx talk, Redreaming Your Dream, is about regrets, second chances and redemption. Her story Jelly Beans was selected for The Best Asian Stories Series 2017 and her award winning and Pushcart Prize nominated work has appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times, The Guardian, BuzzFeed, Literary Hub, Catapult and The Normal School.More Drunk on Ink Interviews:

More Drunk on Ink Interviews:

Anne Boyd Rioux: Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters, non fiction

Devoney Looser: The Making of Jane Austen, non fiction

Kristen Miller ZohnThe Currency of Taste- Gibbons Georgian Silver, coffee table book

Vanessa HuaA River of Stars, novel

Chaitli SenThe Pathless Sky, novel

Sonya HuberPain Woman Take Your Keys, memoir

Kathy Wilson FlorenceThree of Cups, a novel

Sara Luce LookCharis Books and More, independent book store

S J SinduMarriage of a Thousand Lies, a novel

Rosalie Morales KearnsKingdom of Men, a novel

Saadia FaruqiMeet Yasmin, children’s literature

Rene DenfeldThe Child Finder, a novel

Jamie BrennerThe Husband Hour, a novel

Sara MarchantThe Driveway has Two Sides, memoir

Kirsten Imani KasaiThe House of Erzulie, a novel

Thrity UmrigarThe Secrets Between Us, novel

John Kessel, Pride and Prometheus, novel

Lisa Romeo, Starting with Goodbye: A Daughter’s Memoir of Love After Loss

Rachel May, An American Quilt: Unfolding a Story of Family and Slavery

Rebecca Entel, Fingerprints of Previous Owners, novel

Jamie Sumner, Unbound: Finding from Unrealistic Expectations of Motherhood

Falguni Kothari, My Last Love Story, novel

Tanaz BathenaA Girl Like That, YA novel

Bearing Too Many Burdens: BEYOND BOLLYWOOD, THE SMITHSONIAN EXHIBIT ON INDIAN AMERICANS

by Sushumna Kannan

Beyond Bollywood is a promising title–to go beyond a culture’s stereotypes is as hard as any task could get. As we walk through this much-awaited exhibit on Indian Americans that is currently showing across different cities in the US and will do so until 2020, we realize that perhaps we expected a little too much of the title. For, in attempting to rid ourselves of one set of stereotypes, we often find them replaced with others—others that are somehow better or more positive stereotypes to have than the older ones. This is not to say that Beyond Bollywood is less important and could have been given a miss. Instead, in Beyond Bollywood, we witness a genuine and deep struggle to redefine a community against the current of simplistic, consumerish, dismissive understanding. However, such a redefinition is too arduous a task.

To replace Bollywood with a more realistic understanding of Indian Americans, the exhibit invokes yoga, fusion music born in the US with bhangra and hip hop, Indian art forms, festivals, Indian American doctors, dentists, engineers, motel owners and more. With orange-pink displays of catalogs accompanying large and small photographs–the exhibit is alluring and sleek. It is complete with multimedia installations that allow us to listen to music, watch videos and such. It has a hodge-podge of showcased items ranging from Indian jewelry, footwear, idols, lamps, postcards of miniature paintings, crafted jewelry boxes, musical instruments and other knick-knacks.

In a display titled, Desis, united we stand–a narrative on the aftermath of racial profiling of desis and protests against it is recorded. The “we” here is a proud Indian American community somewhat inclusive of other South Asians. The “we” includes second generation Indian American kids born in the US as well as Indians who migrated a generation ago and still are. This kind of clubbing of a large and diverse set of people makes it hard to understand who the intended viewer of this exhibit might be. The intended viewer appears to shift from the Desi community, to the second-generation kid to White Americans who eye us suspiciously in malls, parks and neighborhoods. While the exhibit is celebratory for the first two groups, it is informative for the last. Yet, it is not clear if talking of yoga and henna helped take the conversation forward.

In an accompanying display titled “divided we fall,” we are shown desis demonstrating for women’s rights and LGBT rights and protesting against racial discrimination, domestic violence. This nicely contemporizes the community’s involvement in American society, displacing the stereotype of the placid and safe Indian American. In a display titled “Let’s Dance,” again a celebratory tone takes over— “America has embraced Bollywood style dancing…” In a display titled “Freedom of Religion,” is another celebratory note on how diverse Indian Americans are. Yet, the true reference of this celebration is India itself–not just the fact that we enrich American landscapes with different architectural structures. Often, this reference back to India is missing. This leaves us feeling somewhat inadequate about the display…like we might have just heard one half of a sentence with ellipses at the end. An underlying assertion in this display is that Indian Americans are indeed a part of America–which is tragic because a number of White Americans do not think so–this sentiment of rejection accentuated by Trump’s recent policies.

In a display titled, “Freedom Here and There,” there is reference briefly to India and its freedom’s struggle. It reveals interesting facts about early immigrants who connected the struggles for freedom in India from British as well as their own for “dignity and rights” in the USA. More history on early immigrants from Punjab is intriguing. The history of Bhagat Singh Thind’s citizenship is extraordinarily fascinating. Yet, the ones on Spelling Bee, Cab drivers, motel owners and the like introduces Indian Americans to White Americans too sporadically rather than telling a more complicated story and capturing the less celebratory aspects of Indian Americans with dignity. A display on the American stereotypes on India with an update on how Indian Americans now play themselves onscreen and Bollywood has taken a hold in America is another celebratory voice. A display asking, “Who are Indian Americans?” kind of shifts to the White American as the intended audience, taking on the burden of providing information.

Beyond Bollywood has many interesting and arresting moments but no one vision that holds it together. It does not talk abou the uncomfortable and the celebratory voice loses its charm after a point. It could have, for instance, talked about how Yoga has adapted to America, with most teachers being non-American Indian. Or even invoked controversies about Yoga’s religious nature which parents often object to in schools. There could have been something more on Indian contributions to science and philosophy that connected to Indian Americans and something more on Indian dance forms–they appeared to lack details of the spiritual basis that is their bedrock. Arranged marriage, dowry and caste system should have been explained–unflinchingly, even if our theories of these appear impoverished, embarrassed, apologetic and un-decolonized at the moment.

How Indian Americans feel and relate should have been explored instead of an enumerative catalogue. The enumeration makes us wonder if nothing has changed since the British history of India at all and if India’s diversity still unnerves the western mind. At least, in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, one sees an explanatory note on the excessive classification and categorization that was thought to produce knowledge. There should have been a mention of the summer holidays that second generation Indian American kids spend in India, what they love and hate about them, the parent-child conflict, the H4 work visa issue, immigration as such, home-sickness even when mostly at home in America and so on.

Lacking all these diverse narratives undercutting each other and offering only one grand narrative on Indian Americans, the Smithsonian’s curation of Beyond Bollywood reads like the State’s narrative through a government spokesperson who aims to please one and all and educates and informs in a diplomatic manner as well. On the whole, the exhibit bears too many burdens all at once–of being current, proud and useful. Despite this, the exhibit is timely, not because there is a rich narrative played out but because there is widespread ignorance about Indian Americans in American society, in 2018–more than a full century after the East and West met as never before, in the 19th century!

(this article originally appeared in Matters of Art)

 

Dr. Sushumna Kannan is teaches in the Dept. of Women’s Studies at San Diego State University. She is Senior Book Reviews Editor at Jaggery Lit.  

Drunk on Ink Q & A with Jennifer S Brown and ‘Modern Girls’

Drunk on Ink is a blast interview series conducted by Soniah Kamal, Jaggery Blog Editor and author of the forthcoming novel Unmarriageable: Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan. 

