Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Book Birthday Blog with Supriya Kelkar

Welcome to SCBWI-MI's Book Birthday Blog! 
Where we celebrate new books by Michigan's children's book authors and illustrators

Congratulations to Supriya Kelkar on the release of her new book, American as Paneer Pie!

Congratulations on the release of American As Paneer Pie! What inspired this story?

Thank you! I wrote the first draft in 2017, when it felt like hate was really being emboldened and encouraged by people in power. It made me think back to my childhood in a small town in Michigan that didn’t value diversity. I wanted to write a story that empowered readers everywhere into finding their voice, in whatever shape it may take, to speak out against hate.

The main plot of the story revolves around two young girls, Lekha and Avantika. What inspired these two characters, and what did you want to explore in their relationship?

A lot of Lekha is based on me when I was younger. Lekha deals with constant othering and microaggressions and racism and has grown to feel conflicted about her culture when she is not in spaces that appreciate it. Avantika is someone who is unwaveringly proud of who she is and not afraid to speak up for herself and others. She inspires Lekha to find her voice, and Lekha helps Avantika overcome an issue in her life as well when it comes to colorism and the fairness creams Avantika uses.

Food plays a big role in the book, hinted at by American as Paneer Pie’s title! Could you talk a little bit about the significance of food in your story?

I grew up loving Indian food but was made fun of it at school so much I eventually stopped bringing it. Lekha goes through something similar so I really wanted to pause and take time in lovingly describing the food that means so much to Lekha at home. Readers can find out what paneer pie is on June 9th, and there’s a recipe in the back of the book too!

In addition to writing middle grade and picture books, you’ve been a screenwriter for several Hindi films! Has your experience as a screenwriter informed how you write your books?

It has. I write all my novels using the three-act structure from screenwriting. Because my screenwriting background always emphasized how important structure is, I spend a lot of time at the start of drafting on outlining the book and plotting everything out.

What has publishing and marketing a book been like in the current situation? Do you have any advice for other authors currently working to publish and market their own books right now?

With so many important issues at the forefront right now, it isn’t an ideal time to market a book. I’m just doing what I can to get the word out and encouraging readers to get books from independent bookstores that can all use our support right now.

What’s something you hope your readers will take away from American as Paneer Pie?

I hope readers feel inspired to find their voice, be it through art, poetry, singing, writing, dance, etc. and use it to speak out against hate and stand up for what is right. I hope the book is a beacon of hope for those who need it and a book that builds empathy and understanding for all readers.

What’s next for you? Do you have any projects coming up? How can readers learn more about you and your work?

I have three books coming out after AMERICAN AS PANEER PIE (Aladdin/Simon & Schuster).

The first is STRONG AS FIRE, FIERCE AS FLAME (Tu Books, October 2020). It is a historical middle grade novel that takes place in 1857 in India. It is full of girl power and challenges readers to think about books we consider classics, and to think about who is being centered in colonial stories and all stories, and whose stories are being left out.

In spring 2021, BINDU’S BINDIS (Sterling), a picture book about a girl who loves to match the shape of her bindis to her Nani’s comes out. That is illustrated by Parvati Pillai and the art is gorgeous.

And after that, in summer 2021, THAT THING ABOUT BOLLYWOOD (Simon & Schuster BFYR) comes out. It is a middle grade novel about a Bollywood-loving girl named Sonali who isn’t very good at expressing herself. When her parents announce they are separating, a magical condition forces Sonali to express herself in the most obvious way possible, through Bollywood song-and-dance numbers.

I’m really excited for AMERICAN AS PANEER PIE and all of these upcoming books!

A little bit about the book:

An Indian American girl navigates prejudice in her small town and learns the power of her own voice in this brilliant gem of a middle grade novel full of humor and heart, perfect for fans of Front Desk and Amina’s Voice.

As the only Indian American kid in her small town, Lekha Divekar feels like she has two versions of herself: Home Lekha, who loves watching Bollywood movies and eating Indian food, and School Lekha, who pins her hair over her bindi birthmark and avoids confrontation at all costs, especially when someone teases her for being Indian.

When a girl Lekha’s age moves in across the street, Lekha is excited to hear that her name is Avantika and she’s Desi, too! Finally, there will be someone else around who gets it. But as soon as Avantika speaks, Lekha realizes she has an accent. She’s new to this country, and not at all like Lekha.

To Lekha’s surprise, Avantika does not feel the same way as Lekha about having two separate lives or about the bullying at school. Avantika doesn’t take the bullying quietly. And she proudly displays her culture no matter where she is: at home or at school.

When a racist incident rocks Lekha’s community, Lekha realizes she must make a choice: continue to remain silent or find her voice before it’s too late.

A little bit about the author:

Supriya grew up in the Midwest, where she learned Hindi as a child by watching three Hindi movies a week. Winner of the New Visions Award for her middle grade novel AHIMSA, (Tu Books, 2017), Supriya is a screenwriter who has worked on the writing teams for several Hindi films and one Hollywood feature. Supriya’s books include AHIMSA, THE MANY COLORS OF HARPREET SINGH (Sterling, 2019), AMERICAN AS PANEER PIE (Aladdin/Simon & Schuster, 2020) STRONG AS FIRE, FIERCE AS FLAME (Tu Books, 2020), BINDU’S BINDIS (Sterling, 2021), and THAT THING ABOUT BOLLYWOOD (Simon and Schuster BFYR, 2021).

Learn more about Supriya at supriyakelkar.com.

1 comment:

  1. Congrats, Supriya! I've been seeing your books everywhere!