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Drunk on Ink Q & A with Sonora Jha “How To Raise a Feminist Son‘’, essays/memoir

Drunk on Ink is a blast interview series by Soniah Kamal author of  the novel Unmarriageable, a parallel retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and set in contemporary Pakistan

SONORA JHA, PhD, is an essayist, novelist, researcher, and professor of journalism at Seattle University. She is the author of the novel Foreign, and her op-eds and essays have appeared in the New York Times, the Seattle Times, The Establishment, DAME, and in several anthologies. She grew up in Mumbai and has been chief of metropolitan bureau for the Times of India and contributing editor for East magazine in Singapore. She teaches fiction and essay writing for Hugo House, Hedgebrook Writers’ Retreat, and Seattle Public Library. She is an alumna and board member of Hedgebrook Writers’ Retreat, and has served on the jury for awards for Artist Trust, Hedgebrook, and Hugo House.

Her latest book is How to Raise a Feminist Son: Motherhood, Masculinity, and the Making of My Family (Sasquatch Books USA and Penguin Random House India, 2021).

About How to Raise a Feminist Son

A love story that will resonate with feminists who hope to change the world, one kind boy at a time

From teaching consent to counteracting problematic messages from the media, well-meaning family, and the culture at large, we have big work to do when it comes to our boys. This empowering book offers much-needed insight and actionable advice. It’s also a beautifully written and deeply personal story of struggling, failing, and eventually succeeding at raising a feminist son.
Informed by the author’s work as a professor of journalism specializing in social justice movements and social media, as well as by conversations with psychologists, experts, and other parents and boys, this book follows one mother’s journey to raise a feminist son as a single immigrant woman of color in America. Through stories from her own life and wide-ranging research, Sonora Jha shows us all how to be better feminists and better teachers of the next generation of men in this electrifying tour de force.
Includes chapter takeaways, and an annotated bibliography of reading and watching recommendations for adults and children.

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

SONORA JHA: Like most South Asian children educated in urban, English-medium schools, I fell in love with Enid Blyton. The Magic Faraway Tree series held me in awe – truly, I was a little bit scared and yet compelled by the stories of encounters with wondrous people and experiences if you wandered away from home.

To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

Chai forever. I grind fresh ginger every morning for my chai. The pounding in the mortar and pestle calms me and wakes me up at the same time. And my 4 p.m. chai is bliss.

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

The poetry of Urdu poet Sahir Ludhianvi. Because it’s about romance and revolution, two things no one should ever lose out on for a single day of their lives.

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

So many. So many.

Favorite quote from your book

“The first film I watched with my son was when he was one year old: Babe, about a pig. The last movie I watched with him just before he left for college was Stardust Memories, starring Woody Allen, so also about a pig.”

Favorite book to film? And why?

The Namesake. I love how filmmaker Mira Nair focused on Ashima, the woman, as the central character even though Jhumpa Lahiri’s protagonist was Gogol, the boy/man. I loved the book and the film.

Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle. I just feel so at home there. Even my dog is welcomed there. Oh, and Karen and Rick there love books so much, I can listen to them for hours talking about this book or that.

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

That there’s no perfect moment or ambience or mood or muse to draw good writing. You will have to steal an hour here or there until you realize that life itself is the writing life.

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

I think so. You get to know the rhythm a little better and also to expect the anxiety. I remind myself now to enjoy the process and let go of expectations.

Dog, Cat, Or?

Dogs forever.

Ideal vacation?

The beaches of Goa or Kerala. The Arabian Sea.

Favorite book cover?

Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things.

Favorite song?

Who subah kabhi toh aayegi by Sahir Ludhianvi.

Favorite painting/ work of art?

Honore Daumier’s The Third-Class Carriage.

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

On my Indian book tour for my novel Foreign, a woman in the audience asked me a strange question in Amritsar’s One Up bookstore. She asked me about a sentence in the book in which the protagonist says something like, “If pulling the rug from under one’s feet was so easy, better not to stand on rugs at all.” She asked me if this was something I had experienced in my life and I laughed it off and said no, it was all fiction, la la la. She asked if I’d write a memoir and I laughed that off, too. She said she would wait for that. So, yes, epiphany – she was urging me to write it and I realized I would.

Do you have a favorite film, or two, or three?

Mirch Masala (a #MeToo film before any other). Moonlight. Babe.

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

Sense and Sensibility, because it’s about women’s love and sisters and feminist leanings. The film adaptation by Ang Lee, in which Kate Winslet plays plays the younger sister, Marriane, is my favorite, because Winslet is riveting.

Recommend a Small Press and/or Literary Journal?

Sasquatch Books, even though it’s one of the leading independent presses in the country and owned by Penguin Random House, has retained the loving attention to authors and was such a pleasure for me to work with.

Last impulse book buy and why?

Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments, because I was craving words about the natural world and astonishment after the claustrophobia and monotony of a year in the pandemic.

Soniah Kamal is an award winning novelist, essayist and public speaker.  Soniah’s novel Unmarriageable is a Financial Times Readers’ Best Book of 2019, a People’s Magazine Pick, a Library Reads Pick, an NPR Code Switch Summer Read Pick, a 2019 Book All Georgians Should Read, a 2020 Georgia Author of the Year for Literary Fiction nominee and more. Soniah’s TEDx talk is about second chances and she has delivered numerous keynotes addreses. ‘We are the Ink’, her address at a U.S. Citizenship Oath Ceremony, talks about immigrants and the real American Dreams, her keynote at the Jane Austen Festival is about universality across time and cultures and she’s given keynotes at Writers Conferences. Soniah’s work has appeared in critically acclaimed anthologies and publications including The New York Times, The Guardian, The Georgia Review, The Bitter Southerner, Catapult, The Normal School, Apartment Therapy and more.
She’s on twitter and instagram @soniahkamal

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Natalie Jenner, The Jane Austen Society, a novel

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Saumya Dave, Well Behaved Indian Women, a novel

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Gayatri Sethi, Unbelonging, a memoir

Jenny Bhatt, Each of Us Killers, short story collection

Nancy Johnson, The Kindest Lie, a novel

Yousra Imran, Hijab and Red Lipstick, a novel

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Madi Sinha: The White Coat Diaries, a novel

Chika Unigwe, Better Late Than Never, short story collection

Anju Gattani: Duty and Desire, a novel

Christopher Swann: Never Turn Back, a novel

Zetta Elliott: A Place Inside of Me, middle grade fiction

Veena Rao: Purple Lotus, a novel

Tara Coyt: Real Talk About LGBTQIAP, non fiction

Maureen Joyce Connelly: Little Lovely Things, a novel

Molly Greeley: The Heiress, historical fiction novel

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Mike Chen: Here and Now and Then, a novel

Ruth Franklin: Shirley Jackson A Rather Haunted Life, biography

Colleen Oakley: Before I Go, a novel

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

Shabnam Samuel: A Fractured Life, memoir

Elise Hooper: The Other Alcott, a novel

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Chaitli SenThe Pathless Sky, novel

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

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