Jennifer S. Brown is the author of the novel Modern Girls. She has published fiction and creative nonfiction in Fiction Southeast, Cognoscenti, The Best Women’s Travel Writing, The Southeast Review, and Bellevue Literary Review, and elsewhere. Her essay “The Codeine of Jordan” was selected as a notable essay in 2012’s The Best American Travel Writing. She has a BFA in film and television from New York University and an MFA in creative writing from the University of Washington, Seattle. This makes her uniquely suited to write film reviews, which would be great if she hadn’t stopped going to the movies when her kids were born

About Modern Girls

Modern Girls is the story of what happens when, in New York in 1935, an immigrant mother, Rose, and her unmarried 19-year-old daughter, Dottie, both discover they’re pregnant. The news upends their lives: Rose had eagerly anticipated returning to the political activism of her youth, and Dottie, with a promotion at work, had great career ambitions. With war on the horizon and traditions to uphold, the two must wrestle with their beliefs and their consciences as they decide how to reconcile their longings with the realities of this new modern world in which they live. Kirkus Reviews called Modern Girls “a clear-eyed view of the sharp, difficult choices facing women on the cusp of equality.”

SONIAH KAMAL:First author/book you read/fell in love with?

JENNIFER S. BROWN: I was a voracious reader as a child so picking the first is difficult.  I would say the books of Judy Blume, but that feels a little cliché and I can’t be sure that’s correct. I also loved Anne of Green Gables, the Nancy Drew books, and The Chronicles of Narnia. The first book I was passionate about, though, was a picture book that was read to me, Beady Bear . Reading it now though (as I still have my childhood copy), the message is terrible. Beady Bear, a wind-up toy bear, goes off to explore but gets stuck when he winds down. So the message is don’t be adventurous because you’ll end up scared and alone and in need of rescuing? Eek!

To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

Bourbon! And more specifically the bourbon drinks my husband makes, which depending on mood, is either a Black Manhattan or a Sazerac.

A novel, short story, poem, essay, anything you believe should be mandatory reading?

The Awakening by Kate Chopin.

Any classic you wished you’d pushed through in your teens?

I still have not read Wuthering Heights nor Jane Eyre. I own copies of both and they stand, forlorn, in my to-be-read pile. Both are on the top of my “summer books” pile. Alas, I will admit, it’s not the first summer that they’ve been on top of the pile.

A favorite quote from your book 

“…I realized that what takes just a moment in time can be stitched into an entire story that lasts an entire lifetime, can be tattooed and never forgotten. That one moment would stay with me across continents and oceans; through marriage and deaths; against the distance of decades, and that one moment is as real and current as the feel of my sweat on a August day or my son’s hand tugging on the bottom of my dress or a kiss from Ben under cover of the dark on a Shabbes night.”

Your favorite book to film?

In general, I’m not a huge fan of the book to film. I prefer either to watch the film or read the book. Invariably, when I do both, I’m disappointed. However, the one time I was completely enamored by both a book and its film (well, a mini-series) was Middlemarch (trailer). The miniseries on PBS enchanted me and didn’t suffer in comparison to the novel by George Eliot.

Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

Indie books stores are my happy place! For many years, my favorite local indie was Porter Square Books. Porter Square Books is still dear to me, but my loyalty is now divided because an amazing new bookstore even closer to my home has opened, Belmont Books

The one think you wish you’d known about the writing life?

That being published is not a panacea. Don’t get me wrong: I’m beyond thrilled my novel, Modern Girls, is in the world. But it wasn’t a magical key to happiness and it doesn’t make writing books any easier and it doesn’t make me feel like an accomplished writer. I’m still struggling now as I did before.

Does writing/publishing/marketing get any easier with each story/novel published?

Gads, no! In fact, I think it makes it harder because now you have these little voices whispering, “Is it as good as the last one? Will your readers like it? Will your agent like it?” Before being published, I only had to worry about what I thought. I’m learning to tune out those voices, but it’s challenging.

Dog, Cat, Or?

I’m desperate to own a cat but my husband, daughter, and mother are all allergic, and apparently it’s bad form to make your family sick.

Favorite book cover?

This version of Anita Loos’s Gentlemen Prefer Blondes  is so gorgeous, I had to be talked out of buying it, as a different version included the sequel, But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes. While I like that cover too, I’m still tempted to buy the first version simply to display on my shelf. (And if you haven’t read these, they are magnificent windows into life in the 1920s and totally fun reads.)

Favorite song?

Right now I’m grooving on “Havana” by Camila Cabello, because the sound reminds me so much of home (Miami Beach, Florida). However, I also adore the old jazz standards, and Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong’s “They Can’t Take that Away from Me” always gets me singing (which isn’t necessarily a good thing—I’m a terrible singer).

Ideal Vacation?
I’m a city girl through and through, and while I’m charmed by the idea of sitting by a lake with a book, I’m happiest when I’m simply wandering a city, discovering new things. As I write this, I’m in New York, and I’m dragging my husband around to simply look at buildings. Because I’m enamored of history (and hence historical fiction), I like knowing what was here before. The New York Public Library has a web site and app called OldNYC.org. It’s a map of New York and you can look up any corner and find archival photos from the NYPL digital collection. We’ve been wandering the Lower East Side, stopping every block so I can see what it looked like in the 1930s and 1940s (yes, I’m a geek). I love seeing the tidbits of history that remain.
Favorite painting/art? 
My mother is an artist and I grew up surrounded by artwork. She earned both her BFA and her MFA in sculpture when I was a child. While other mothers in South Florida worked as lawyers or stayed at home baking cookies, my mom learned how to weld. I’ve visited countless museums and I could name a million pieces I love that everyone is familiar with (and I especially love those that now charm my children; my daughter and I have made it a point to visit as many Degas “Little Dancer” sculptures as we can), my mom’s work is my favorite. Of all of her work, the one that sparks my imagination the most, is an installation called Seduction Forest 
Literary Festival Anecdote?
I can’t tell my favorite anecdote, because it involves naming names, and I don’t think I can do that. 🙂 However, I will tell my most disastrous reading: I flew to Florida (from Boston) for a talk/reading. On Wednesday, November 9, 2016. Oy! Of course I’d had no sleep the night before, as I’d been up late and then I couldn’t sleep so I was up early. What I remember most from that day is not the reading, but seeing the “Trump Triumphs” headlines on the New York Times. The turnout was, understandably, small, and the folks at the venue were so flustered they hadn’t made arrangements for my presentation to be projected. So numb with shock, without my visual aids, to a very small room, I gave my talk, which, considering it’s about reproductive freedom and immigration to the U.S., felt hauntingly timely. The audience was lovely. The organizers apologized and said they normally get a larger crowd, but I assured them, if I hadn’t already said I’d be there, I’d have been at home, curled up in a fetal position. That was a tough one!
Favorite Jane Austen Novel and screen adaptation?
I don’t mean to be a cliche, but Colin Firth! I watched that Pride and Prejudice, I don’t know how many times, just to see Colin Firth in that wet shirt. 

Favorite Small Press and Literary Journal?

I subscribe to a teeny-tiny journal called Inch, put out by Bull City Press. I mean teeny-tiny quite literally. It’s eight pages long and isn’t much bigger than my hand.  The prose is under 750 words and the poetry not longer than nine lines. Flash fiction is an obsession of mine, so it’s exciting when a new issue arrives in my mailbox.

Last impulse book buy and why?

Amy Bloom’s White Houses. I’m working on a novel based on a real person, and although I have a gigantic stack of books based on real people (wonderful books! The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict, Terrible Virtue by Ellen Feldman, Euphoria by Lily King…), when I saw the book on the new release table at Belmont Books, I couldn’t resist. I’ve read about Mrs. Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok in Loving Eleanor, but I was interested in a new take on it.

