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[Meet the Author] 'Stir It Up!' is "A Novel With Recipes": Interview with YA author Ramin Ganeshram (Part 2)

Ramin Ganeshram, Author of Stir It Up!
We're back today for the final part of my interview with Ramin Ganeshram, author of the new YA book, Stir It Up! Don't forget to check out part 1 of the interview. Below, Ramin and I discuss the publication process, her Trinidadian roots, food (of course) and the plans she has for her writing career.





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S: What was it like getting the offer from Scholastic then?

R: Because of the way that it came about—an offer without a book—it was surprising and incredibly flattering. Andrea Pinkney is easily the most respected children’s editor (and author herself) living today. The fact that she had such faith in me was amazingly uplifting.

S: Exactly. I didn't know she was your editor. You're lucky, her work is so well respected. It's great to know she took a chance on something different. Speaking of different, I’ve been hearing interesting things about the format of Stir it Up! Apparently, it’s not your standard, linear YA novel…? Kirkus Reviews for example described it as “more fiction-seasoned cookbook than recipe-studded novel.” Did you intentionally set out to create a YA novel that was a little different?

R: The first thing I have to say is that I’ve always strongly disagreed with that Kirkus review. It is absolutely a novel with recipes, not a cookbook with fiction. I didn’t set out particularly to do something different but the way the book should have been formatted just came to me. Anjali was speaking to me and I just wrote what she said.

S: Gotcha. You were born to a Trinidadian mother and an Iranian mother, is that correct? What has it been like growing up both Iranian and Trinidadian in America?

R: It was incredibly hard! Talk about being utterly misunderstood—even though I grew up in New York City. Things were particularly bad during the Iran Hostage Crisis when I was about 10. It’s still somewhat difficult to explain the nuances of all I am to folks—so I just try to do it with my writing.

S: Yes the nuances; I think many "third culture" types can relate to hard-to-explain nuances. Can you think of another YA published in the States that features a Trinidadian or a Trinidadian-American protagonist or even secondary characters? I feel like they are far and few between. I can think of Angel’s Grace, Tell Us We’re Home and Jazz in Love. There are a couple more that I can’t remember right now. Ultimately though, Trinis (Caribbean people in general) don’t pop up that often in American fiction for teens. Do you think your character, Anjali, is special then, especially being an Indo-Caribbean character? Do you think it’s important to have Caribbean/Caribbean-American characters in American YA books?

R: Another great book by the very amazing Trinidadian writer Lynn Joseph is The Color of My Words. The protagonist is Dominican, not Trinidadian but Caribbean and she is pretween—12. Still, I count this wonderful book as one that is adding to the form. But to answer your question, I do think Anjali is special because she is a strong portrayal of culture that is little known to Americans, or sadly, only known in very limited light. I can’t tell you though, how very many people have told me wonderful stories about Trinidadian friends they have met once they hear about or read this book.

S: Would you say that culture is a focus in your writing?

R: Writing about culture—particularly the culture of food—is the only focus in my writing. It is what I’m most passionate about.

S: And of course I have to ask this ―Have you ever been to Trinidad? What was the experience like?

R: Been to Trinidad! I’ve gone nearly every year since I was five! It’s always wonderful, I feel like I’ve come “home” when I’m there and am melancholy when I leave.

Author Ramin Ganeshram introduces you to Stir It Up!'s main character.


S: I believe you. It's funny. I feel like Caribbean immigrants in the States tend to go back home a lot more regularly than immigrants from other parts of the world. Would you say you are very in touch with your Trinidadian roots then? And would you say the same thing for your Iranian heritage?

R: Yes, I would say that I’m incredibly in touch with both. It’s a bit easier to stay in touch with Trinidadian roots because of the growing community of Trinis here in the NYC area and because I write about it so much people come forward. But I’ll let you in on a secret, my favorite food in the whole world is actually Persian (Iranian) not Trinidadian.

S: Ha! Being from Trinidad myself, I can't imagine any food being better than Trinidadian food, but I'll give you the benefit of the doubt! So what’s next for Ramin Ganeshram? More YA books? Book tours? Where/how can we keep up with you and your movements as an author?

R: You can check me out at www.stiritupbook.com or my own site www.nibblescribble.com. Up next is another cookbook I think (culture again! This time an aspect of American food culture) and yes, several YA projects—all involving food!

S: And are there any plans to market Stir it Up! in the Caribbean?

R: I’d love to and that’s part of my long-term goal!

S: And to close us off, say something deep about food – or about roti in particular.

R: Food is always a foil for other things. Yes it sustains us but it also gives us joy, or sadness or, most importantly an entryway to a story. Roti, for example, is a time capsule to the time when East Indians were brought as indentured laborers to Trinidad. Paratha Roti is original but the evolutions: dal puri for every day instead of special occasion and buss up shut—a uniquely Trinidad take on paratha roti—all tell a story of a people who are developing their own unique amalgamated culture and history.

S: And finally, ask the question you wanted me to ask. 

R: “Do you see yourself more of a chef or writer since you are both?” Neither. I see myself as a storyteller. Food is my medium. Words are my medium. Together they are my art and my craft. Hopefully, it’s an interesting enough one to keep people reading and trying my recipes so they can create stories of their own.

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About the Interviewer...

Summer Edward was born in Trinidad and Tobago. She is the Managing Editor and Kids Editor here at Anansesem. She lives in Philadelphia, USA.

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About Anansesem

Anansesem is an online magazine of Caribbean children's and young adult literature by adults and children. We strive to bring you the best in news, reviews and creative content from the world of Caribbean children's publishing.
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2 comments:

  1. AnonymousJune 12, 2012

    how many words is this book

    ReplyDelete
  2. You'd have to direct that question to the publisher or you can find out on Amazon.com I think.

    ReplyDelete

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