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The L: Have any of the reactions to the book surprised you?
RS: As mentioned, I have gotten a really positive response to the book — which is truly wonderful. But I have to say I am surprised how enthusiastic the Indian community has been. I did wonder if I would feel some opposition on that front due to the frank sexual tone of some of the parts of the book, but if anything, the Indians who have approached me or written to me about the book have voiced their gratitude that I didn't flinch from the truth. There was a very lovely piece on Blue Boy in a recent issue of India Abroad, and I was so impressed and flattered that a paper like that could discuss openly and encouragingly a book that is very off the beaten path and that deals with LGBT matters so candidly. The Indian community has certainly bowled me over with its open-mindedness and support, and it has made this experience so much more fulfilling that I could have even imagined. What I think we — that is, first-generation Americans — can forget is that our parents and other immigrant relatives are used to evolution and exploration of this sort because they underwent a similar evolution just by immigrating in the first place. They have already dealt with a slew of hardships that we can scarcely fathom, so their capacity for understanding the new and bizarre is actually much bigger than we might think at first. It has been beautiful and strange and exciting for me to learn that.
The L: When I first began the book, I was prepared for an ultimately sadder story than the one you've written. Kiran doesn't have it easy: the parental and cultural pressure and his sexual confusion set him apart from nearly everyone around him. And while Kiran does, indeed, suffer some major blows, I found his resilience and his hopefulness (however naive) uplifting. Do you see the book as either a comedy or a tragedy? Is it something else altogether?
RS: I see the book as a comedy with a lot of tragic components to it. I did not want to shy away from the hardship of Kiran's life; he had to be up against some really daunting and damaging circumstances for the story to ring true. And, really, he is very lucky because he has a certain extroversion and extravagance that help him out; his creativity is his greatest help. I definitely wanted readers to laugh out loud; I felt that the genre of Indian American literature was missing a book this comedically forward, so that was a conscious effort on my part. But since the LGBT/coming-out process is intrinsically difficult and fraught with a lot of problems regarding self-perception and self-acceptance, the book had to be very upfront about the inherent sadness of Kiran's journey. But by the end, I think that there is definitely a sense of hope.
The L: Perhaps the most major development in the book is a religious revelation that convinces Kiran that he's not mere outcast because of his difference, but that the nature of his difference is divine. Once he's had this revelation (from none other than the Hindu god Krishna), Kiran hatches a plan to reveal his divine origins to his taunting, ignorant classmates. Kiran's subsequent transformation is allegorical, but it's treated naturalistically in the book; that is, he really turns blue. It's a powerful image, but I'm curious to know whether you think Kiran's metamorphosis should be read purely as allegory, or is there something fabulistic at work here? Is that ambiguity necessary to the story you set out to tell?
RS: Well, without ruining the surprise, we find out exactly what is happening to Kiran's skin by the end of the book. What I wanted to play with was the discrepancy among what we wish to be true, what we want to be true, and what must remain pure fantasy to keep us on our toes. Kiran sees the world in much more than primary colors, and that often gets him into trouble as much as it gets him into fun, as it were. When his skin turns, he crafts that fact into something that bolsters him and allows him to finish his creative work. By the end, he understands that the confidence it gives him is one he should have had all along, and so the fantastical is made very real in terms of his self-acceptance. Not all ostentation is external, he learns; there are grand gestures that we can make to better ourselves spiritually.