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The L: There's the nagging and awful impulse for readers and critics to read too much of an author into his or her text, but I'm curious to know how much of yourself you see in Kiran. How much of the story is invented? Was there research, even familial research, involved in the writing of the book?
RS: People will assume that the book is much more modeled on my life than it actually is. C'est la vie! I changed two very big things about Kiran that really solidified his separation from me: first, he is an only child, which drastically changes the experience I had, which was conditioned by having two amazing brothers with whom I have always been close; and I made his parents much more traditionally Indian and affluent than my parents were. I wanted to make sure that I underscored Kiran's solitude and that the dissonance between his outlook on life and the conservative Indian culture was easily understood and clear. So, when I envisioned the parents in the book, for example, I wondered what it would have been like to have grown up with some of the more conservative, and exacting, Indian parents that I knew when I was a kid. I knew that once I could envision the Sharmas (Kiran's family) and none of them resembled me or my family, I had the right picture down of what I wanted this story to encompass and how the familial politics would play out.
The L: Do you see this in any way as a political book? It deals with some incredibly weighty issues, including racial and sexual alienation, discrimination, self-doubt and rejection. In an age when full civil rights have not yet been granted to the LGBT community, it seems that your book carries with it an implicit message about equitability and empathy. Is this something that you'd hoped to examine, or is your timing just good?
RS: I set out quite consciously to tell an untold story — namely, that of the gay Indian American kid. It had gone largely untold, so you are very right in surmising that I had larger goals in mind. And that is why I have been particularly moved by some of the messages that I have gotten from young LGBT teens who have sought out this book — because it shows that younger readers are being more proactive in their lives and taking up the mantle of this issue assiduously. It is incredibly heartening and rewarding.
The L: Are you working on any other projects right now? More fiction perhaps?
RS: I am at the very early stages of another novel. It is supposed to be funny, as well, but I can already tell that the cultural scope of it will be very wide, perhaps even wider than Blue Boy. That's all I'll say for now!