In conversation with American-Indian author Anuradha D. Rajurkar


ABOUT THE BOOK-


Rani Kelkar has never lied to her parents until she meets Oliver. The same qualities that draw her in--his tattoos, his charisma, his passion for art--make him her mother's worst nightmare.


They begin dating in secret, but when Oliver's troubled home life unravels, he starts to ask more of Rani than she knows how to give, desperately trying to fit into her world, no matter how high the cost. When a twist of fate leads Rani from Evanston, Illinois to Pune, India for a summer, she has a reckoning with herself--and what's really brewing beneath the surface of her first love.


Winner of the SCBWI Emerging Voices award, Anuradha Rajurkar takes an honest look at the ways cultures can clash in an interracial relationship. Braiding together themes of sexuality, artistic expression, and appropriation, she gives voice to a girl claiming ownership of her identity, one shattered stereotype at a time.


Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers

Release Date: March 9, 2021

Genre: YA Fiction

Buy your copies Amazon | Amazon India| Barnes and Nobles | Book Depository



The book review is coming up soon! Watch this space for updates:)


Hear our voices tour schedule for American Betiya can be accessed here.


1. Coming from a South Asian family and living in America, these are two completely different societies. How did this impact you in being the person that you are now?


It was a privilege to be so deeply influenced by two very different societies growing up. The traditions of my South Asian family were based on a fierce love for family, a high value placed on education, and an attachment to certain cultural ideals that helped instill a sense of peace and positivity. We’d visit our family in India about every other summer, and each time I gained a richer understanding of my heritage and family. Those summers also made me appreciate certain freedoms and traditions I enjoyed in my Midwestern America. In this way, I created a kind of the third culture for myself, where I selected elements of both cultures in building my identity.


2. Authors have a shared responsibility in current- ongoing movements, be it BLM, representation of people of color, fighting extremism, more diversity. How do you see that?


Writing to me is a form of activism. Through their stories, authors reveal the complexities within our communities’ social justice movements. Writing honest stories is an opportunity to acknowledge and fight oppression in its many forms, such as the anti-blackness in our communities, identity policing, or our longstanding struggles with colonialism and patriarchy. Our stories show the ways we are stronger when we band together. While stories that explore injustice and trauma are one form of radical activism, those that illuminate imagination, joy, and the communal sense of love do as well. These powerful stories show how our varied voices and experiences matter; they give readers the hope needed to envision a world shaped by love, understanding, and unity—a radical concept in itself.


3. Growing up, which authors or any particular book(s) brought out the writer within you?


I loved Bridge to Terabithia, Tuck Everlasting, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Island of the Blue Dolphins, and anything by Judy Blume. As a teen, I became obsessed with everything by Lois Duncan, and I enjoyed The Catcher in the Rye. But it wasn’t until I began reading works by authors of color like Audre Lorde, Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, Julia Alvarez, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Arundhati Roy that I realized that I could write stories that reflected my own honest experiences growing up as a first-generation Asian American in the Midwest. Those stories opened my mind and gave me hope that one day, I, too, could become a writer.


4. Are you working on any literary project currently? If so, would you like to share more about it?


I can’t say too much about my current project other than I am in love with it and covet the hours I get to spend with it! Dreaming about its working details keeps me up at night, which is the greatest feeling as a writer.


5. What kinds of books or narratives do you want to see more of?


I would love to see more titles by BIPOC authors. While there has been an increase in stories about and by BIPOC being published, the volume is still relatively tiny. I also look forward to reading more books that reflect specifically the great diversity of South Asian experiences—stories that include the countries of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, The Maldives, and Sri Lanka, as well as different regions of India. There is such a wide variety of experiences, but I find that even as a South Asian American, my understanding of South Asian culture is limited mainly to my own experiences and those of my closest friends. I’m so excited to learn more.


6. What are the lessons that you learned while writing your book?


Writing my book was a lesson in perseverance, in believing in myself, and in maintaining the courage to show my words to the world. Writing this book taught me about working diligently despite the odds, and to take in with humility any feedback given; applying that feedback during the revision process leads to more impactful, more accessible stories. Finally, I learned that relationships with other authors and booklovers are worth their weight in gold.


7. What advice do you like to give to a budding writer?


Write regularly at times that work for you, and find a supportive writing group. Embrace other writers in the community—there is room for everyone’s success. Protect your mental health as you do the hard work of writing and sharing your meaningful stories—have a trusted circle of people to vent to. Read widely, including outside the genre you’re writing, and study the books you admire to understand what strategies make their work so resonant. Celebrate and embrace others’ successes, knowing that no journey is the same as anyone else’s—your time will come. Pitch your book to agents only when you are positive that it is your best work. Give yourself lots of downtime to allow your imagination and creativity to wander and bloom. It can be a brutal journey, so celebrate the small wins along the way. What you’re doing matters, and we need your voice, so get flying. :)



ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Anuradha D. Rajurkar is the SCBWI Emerging Voices Award-winning author of AMERICAN BETIYA, a contemporary young adult debut novel to be published March 9, 2021, by Knopf/Penguin Random House. It's a story of a teen artist's forbidden interracial love, her close-knit immigrant family, and her boyfriend's desperate desire to fit into her Indian culture--even if it means betrayal.


Holding two degrees from Northwestern University, Anuradha spends her free time hiking the shores of Lake Michigan with her family, cooking Indian food, and obsessing over her next book, garden, or interior design project. A lazy knitter, passionate reader, and color-enthusiast, Anuradha lives in Wisconsin with her husband and two sons. _ taken from Goodreads.

Find Anuradha on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ADRajurkar1, and Instagram: www.instagram.com/anuradhadrajurkar/

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