Soniah Kamal’s novel Unmarriageable: Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan is forthcoming from Penguin Random House. PRE ORDER . Her debut novel An Isolated Incident was a finalist for the Townsend Prize for Fiction, the KLF French Fiction Prize, and an Amazon Rising Star pick. Soniah’s TEDx talk, Redreaming Your Dream, is about regrets, second chances and redemption. Her story Jelly Beans was selected for The Best Asian Stories Series 2017 and her award winning and Pushcart Prize nominated work has appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times, The Guardian, BuzzFeed, Literary Hub, Catapult and The Normal School.

More Drunk on Ink Interviews:

Anne Boyd Rioux: Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters, non fiction

Devoney Looser: The Making of Jane Austen, non fiction

Kristen Miller ZohnThe Currency of Taste- Gibbons Georgian Silver, coffee table book

Vanessa HuaA River of Stars, novel

Chaitli SenThe Pathless Sky, novel

Sonya HuberPain Woman Take Your Keys, memoir

Kathy Wilson FlorenceThree of Cups, a novel

Sara Luce LookCharis Books and More, independent book store

S J SinduMarriage of a Thousand Lies, a novel

Rosalie Morales KearnsKingdom of Men, a novel

Saadia FaruqiMeet Yasmin, children’s literature

Rene DenfeldThe Child Finder, a novel

Jamie BrennerThe Husband Hour, a novel

Sara MarchantThe Driveway has Two Sides, memoir

Kirsten Imani KasaiThe House of Erzulie, a novel

Thrity UmrigarThe Secrets Between Us, novel

John Kessel, Pride and Prometheus, novel

Lisa Romeo, Starting with Goodbye: A Daughter’s Memoir of Love After Loss

Rachel May, An American Quilt: Unfolding a Story of Family and Slavery

Rebecca Entel, Fingerprints of Previous Owners, novel

Jamie Sumner, Unbound: Finding from Unrealistic Expectations of Motherhood

Falguni Kothari, My Last Love Story, novel

Tanaz BathenaA Girl Like That, YA novel

Drunk on Ink Q & A with Anne Boyd Rioux and “Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters”

Drunk on Ink is a blast interview series conducted by Soniah Kamal, Jaggery Blog Editor and author of the forthcoming novel Unmarriageable: Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan. 

Anne Boyd Rioux is the author or editor of six books about nineteenth-century American women writers, including Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters, which will be published on August 21, 2018. She has also written Constance Fenimore Woolson: Portrait of a Lady Novelist,  named one of the ten best books of the year by the Chicago Tribune. She is a professor of English at the University of New Orleans and the recipient of two National Endowment for the Humanities fellowships, one for public scholarship.

About Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters

Soon after publication on September 30, 1868, Little Women became an enormous bestseller and one of America’s favorite novels. Its popularity quickly spread throughout the world, and the book has become an international classic. When Anne Boyd Rioux read the novel in her twenties, she had a powerful reaction to the story. Through teaching the book, she has seen the same effect on many others. In Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy, Rioux recounts how Louisa May Alcott came to write Little Women, drawing inspiration for it from her own life. Rioux also examines why this tale of family and community ties, set while the Civil War tore America apart, has resonated through later wars, the Depression, and times of changing opportunities for women. Alcott’s novel has moved generations of women, many of them writers: Simone de Beauvoir, J. K. Rowling, bell hooks, Cynthia Ozick, Jane Smiley, Margo Jefferson, and Ursula K. Le Guin were inspired by Little Women, particularly its portrait of the iconoclastic young writer, Jo. Many have felt, as Anna Quindlen has declared, “Little Women changed my life.”  Today, Rioux sees the novel’s beating heart in Alcott’s portrayal of family resilience and her honest look at the struggles of girls growing into women. In gauging its current status, Rioux shows why Little Women remains a book with such power that people carry its characters and spirit throughout their lives.

SONIAH KAMAL: First author/book you read/fell in love with? Why?

ANNE BOYD RIOUX: Betsy, Tacy, and Tib by Maud Hart Lovelace because it transported me to a simpler time of evenings gathered around the piano and afternoons roaming the outdoors with your best friends. I wanted desperately to go there. And ever since I’ve had a romantic attachment to the 19th century. Go figure.

To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

Wine, preferably Sauvignon Blanc.

A novel, short story, poem, essay, anything you believe should be mandatory reading? 

Little Women because we all need to read more books about women and girls and this one is the best for thinking about what it’s like to grow up in a female body and to adjust your dreams along the way.

Any classic you wished you’d pushed through in your teens?

Little Women—sadly I didn’t read it until graduate school. Although it did me a lot of good in my early twenties, I wish I had read it earlier, and I think it’s an important YA book, although it’s often pigeonholed as a book for little girls.

 Favorite quote from your book

This is from Elena Ferrante’s acclaimed novel My Brilliant Friend (2011).

Lila and Lenú meet every day for months in the courtyard to read Little Women together, “so many times that the book became tattered and sweat-stained, it lost its spine, came unthreaded, sections fell apart. But it was our book,” Lenú explains, “we loved it dearly.”

 Favorite book to film?

I’d sound like a broken record if I said Little Women, so I’ll say Pride and Prejudice. I loved the BBC miniseries with Colin Firth. I think I watched it twenty times, and I had the soundtrack on cassette tape. I listened to it while I was studying and writing all through graduate school.

Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

Octavia Books in New Orleans. They are amazing.

The one thing you wish you’d known about the writing life?

It’s hard to pinpoint one thing. I keep being surprised by it. Probably the most important thing I’ve learned, though, is that, as a nonfiction writer, I need to tell the story in my own voice. As an academic, I learned to let other people tell the story and to quote a lot. But I’ve had to retrain myself as I write for a general audience now.

Does writing/publishing/marketing get any easier with each story/novel published?

Yes, thank God! There are still many things to learn, though, as each project is different.

Dog, Cat, Or?

Both really.

Ideal vacation?

English countryside with a trip to London.

Favorite book cover?

I’m a sucker for the Penguin Classic black covers.

Favorite song?

“Sunday Bloody Sunday” by U2

Favorite painting/art?

I’m quite fond of the art of Charlie Harper and William Morris

Any Lit Festival anecdote you want a share? A great meeting with a fan? An epiphany?

I love meeting fans of Little Women and hearing their stories of how they read the book to rags growing up. The most astonishing was from a woman in her fifties who recited Beth’s death scene from memory, although she hadn’t read the book in decades.

Recommend a Small Press and/or Literary Journal?

I’m not sure if this counts as a small press, but I’m very impressed by the books being put out by the New York Book Review Classics.

Last impulse book buy and why?

Becoming Americans in Paris: Transatlantic Culture Between the World Wars—because I’ve become fascinated with an American woman writer, Kay Boyle, who lived in France between the wars and actually stayed there until 1941, only leaving when she had to after the German invasion.

Soniah Kamal’s novel Unmarriageable: Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan is forthcoming from Penguin Random House. PRE ORDER . Her debut novel An Isolated Incident was a finalist for the Townsend Prize for Fiction, the KLF French Fiction Prize, and an Amazon Rising Star pick. Soniah’s TEDx talk, Redreaming Your Dream, is about regrets, second chances and redemption. Her story Jelly Beans was selected for The Best Asian Stories Series 2017 and her award winning and Pushcart Prize nominated work has appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times, The Guardian, BuzzFeed, Literary Hub, Catapult and The Normal School.

