In SHINE, COCONUT MOON Samar-a.k.a. Sam-is an Indian-American teenager whose mom has kept her away from her old-fashioned family. It’s never bothered Sam, who is busy with school, friends, and a demanding boyfriend. But things change after 9/11. A guy in a turban shows up at Sam’s house-and turns out to be her uncle. He wants to reconcile the family and teach Sam about her Sikh heritage. Sam is eager, but when boys attack her uncle, chanting “Go back home, Osama!,” Sam realizes she could be in danger-and also discovers how dangerous ignorance is.
The author,NEESHA MEMINGER, was born in India, grew up in Canada, and currently lives in New York City with her family. All of her writing explores the inner landscape of her characters, and how it merges or conflicts with the outer. She writes stories of women and girls defining themselves and shaping their own destinies within the confines of their day to day realities.
I feel so close to this book and this author because I was very fortunate to read it during its development. Right from the beginning I knew it was a winner, a book I’d tell friends to read. How much fun it has been to connect with NEESHA MEMINGER along her creative path to publication.
So trying to be as creative as Neesha, here’s the interview I conducted. Already I wish I had oodles more time to do this. This writer bubbles over with enthusiasm and her responses only bring more questions to mind.
COCONUT MOON does Sammy’s struggle for a big, loving family stem from your personal experience?
Yes and no. I had a pretty large extended family and a medium-sized immediate family. But we are an imperfect bunch and when I was in high school, I probably bought into the Hallmark commercials and television families and thought I wanted what was depicted. My poor, flawed, family didn’t stand a chance next to those picture perfect ones :). So maybe that was part of the experience I drew upon when I wrote about Sammy’s longing for a big, beautiful, perfect family.
Since your story is about such universal issues–search for love and belonging, family half-truths, breaking from tradition–I’m thinking a mom /dad/grandmother/grandfather would find it a fascinating read. Can you comment on this observation?
Actually, the relationship between mothers and daughters is what I initially wanted to explore when I began writing SHINE. That includes Sam’s relationship with her mother, and her mother’s relationship to her own mother. Then, of course, Sam’s relationship with her grandmother. I loved being witness to the complexities in those relationships — what made them work and what made them fragment. I also wanted to look closely at how these relationships and generational rifts fare when issues like immigration, displacement, and migration are thrown into the mix.
So, to answer your question, I think mothers, fathers, grandfathers, uncles and aunts would find this a terrific, perhaps insightful read :).
Okay, Neesha those were fabulous answers. Here are some sorta not so book-specific, but maybe a bit self-revealing questions, things your readers just might find fun to know about you.
Of all your favorite books, which one do you wish you had written?
Wild Seed, by Octavia Butler
That’s an interesting choice, Neesha. Sci-Fi.
What fictional character do you wish you could be?
The main female character in Wild Seed — I can’t remember her name right now, but it became Emma toward the end of book two.
Was it Anyanwu? No wonder you couldn’t remember it. I can barely spell it. But I did admire her power and her generousity in using it for the good. Says something about you Neesha.
After chocolate what do you eat to make the writer-block pain go away?
Cheese, or something creamy. Or caramel.
Yeah! My kind of writer.
AND . . . there’s more to come. Check out what Neesha and Cindy Pon talk about on March 31st.