Award-winning authors Veera Hiranandani, Sheela Chari, and Sayantani DasGupta have a few things in common – their Indian heritage, their love of writing, and motherhood. The authors have known each other for over 10 years and have developed a special friendship that offers advice, encouragement, and support in their accomplished careers as Indian-American authors.
“It was enlightening to see how their diverse identities have influenced their writing as authors. With this event, we are continuing to provide experiences that seek to educate, engage, and empower students with new perspectives,” said Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Dr. Clyde Beverly III, who organized the event on May 11 in partnership with the Indian Cultural Center (ICC) in celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month.
Sayantani DasGupta grew up only seeing characters that looked like her in her grandmother’s old Bengali folktales. It wasn’t until she had her own children that she realized the impact of the lack of cultural representation in stories and decided to do something about it. “I always say that stories are good medicine. It’s really healthy, healing, and important for all of us to see ourselves in stories and as heroes. We need that variety in our literary diets,” said DasGupta, who is also a pediatrician.
Coming from a family of scientists, author Sheela Chari found inspiration in her decision to shift away from the family trend by becoming an author for her book, “Karthik Delivers.” The story is about a 14-year-old boy who secretly aspires to become an actor while helping his father’s struggling grocery store as a delivery boy.
“The story is about following your dreams and opening yourself to the possibility of failure. What is talent? Is it something we’re born with? Is it hard work? Is it good timing? How do we know that we’re going to be good at something? The truth is that you never know if you’re going to be successful, and that’s part of being creative; to be joyful and to take risks,” said Chari.
The authors meet once a month to catch up on life. They also review each other’s work, offering new perspectives and constructive feedback on one another’s writings for support.
“The way that they give feedback is so helpful. There is a real encouraging baseline between all of us. From them, I can always expect to hear honesty. They’ve seen really early drafts of ‘The Night Diary,’ and the questions that they asked helped to further my ideas in the process,” said Hiranandani, emphasizing the importance of being in community with one another.
As part of the discussion, Alisee Rossetti ’28 asked the authors about the process of writing and publishing books.
“I sent my book out to many agents and got turned down, but I did get one ‘yes’ from an agent, which turned into one ‘yes’ from a publishing company, and that’s how I published my first book,” said Hiranandani. “In life, even if a lot of people tell you ‘no,’ you only need one ‘yes’ to make it happen.”