More Drunk on Ink Interviews:

Devoney Looser: The Making of Jane Austen

Kristen Miller Zohn: The Currency of Taste- Gibbons Georgian Silver, coffee table book

Vanessa Hua, A River of Stars, novel

Chaitli Sen, The Pathless Sky, novel

Sonya HuberPain Woman Take Your Keys, memoir

Kathy Wilson FlorenceThree of Cups, a novel

Sara Luce LookCharis Books and More, independent book store

S J SinduMarriage of a Thousand Lies, a novel

Rosalie Morales KearnsKingdom of Men, a novel

Saadia FaruqiMeet Yasmin, children’s literature

Rene DenfeldThe Child Finder, a novel

Jamie BrennerThe Husband Hour, a novel

Sara MarchantThe Driveway has Two Sides, memoir

Kirsten Imani KasaiThe House of Erzulie, a novel

Thrity UmrigarThe Secrets Between Us, novel

John Kessel, Pride and Prometheus, novel

Lisa Romeo, Starting with Goodbye: A Daughter’s Memoir of Love After Loss

Rachel May, An American Quilt: Unfolding a Story of Family and Slavery

Rebecca Entel, Fingerprints of Previous Owners, novel

Jamie Sumner, Unbound: Finding from Unrealistic Expectations of Motherhood

Falguni Kothari, My Last Love Story, novel

Tanaz Bathena, A Girl Like That, YA novel

 

Drunk on Ink Q & A with Devoney Looser and ‘The Making of Jane Austen’

Drunk on Ink is a blast interview series conducted by Soniah Kamal, Jaggery Blog Editor and author of the forthcoming novel Unmarriageable: Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan. 

Devoney Looser is the author of The Making of Jane Austen (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2017), named a Publishers Weekly Best Summer Book (Nonfiction). She is Professor of English at Arizona State University and the author or editor of six other books on literature by women. Her recent writing has appeared in The Atlantic, the New York Times, Salon, The TLS, and Entertainment Weekly, and she’s had the pleasure of talking about Austen on CNN. Looser, who has played roller derby as Stone Cold Jane Austen, was named a 2018 Guggenheim Fellow, in support of her next book project on the once-celebrated, now-forgotten sister novelists, Jane and Anna Maria Porter. She’s on Twitter at @devoneylooser and @Making_Jane. You can learn more about what’s she’s up to at www.devoney.com)

About The Making of Jane Austen

Just how did Jane Austen become the celebrity author and the inspiration for generations of loyal fans she is today? Devoney Looser’s The Making of Jane Austen turns to the people, performances, activism, and images that fostered Austen’s early fame, laying the groundwork for the beloved author we think we know. Here are the Austen influencers, including her first English illustrator, the eccentric Ferdinand Pickering, whose sensational gothic images may be better understood through his brushes with bullying, bigamy, and an attempted matricide. The daring director-actress Rosina Filippi shaped Austen’s reputation with her pioneering dramatizations, leading thousands of young women to ventriloquize Elizabeth Bennet’s audacious lines before drawing room audiences. Even the supposedly staid history of Austen scholarship has its bizarre stories. The author of the first Jane Austen dissertation, student George Pellew, tragically died young, but he was believed by many, including his professor-mentor, to have come back from the dead.  Looser shows how these figures and their Austen-inspired work transformed Austen’s reputation, just as she profoundly shaped theirs. Through them, Looser describes the factors and influences that radically altered Austen’s evolving image. Drawing from unexplored material, Looser examines how echoes of that work reverberate in our explanations of Austen’s literary and cultural power. Whether you’re a devoted Janeite or simply Jane-curious, The Making of Jane Austen will have you thinking about how a literary icon is made, transformed, and handed down from generation to generation.

Check out The Making of Jane Austen’s three-minute book trailer. (link? https://youtu.be/wrb3TMfqqf4)

SONIAH KAMAL: First author/book you read/fell in love with?

DEVONEY LOOSER: My first favorite book to have read to me was Dr. Seuss’s Yertle the Turtle, but when I began reading on my own, I adored the Nancy Drew series.

To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

Coffee, wine, or preferably both.

A novel, short story, poem, essay, anything you believe should be mandatory reading?

Audre Lorde’s “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action.”

Any classic you wished you’d pushed through in your teens?

I couldn’t read the Chronicles of Narnia past The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. I tried. I am not proud of this.

A favorite quote from your book 

The Making of Jane Austen . . . charts old and new fashions, things that change and those that endure, setting out on an expedition to redraw Austen-Land on a few more maps, across time as well as oceans.”

Your favorite book to film?

Might I choose two? Pride and Prejudice mini-series (BBC, 1995), from Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (1813) and Clueless (1995), from Austen’s Emma (1816)

Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

In New York City, The Strand.

In Phoenix, Changing Hands.

The one thing you wish you’d known about the writing life?

That there is no magic hour of the day to write or place to write or writing process trick that you are going to learn from someone else that makes it all fall together for you. You have to do it regularly enough that you find your own right answer.

Does writing/publishing/marketing get any easier with each story/novel published?

Only if you let it!

Dog, Cat, Or?

No pets, but we have sons, who are not as easily trained as pets and certainly not as loyal. However, we are lucky to have a neighbor’s dog as our occasional foster dog: Dolly, a toy poodle.

Devoney & Sons reading her book’s first one-star review on Amazon.

Favorite book cover?

My friend Tara Ison’s cover for her short-story collection, Ball.

Favorite song?

The Upper Crust’s “Let Them Eat Rock.

Literary Festival Anecdote? 

The Decatur Book Festival was such a blast and a literature-loving blur. One moment I found myself in the food line, talking about memoir writing with rocker Richard Lloyd, of Television fame, and the next moment I was dancing with Shannon Hale (author of Austenland). You just never know where Jane Austen will take you, even at a literary festival!
Ideal Vacation? 
My ideal vacation would always include London. There’s still so much I haven’t seen in and around London, including Walpole’s Strawberry Hill House. I’d revisit Chawton, Bath, and Stratford-upon-Avon, but I’d love to go on a longer literary pilgrimage that included more British writers’ homes and literary sites. I’ve never been to the Brontës’ Haworth, Scott’s Abbotsford, or Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage.
Favorite work of art?

I would hate to have to choose just one, but any list of my top 10 would include Artemisia Gentileschi’s Judith Slaying Holofernes (c. 1614-20). Seeing Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party with my mom in the 1980s, when I was a college student, was an incredibly memorable art experience. I love following contemporary art, too, and am a huge fan of the work Cindy Sherman, Barbara Kruger, and Jeffrey Vallance

What is your favorite Austen novel and film adaptation? Why?
Again, making a Janeite choose a favorite one is a painful exercise! My favorite Austen novel has long been Pride and Prejudice. For sheer beauty, laughter, and fun as a reading experience, it just doesn’t get better than that for me. I wonder if my opinion will ever change?
My favorite film adaptation has changed more often, but Ang Lee and Emma Thompson’s Sense and Sensibility (1995) is at the top of my list of those films working to be faithful to the original to some degree, and Amy Heckerling’s Clueless (1995) is at the top for those that aren’t. I’m sure that my love of those has everything to do with the time in my life when I saw then—in my late 20s, when I was first embarking on a career as an Austen scholar and first teaching Austen to college students.

Favorite Small Press and Literary Journal?

Small press: Feminist Press

Literary journal: The Superstition Review.

Last impulse book buy and why?

I got a gift card to Shakespeare & Co. for my birthday and bought The Library: A Catalogue of Wonders (2018) by Stuart Kells. I’m looking forward to reading it!

