In March, I had the pleasure of talking to local author Alka Joshi about her debut novel, The Henna Artist. Joshi wrote The Henna Artist for her mother, as a way of imagining a different kind of life for her than the one she had. Writing it also helped Joshi come to terms with her Indian heritage — something she had struggled with since moving to the United States as a child. As she told me:
I started to realize that all of the things that I had wanted to ignore about my culture were really the things that made me special. The things that I wanted to obliterate were actually the things that make me the most interesting. I am now a combination of two cultures. I am a combination of the American culture and of the Indian culture that was so much a part of my upbringing.
For those of you who missed the episode, now is a great time to catch up. Since our conversation, The Henna Artist has exploded onto the literary scene. Reese Witherspoon chose it as the May selection for her Reese’s Book Club, and it shot to #14 on the New York Times’ bestseller list. Listening to Joshi talk about her process, it’s easy to see why: The Henna Artist reflects Joshi’s unique upbringing and point of view, transporting modern readers to another time and place and allowing them to imagine themselves in it. It’s the perfect read for times like these.