(By Paro Anand. Nominated in the category of English Fiction for the REC-VoW Book Awards, 2019)
Excerpts from the interview with Paro Anand:
By TANYA SINGH
Your book comes at an important time in history, when gender and sexuality rights are being “visibilised”, if not actualised. How did you conceptualise the title and idea of your book, ‘The Other’?
Love the word ‘visibilised,’ goes well with my word ‘otherised’. I think this is the kind of writing I have been doing for a long time. I was once described in an interview, as the voice of the underdog, who, would be ‘the other’. So I would say that this book concretised and brought together much of my work. The otherisation comes in so many forms. But for young people, of course, gender and sexuality are important aspects (whether parents like it or not). Whether we talk about these things or not, it doesn’t make the issue go away. For me, a sensitive story that is honest is one of the most effective mediums to talk about difficult issues, especially with young people. It is not as if I thought, right now I am going to sit and write a story that deals with sexuality and gender. Rather, I looked at the myriad ways in which people are ‘otherised’ and wrote as many stories as I could at that moment.
Can you name some children’s authors that you grew up reading, and books that made a difference to your childhood? Our audience would love a list of recommended reads from you.
I wasn’t even a great reader as a child, but my family was. All of them! Then i found a book that changed the course of my life, ‘Born Free’, by Joy Adams. It hooked me onto books that described lives I wanted to live. The more I read, the more adept I became at making up stories about how exciting my life was, when in fact, it was dead boring and normal. I became an adept liar. And from there it was a short step to being a writer. Along the way, I’ve met fabulous books, so here are some of my childhood and current favourites – Watership Down by Richard Adams – The Boy in Striped Pyjamas – John Boyne – When Morning Comes – Arushi Raiina – One Half from the East – Nadia Hashimi – And of course, Harry Potter and anything and everything from Judy Blume, Roald Dahl.
Paro Anand is a Sahitya Akademi, Bal Sahitya Award winner for her book, Wild Child, now published as Like Smoke, with additional content. She has written books for children, young adults and adults. She also works with children, especially those in difficult circumstances through her programme, Literature in Action, and holds a world record for helping over three thousand children make the world’s longest newspaper. She was invited to speak at the Harvard India Conference, USA, on Disruptive Innovation in Literature for Young Adults and Children. She has been awarded for her contribution to children’s literature by The Russian Centre for Science and Culture. No Guns at my Son’s Funeral, which opened to rave reviews, was on the International Board on Books for Young People Honour List, has been translated into German and French. She headed the National Centre for Children’s Literature. The Little Bird who held the Sky up with his Feet was on the 1001 Books to Read before You Grow Up, an international gold standard of the world’s best books ever. Wingless has been performed nationally and internationally. She has authored Like Smoke and co- authored two with Swedish writer, Orjan Perrson. Her latest book, The Other, is a ground-breaking collection of stories dealing with sensitive issues. As a performance storyteller and speaker, she has represented India in the USA, UK, Sweden, Switzerland, Singapore, Germany and Bangladesh, besides all over India. For the complete interview, log onto www.valley ofwords.org