Soniah Kamal’s novel Unmarriageable: Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan is forthcoming from Penguin Random House. PRE ORDER . Her debut novel An Isolated Incident was a finalist for the Townsend Prize for Fiction, the KLF French Fiction Prize, and an Amazon Rising Star pick. Soniah’s TEDx talk, Redreaming Your Dream, is about regrets, second chances and redemption. Her story Jelly Beans was selected for The Best Asian Stories Series 2017 and her award winning and Pushcart Prize nominated work has appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times, The Guardian, BuzzFeed, Literary Hub, Catapult and The Normal School.

More Drunk on Ink Interviews:

Kristen Miller Zohn: The Currency of Taste- Gibbons Georgian Silver, coffee table book

Vanessa Hua, A River of Stars, novel

Chaitli Sen, The Pathless Sky, novel

Sonya HuberPain Woman Take Your Keys, memoir

Kathy Wilson FlorenceThree of Cups, a novel

Sara Luce LookCharis Books and More, independent book store

S J SinduMarriage of a Thousand Lies, a novel

Rosalie Morales KearnsKingdom of Men, a novel

Saadia FaruqiMeet Yasmin, children’s literature

Rene DenfeldThe Child Finder, a novel

Jamie BrennerThe Husband Hour, a novel

Sara MarchantThe Driveway has Two Sides, memoir

Kirsten Imani KasaiThe House of Erzulie, a novel

Thrity UmrigarThe Secrets Between Us, novel

John Kessel, Pride and Prometheus, novel

Lisa Romeo, Starting with Goodbye: A Daughter’s Memoir of Love After Loss

Rachel May, An American Quilt: Unfolding a Story of Family and Slavery

Rebecca Entel, Fingerprints of Previous Owners, novel

Jamie Sumner, Unbound: Finding from Unrealistic Expectations of Motherhood

Falguni Kothari, My Last Love Story, novel

Tanaz Bathena, A Girl Like That, YA novel

Drunk On Ink Q & A with Kristen Miller Zohn and “The Currency of Taste: The Gibbons Georgian Silver”

Drunk on Ink is a blast interview series conducted by Soniah Kamal, Jaggery Blog Editor and author of the forthcoming novel Unmarriageable: Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan. 

Read Jaggery Issue 12, Fall 2018

Art historian Kristen Miller Zohn lives and works in Columbus, Georgia, where she is the Executive Director of the Costume Society of America.  She also serves as Curator of Collections and Exhibitions for the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art in Laurel, Mississippi.  Ms. Miller Zohn has an M.A. from Florida State University and a B.A. from Salem College in North Carolina, both in Art History.  She is a 2016 graduate of The Summer School of the Attingham Trust for the Study of Historic Houses and Collections.  Miller Zohn has written numerous exhibition catalogues and is a contributing author to Central to Their Lives: Southern Women Artists in the Johnson Collection (Columbia: U of South Carolina P, 2018) and Grandeur of the Everyday: The Paintings of Dale Kennington (Tuscaloosa: U of Alabama P, 2017). She has published articles about Jane Austen and the visual arts in Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA) publications, Persuasions and Persuasions On-Line.

About  The Currency of Taste: The Gibbons Georgian Silver Collection of the Lauren Rogers Museum of ArtT.

Kristen Miller Zohn’s most recent publication is The Currency of Taste: The Gibbons Georgian Silver Collection of the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art.  This full-color, 136-page book explores silver implements associated with dining, drinking, and luxury. The publication offers insight into the production, use, and aesthetics of Georgian silver.

 First author/book you read/fell in love with? Why?

The Monster at the End of This Book: Starring Lovable, Furry Old Grover by author Jon Stone and illustrator Michael Smollin.  Grover reads the title and begs the reader not to turn the pages, but the monster turns out to be him.  I loved Sesame Street and Grover in particular, and this book was read to me in a most dramatic fashion. I also adored Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit series , because our library had diminutive vintage editions with green hardback covers, and I loved them as objects.

To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

Wine, or even better, Bourbon

Tell Us About Georgian Silver

The Georgian period in British history is regarded by many as the pinnacle of elegance and refinement in art and architecture, and it produced some of the finest silver and other decorative arts ever made. In order to live in polite society, a Georgian needed to possess “taste,” or the ability to recognize and appreciate beauty and excellence, which they showed off with expensive possessions such as silver objects. Moreover, the gustatory pleasures of the beverages and foodstuffs involved in sumptuous Georgian meals were enhanced by the visual aesthetics of these objects.  Georgian silversmiths used the diverse styles of the 18th and early 19th centuries (Baroque, Rococo, Neoclassical, Regency) to produce multitudes of silver objects, from the simplest of spoons and the plainest drinking vessels to elegant personal objects and dramatic table centerpieces.

Rococo coffee pot

Storr Tureen

Paul Storr, London, Soup Tureen on Stand, 1794–1795, Silver,

A Lauren Rogers Museum of Art purchase in memory of Thomas M. Gibbons 76.10

A novel, short story, poem, essay, anything you believe should be mandatory reading? Why?

I can’t think of anything that should be universally mandatory, but I would suggest that everyone should have their own favorite of each.

Any classic you wished you’d pushed through in your teens?

Middlemarch by George Eliot. I started it three times, the first in my teens, but could never get past the first few chapters. It is too verbose for my taste.

Favorite quote from your book 

From the chapter on Silver for Alcohol and Other Household Luxuries: “Madeira was Thomas Jefferson’s favorite wine, and it was used to toast the signing of the Declaration of Independence, thus signaling the end of Georgian rule in America.”

Favorite book to film?

The 1995 Pride and Prejudice produced by BBC. The almost six-hour length allowed the inclusion of most of the plot and dialogue, and the casting, costuming, set design, and score were all spot-on.

Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

Hills & Hamlets Bookshop in the Serenbe development of Chattahoochee Hills, Georgia. Owners Josh Niesse and Megan Bell curate an intriguing collection of new and antique books.

Dog, Cat, or?

Dog.  I am partial to the Italian Greyhound, a miniature breed.

Bo Bartlett (American, born 1955), Enzo, 2018, oil on panel

What is your favorite painting/art piece? 

As an art historian who has seen multitudes of artwork, it has always been hard for me to choose a favorite. Until recently, that is. The painter Bo Bartlett is known for large-scale figurative pieces, and pet portraits are not part of his oeuvre. However, he repaid a favor from me by producing a portrait of my dog Enzo. It is absolutely the best painting I have ever seen!

 Ideal vacation?

Traveling to any location with excellent museums, architectural history, and foodways.

 Favorite book cover?

The Birmingham Museum of Art’s The Look of Love: Eye Miniatures from the Skier Collection by Graham C. Boettcher, cover design by James Edward Williams.

Favorite song?

Blackbird by The Beatles

Any Lit Festival anecdote you want a share? A great meeting with a fan? An epiphany?

In 2012, Dr. Cornel West was one of the speakers at JASNA’s Annual General Meeting. His enlightening presentation “Power and Freedom in Jane Austen’s Novels”  was like a sermon, and we all felt so proud to be Janeites after hearing him speak. Later, as he stood for pictures with his new acolytes, he called us sisters and brothers, and bent his tall body down so that his face would be on the same level as ours. He is a very gracious person.

Recommend a Small Press and/or Literary Journal?

JASNA’s journal Persuasions is excellent, and Nathan Moehlmann at Goosepen Studio & Press does amazing work in graphic design, book design, and production.  He designed and produced The Currency Of Taste.

Last impulse book buy and why?

Citizen Emperor: Napoleon in Power by Philip Dwyer because I thought I’d see what the French were up to during Austen’s life.

Unknown English maker, Coffeepot, 1773, Silver and wood, Gift of Thomas M. and Harriet S. Gibbons LRMA 82.16

Soniah Kamal’s novel Unmarriageable: Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan is forthcoming from Penguin Random House. PRE ORDER . Her debut novel An Isolated Incident was a finalist for the Townsend Prize for Fiction, the KLF French Fiction Prize, and an Amazon Rising Star pick. Soniah’s TEDx talk, Redreaming Your Dream, is about regrets, second chances and redemption. Her story Jelly Beans was selected for The Best Asian Stories Series 2017 and her award winning and Pushcart Prize nominated work has appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times, The Guardian, BuzzFeed, Literary Hub, Catapult and The Normal School.

More Drunk on Ink Interviews:

Vanessa Hua, A River of Stars, novel

Chaitli Sen, The Pathless Sky, novel

Sonya HuberPain Woman Take Your Keys, memoir

Kathy Wilson FlorenceThree of Cups, a novel

Sara Luce LookCharis Books and More, independent book store

S J SinduMarriage of a Thousand Lies, a novel

Rosalie Morales KearnsKingdom of Men, a novel

Saadia FaruqiMeet Yasmin, children’s literature

Rene DenfeldThe Child Finder, a novel

Jamie BrennerThe Husband Hour, a novel

Sara MarchantThe Driveway has Two Sides, memoir

Kirsten Imani KasaiThe House of Erzulie, a novel

Thrity UmrigarThe Secrets Between Us, novel

John Kessel, Pride and Prometheus, novel

Lisa Romeo, Starting with Goodbye: A Daughter’s Memoir of Love After Loss

Rachel May, An American Quilt: Unfolding a Story of Family and Slavery

Rebecca Entel, Fingerprints of Previous Owners, novel

Jamie Sumner, Unbound: Finding from Unrealistic Expectations of Motherhood

Falguni Kothari, My Last Love Story, novel

Tanaz Bathena, A Girl Like That, YA novel

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Drunk on Ink Q & A with Vanessa Hua and ‘A River of Stars’

Drunk on Ink is a blast interview series conducted by Soniah Kamal, Jaggery Blog Editor and author of the forthcoming novel Unmarriageable: Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan. 

read Issue 12. Fall 2018. 

Vanessa Hua is a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle and the author of a short story collection, Deceit and Other Possibilities, and a debut novel,  A River of Stars. For two decades, she has been writing, in journalism and fiction, about Asia and the Asian diaspora. She has received a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, the San Francisco Foundation’s James D. Phelan Award, and a Steinbeck Fellowship in Creative Writing, as well as honors from the Society of Professional Journalists and the Asian American Journalists Association. Her work has appeared in publications including The New York Times, The Atlantic, and The Washington Post. She lives in the Bay Area with her family.

About A River of Stars

In a powerful debut novel about motherhood, immigration, and identity, a pregnant Chinese woman makes her way to California and stakes a claim to the American dream. Holed up with other moms-to-be in a secret maternity home in Los Angeles, Scarlett Chen is far from her native China, where she worked in a factory job and fell in love with the owner, Boss Yeung. Now she’s carrying his baby. Already married with three daughters, he’s overjoyed because the doctors confirmed he will finally have the son he has always wanted. To ensure that his son has every advantage, he has shipped Scarlett off to give birth on American soil. U.S. citizenship will open doors for their little prince. As Scarlett awaits the baby’s arrival, she chokes down bitter medicinal stews and spars with her imperious housemates. The only one who fits in even less is Daisy, a spirited teenager and fellow unwed mother who is being kept apart from her American boyfriend. Then a new sonogram of Scarlett’s baby reveals the unexpected. Panicked, she escapes by hijacking a van–only to discover that she has a stowaway: Daisy, who intends to track down the father of her child. They flee to San Francisco’s bustling Chinatown, where Scarlett will join countless immigrants desperately trying to seize their piece of the American dream. What Scarlett doesn’t know is that her baby’s father is not far behind her.

 

SONIAH KAMAL: First author/book you read/fell in love with?

VANESSA HUA: Little Women

 To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

Wine

A novel, short story, poem, essay, anything you believe should be mandatory reading?

I love Yiyun Li’s “Immortality,” about a Mao impersonator, which appeared in the Paris Review in 2003 and later won the magazine’s Plimpton Prize. Her use of the first person plural narrator, as well as the compression of the vast sweep of time, are spell-binding. But I also love the story behind the story: when she began submitting her fiction, she kept getting rejections from literary magazines and then she decided she might as well send it to the most competitive ones. The publication launched her career! It shows the importance of persistence, of believing in yourself and your work, and also that rejection is often subjective. What one editor finds appealing, another may not and it may even vary depending on the day and what else is happening.

Any classic you wished you’d pushed through in your teens?

Madame Bovary. I much enjoyed it, later. I still need to read Middlemarchwhich seems to be the favorite of many writers I admire.

A favorite quote from your book

Such a burden, inheritance. When family gathered on holidays, the claims on their children invariably began. Your nose, shaped like your mother’s. Your long earlobes, like your grandfather’s. Traits, features, and habits from legions of ancestors, shuffled in each new generation. The body died, but blood lived on.

Your favorite book to film?

To be honest, since having children, I haven’t had as much time to see movies. When I was a kid, though, I loved the PBS adaptation of Anne of Green Gables. I recorded it on VHS and watched it over and over again. The movie, All the President’s Men, which I watched as a teenager, inspired me to become a journalist—cliché as that sounds.

 Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

So many! Living in the Bay Area, we’re very fortunate. Booksmith, Green Apple Books, Orinda Books, Mrs. Dalloways, Book Passage, Laurel Books, Books Inc, and more. I’m grateful to the many ways that bookstores encourage and support emerging and established writers, and serve as a vital community gathering place.

The one thing you wish you’d known about the writing life?

Writing is a solitary act, but when it’s also important to foster literary community. Commiserate and celebrate together. Attend and organize readings at your favorite local independent bookstore, subscribe to literary magazines, form writing groups, and volunteer at literary festivals. You will find friends with whom you can commiserate and celebrate, and they’ll show up in force for your events, just as you have shown up for theirs.

Does writing/publishing/marketing get any easier with each story/novel published?

Having gone through the writing, publishing and marketing of my short story collection, I’m somewhat familiar with the process. But you’re always starting with an idea and blank page, always learning how to write your way through your manuscript, and the experience of bringing forth your book in the world also varies, depending on the news, the economy, and other factors outside of your control.

Dog, Cat, Or?

Cat

 Favorite book cover?

Recent book covers I loved include R.O. Kwon’The Incendiaries, Crystal Hana Kim’s If You Leave Me, Ingrid Rojas Contreras‘ Fruit of the Drunken Tree, Lydia Kiesling’s The Golden State, Lucy Tan’s What We Were Promised, and Nicole Chung’s All You Can Ever Know.

 Favorite song?

I have different songs for different moods, for different times of my life.  I can’t choose! When I’m writing, I listen to ambient electronic music: Tycho, Ulrich Schnauss, Bonobo, Boards of Canada, Air. Lyrics can be distracting, but sometimes I get into a nostalgic mood and listen to favorites from college, They Might Be Giants, Indigo Girlsor Erasure.

Recommend a Small Press and Literary Journal?

ZYZZYVA magazine always has entertaining and thought-provoking prose, poetry and art by emerging and established writers, and the editors do so much to foster literary community.

Literary Festival Anecdote? 

I chatted with a certain character actor in the Green Room of a festival, who is the partner of a famed writer. We introduced ourselves, even though I already knew who he was and had to restrain myself from uttering his catchphrase. Gazing over the room, he said, “Look at all these big brains in here.” At that same festival, I spotted a photogenic literary superstar in the hotel lobby; I even quickened my pace to catch up with him and confirm the sighting. Later, when I exclaimed I’d seen him, my friends shushed me and pointed out that he was sitting across the room—perhaps within earshot.

Ideal Vacation? 

Before having children, my parents loved to go backpacking, trekking in different countries or in the Sierras, riding all night buses and staying in hostels. Now that we have young children, we end up car camping, taking day hikes, or staying at family friend hotels with pools by the beach, where I can catch up on reading.

Favorite work of art?

I love Alexander Calder’s playful mobiles, Henry Moore’s sensual sculptures, and Magritte’s witty paintings

What is your favorite Austen novel and film adaptation? Why?

I can’t recall seeing any adaption except for Clueless – that’s an adaptation of Emma, isn’t it? Paul Rudd is adorable, and it was a star-making turn for Alicia Silverstone and  Brittany Murphy.

Last impulse book buy and why?

Niubi: The Real Chinese You Were Never Taught in School I love learning new swear words and their origins, which are so revealing of culture and character. For novel research, but a fun read, too.

Soniah Kamal’s novel Unmarriageable: Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan is forthcoming from Penguin Random House. PRE ORDER . Her debut novel An Isolated Incident was a finalist for the Townsend Prize for Fiction, the KLF French Fiction Prize, and an Amazon Rising Star pick. Soniah’s TEDx talk, Redreaming Your Dream, is about regrets, second chances and redemption. Her story Jelly Beans was selected for The Best Asian Stories Series 2017 and her award winning and Pushcart Prize nominated work has appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times, The Guardian, BuzzFeed, Literary Hub, Catapult and The Normal School.

More Drunk on Ink Interviews:

Chaitli Sen, The Pathless Sky, novel

Sonya HuberPain Woman Take Your Keys, memoir

Kathy Wilson FlorenceThree of Cups, a novel

Sara Luce LookCharis Books and More, independent book store

S J SinduMarriage of a Thousand Lies, a novel

Rosalie Morales KearnsKingdom of Men, a novel

Saadia FaruqiMeet Yasmin, children’s literature

Rene DenfeldThe Child Finder, a novel

Jamie BrennerThe Husband Hour, a novel

Sara MarchantThe Driveway has Two Sides, memoir

Kirsten Imani KasaiThe House of Erzulie, a novel

Thrity UmrigarThe Secrets Between Us, novel

John Kessel, Pride and Prometheus, novel

Lisa Romeo, Starting with Goodbye: A Daughter’s Memoir of Love After Loss

Rachel May, An American Quilt: Unfolding a Story of Family and Slavery

Rebecca Entel, Fingerprints of Previous Owners, novel

Jamie Sumner, Unbound: Finding from Unrealistic Expectations of Motherhood

Falguni Kothari, My Last Love Story, novel

Tanaz Bathena, A Girl Like That, YA novel

Chaitali Sen and ‘The Pathless Sky’

Drunk on Ink is a blast interview series conducted by Soniah Kamal, Jaggery Blog Editor and author of the forthcoming novel Unmarriageable: Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan. 

Chaitali Sen is the author of the novel, The Pathless Sky (Europa Editions, 2015).  Her short stories, reviews, and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Ecotone, New England Review, New Ohio Review, Colorado Review, LitHub, Los Angeles Review of Books, Brooklyn Magazine, and Catapult. She lives with her family in Austin, Texas.

About The Pathless Sky

In The Pathless Sky, Chaitali Sen conjures a world in which a nation’s political turmoil, its secret history, and growing social unrest turn life into a fragile and capricious thing and love into a necessary refuge to be defended at all cost. A world, that is, not unlike the one we live in. John and Mariam are unforgettable characters, troubled lovers who struggle to find a space for the finest human emotions in a place that is determined to abolish them.

 SONIAH KAMAL: First author/book you read/fell in love with?

CHAITALI SEN: Carolyn Keene, everything Nancy Drew.

To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

Wine, definitely. I don’t know why water is even on this list.

A novel, short story, poem, essay, anything you believe should be mandatory reading?

Another Country, James Baldwin

Any classic you wished you’d pushed through in your teens?

I struggled through a lot of classics in my teens that were way over my comprehension level, so I think I get a pass on this one.

A favorite quote from your book 

“Can you two goat****ers tell me why these posts are abandoned?”

 Your favorite book to film?

Mary Poppins

Favorite Indie Book Stores?

Malvern Books in Austin, Texas. (check out this piece in LitHub)

Revolution Books in Harlem. (check out this piece in LitHub) 

The one think you wish you’d known about the writing life?

You have to proofread your own work.

Does writing/publishing/marketing get any easier with each story/novel published?

Maybe it helps to have some track record in publishing and marketing, but NO on the writing. Every new piece is hard.

Dog, Cat, Or?

parakeet

A favorite book cover?

Another Country, first Vintage International Edition, 1993

A favorite song?

This is tough one. I have so many. I’ll say “Ain’t No Love,” by David Gray.

Literary Festival Anecdote? 
I did my first panel as a novelist at the 2015 Texas Book Festival. I had a terrible case of Imposter Syndrome, which I blurted out to the panel’s moderator Natalia Sylvester. I don’t remember her exact words, (something I heard as “stop that, you deserve to be here”) but whatever she said gave me the courage to go on that panel and act like I knew what I was talking about.
Ideal Vacation? 
My ideal vacation is sitting on a beach with the sound of the waves lapping the shore and no one talking to me, while I read or take naps.
Favorite work of art?

I worked for a short time at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York when they were having the Over the Line exhibit, a huge retrospective of Jacob Lawrence’s paintings. I could wander the galleries during my lunch hour even when the museum was closed. I used to stare at the painting, Home Chores.

What is your favorite Austen novel and film adaptation?
I go back and forth between Pride and Prejudice and Emma as my favorite Austen novel. My favorite film adaptation is the Pride and Prejudice mini-series with Colin Firth, which I was unaware of until I read Bridget Jones’s Diary.

Last impulse book buy and why?

Lisa Ko, The Leavers. The red cover caught my attention, but I’m glad I bought it because it was wonderful.

Soniah Kamal’s novel Unmarriageable: Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan is forthcoming from Penguin Random House. PRE ORDER . Her debut novel An Isolated Incident was a finalist for the Townsend Prize for Fiction, the KLF French Fiction Prize, and an Amazon Rising Star pick. Soniah’s TEDx talk, Redreaming Your Dream, is about regrets, second chances and redemption. Her story Jelly Beans was selected for The Best Asian Stories Series 2017 and her award winning and Pushcart Prize nominated work has appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times, The Guardian, BuzzFeed, Literary Hub, Catapult and The Normal School.

More Drunk on Ink Interviews:

Anita Felicelli, Love Songs for a Lost Continent, short stories

Sonya HuberPain Woman Take Your Keys, memoir

Kathy Wilson FlorenceThree of Cups, a novel

Sara Luce LookCharis Books and More, independent book store

S J SinduMarriage of a Thousand Lies, a novel

Rosalie Morales KearnsKingdom of Men, a novel

Saadia FaruqiMeet Yasmin, children’s literature

Rene DenfeldThe Child Finder, a novel

Jamie BrennerThe Husband Hour, a novel

Sara MarchantThe Driveway has Two Sides, memoir

Kirsten Imani KasaiThe House of Erzulie, a novel

Thrity UmrigarThe Secrets Between Us, novel

John Kessel, Pride and Prometheus, novel

Lisa Romeo, Starting with Goodbye: A Daughter’s Memoir of Love After Loss

Rachel May, An American Quilt: Unfolding a Story of Family and Slavery

Rebecca Entel, Fingerprints of Previous Owners, novel

Jamie Sumner, Unbound: Finding from Unrealistic Expectations of Motherhood

Falguni Kothari, My Last Love Story, novel

Tanaz Bathena, A Girl Like That, YA novel

Drunk on Ink Q & A with Anita Felicelli “Love Songs for a Lost Continent”

Drunk on Ink is a blast interview series conducted by Soniah Kamal, Jaggery Blog Editor and author of the forthcoming novel Unmarriageable: Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan. 

Anita Felicelli is the author of the short story collection “Love Songs for a Lost Continent” (Stillhouse Press) and other books. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in the New York Times, Salon, SF Chronicle, Los Angeles Review of Books, The Rumpus, Joyland, Kweli Journal, Eckleburg Review, The Normal School, and elsewhere. She was born in South India and raised in the Bay Area, where she lives with her family.

About “Love Songs for a Lost Continent“:

Imbued with magic, Felicelli’s stories center on first- and second-generation Tamil Americans–immigrants, daughters, and lovers exploring what it means to lose and to love, to continually reinvent oneself while honoring the personal histories and lost continents that shape us all.

 

SONIAH KAMAL: First author/book you read/fell in love with? Why?

ANITA FELICELLI: The first books I fell in love with were the Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace and The Wizard of Oz series by L. Frank Baum. The former because I had two best friends in elementary school and saw myself in Betsy who was an aspiring writer and who needed a private place to write stories and poems and plays. The latter because it was so fantastic, so full of strangeness and wizardry and humbug and powerful women.

To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

Wine.

A novel, short story, poem, essay, anything you believe should be mandatory reading? Why?

James Baldwin’s long short story Sonny’s Blues should be read by everyone. The ache in the relationship between the narrator and his brother is so potent. I think about that story so often. Other mandatory short stories for me are Denis Johnson’s Car Crash While Hitchhiking, Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s The Very Old Man With Enormous Wings, Robert Coover’s Going for a Beer, and Rebecca Lee’s Slatland.

Any classic you wished you’d pushed through in your teens?

Oh, I’m still embarrassed I didn’t make it through War and Peace as a teenager. My self-concept was based so wholly on reading, I might as well have been a walking compendium of paper and ink rather than flesh and blood, and I loved Anna Karenina, yet when it came to that giant beast of a book, I just threw up my hands thinking there were too many boring bits (yet somehow I loved even the whale bits in Moby Dick).

Favorite quote from your book 

“Watching flames destroy the land that I love, it is Howl, my familiar, my double, my twin, who starts to sing for the first time. The sound escaping his body is magnificent and otherworldly, telling of ghosts and cities and sirens — an unyielding green scream.”

Favorite book to film? And why?

I loved Stephen Daldry’s adaptation of Michael Cunningham’s The Hours. It didn’t strangle itself trying to hold on to the text, but in translating the story into a visual medium, it also didn’t butcher what made the novel so lovely, the way some adaptations do.

Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

Honestly, whichever one I’m in. I adore my local indie bookstores, from which I’ve been buying books for decades: Book’s Inc., Bell’s Books, and Kepler’s, but I have a particular soft spot for City Lights Bookstore. I’m partial to City Lights’ narrow little staircase, its door that announces itself as a door, the mural out in the North Beach alley that runs alongside its outer wall, and most of all, its substantive subversive and radical literature section.

The one thing you wish you’d known about the writing life?

I wish I’d understood how much rejection would be involved in the writing life, which I decided to enter when I was five-years-old. I remember finally getting a handwritten rejection letter from Seventeen Magazine when I was 18. It praised my short story and said it was a near miss, but also noted that the ending was “a little hard.” As an intense perfectionist, I thought about that note for years, trying to figure out what it meant and how I could use this feedback to “fix” my stories. In fact, decades later, I have not excised my hardness, but I so wish I had been the kind of person who’d briefly considered how cool it was that I got a note at all and moved on!

Does writing/publishing/marketing get any easier with each story/novel published?

 No.

Dog, Cat, Or?

Dog! But specifically corgis, which some people think are cat-like.

Ideal vacation?

I’m desperate to visit Antarctica before it melts and disappears.

Favorite book cover?

For a period I wanted to be an art director or design book covers as my day job, and my favorites were the covers of Vladimir Nabokov novels from the 80s or 90s, designed by Susan Mitchell. She was the art director at Vintage International and I basically would buy or borrow books solely on the strength of her covers – judging books by their covers was how I discovered Diane Ackerman and Julian Barnes and many others in my tweens and adolescence before I ever read book reviews.

Favorite song?

The Pixies’ cover of Head On… I’m also terribly vulnerable to Iris Dement’s Our Town and Social Distortion’s Story of My Life, both of which recently made me pull over in my car and sob on the side of the road.

Favorite painting/ work of art?

Too many! I used to be a visual artist. At present, Olafur Eliasson’s One Way Color Tunnel and Louise Bourgeois’s Spiders.

Any Lit Festival anecdote you want a share? A great meeting with a fan? An epiphany?

I don’t get out much.

What is your favorite Austen novel, and film adaptation? Why?

Emma is my favorite, but the older I get the more I realize Persuasion will eventually overtake it. I love the Greer Garson-Lawrence Olivier “Pride & Prejudice,” the first Austen film I ever watched – what a fluffy, lovely, if defanged, viewing experience.

Recommend a Small Press and/or Literary Journal?

Anyone running a literary journal or small press is a hero, but I especially recommend two literary journals that are close to my heart and are helmed by fearless, outstanding women editors – Kweli Literary Journal and Eckleburg Review. Kweli is a beautiful online journal that consistently publishes some of the most illuminating writing by people of color in America. Eckleburg is a literary journal that’s so sharp, weird, and intelligent, you could cut yourself on its gleaming brilliance.

Last impulse book buy and why?

Lauren Groff’s Florida – I’ve read all her books – I geek out over her gorgeous sentences.

Soniah Kamal’s novel Unmarriageable: Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan is forthcoming from Penguin Random House. PRE ORDER . Her debut novel An Isolated Incident was a finalist for the Townsend Prize for Fiction, the KLF French Fiction Prize, and an Amazon Rising Star pick. Soniah’s TEDx talk, Redreaming Your Dream, is about regrets, second chances and redemption. Her story Jelly Beans was selected for The Best Asian Stories Series 2017 and her award winning and Pushcart Prize nominated work has appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times, The Guardian, BuzzFeed, Literary Hub, Catapult and The Normal School.

More Drunk on Ink Interviews:

Kathy Wilson FlorenceThree of Cups, a novel

Sara Luce LookCharis Books and More, independent book store

S J SinduMarriage of a Thousand Lies, a novel

Rosalie Morales KearnsKingdom of Men, a novel

Saadia FaruqiMeet Yasmin, children’s literature

Rene DenfeldThe Child Finder, a novel

Jamie BrennerThe Husband Hour, a novel

Sara MarchantThe Driveway has Two Sides, memoir

Kirsten Imani KasaiThe House of Erzulie, a novel

Thrity UmrigarThe Secrets Between Us, novel

John Kessel, Pride and Prometheus, novel

Lisa Romeo, Starting with Goodbye: A Daughter’s Memoir of Love After Loss

Rachel May, An American Quilt: Unfolding a Story of Family and Slavery

Rebecca Entel, Fingerprints of Previous Owners, novel

Jamie Sumner, Unbound: Finding from Unrealistic Expectations of Motherhood

Falguni Kothari, My Last Love Story, novel

Tanaz Bathena, A Girl Like That, YA novel