Welcome to another Poisoned Rationality Special Edition! Today we have Shobhan Bantwal joining us for an interview!
Synopsis: At thirty-one, Meena Shenoy has a fulfilling career at a New Jersey high-tech firm. Not that it impresses her mother and aunts, who make dire predictions about her ticking biological clock. Men are drawn to Meena’s dainty looks and she dates regularly, but hasn’t met someone who really intrigues her. Someone professional, ambitious, confident, caring. Someone like her new boss, Prajay Nayak.
Just as Meena’s thoughts turn to romance, Prajay makes an astonishing request. He wants her to craft a personal ad that will help him find a suitable wife: a statuesque, sophisticated Indian-American woman who will complement his striking height.
Despite her attraction to Prajay and the complications of balancing work and her “marriage consultant” role, Meena can’t refuse the generous fee. And as her family is thrown into turmoil by her brother’s relationship with a Muslim woman, Meena comes to surprising realizations about love, tradition, and the sacrifices she will—and won’t—make for the sake of both.
+++A big welcome to Shobhan to Poisoned Rationality! I had the pleasure of meeting Shobhan
when she did signings here in my state a few years ago for The Dowry Bride. Thank you so much for being here!
Lexie,Easy question--what's the best part of The Reluctant Matchmaker that you hope readers take away from it?
Thank you for the enthusiastic welcome to your popular blog, and for your kind and continued support of my books.
The best part of The Reluctant Matchmaker is that it is a heart-warming story with a protagonist that readers can sympathize with and root for until the very end. And I hope my readers get a better understanding of Indian-American immigrant culture by experiencing it through Meena, my petite heroine who falls in love with her super-tall boss.From The Dowry Bride to your newest book, The Reluctant Matchmaker you've covered many
aspects of Indian culture--both here in America and abroad--that many folks may not even realize
are still a large part of the culture. What has been the hardest part about reaching an audience that knows very little about your culture?
One of the main reasons I tackle social issues that impact contemporary Indian women is to bring awareness to them by weaving them into fun mainstream stories that include strong romantic elements. To that end, I try to make my stories entertaining as well as educational.When Western readers comment on your books, what do they seem the most unsure about?
The hardest part about reaching a wide American audience has been to convince loyal romance readers to try a different kind of ethnic romance. While literary Asian novels and African-American and Latino romances have successfully captured the attention of readers, Indian romances still have a long way to go before they are accepted as meaningful mainstream fiction.
Are there other authors you'd recommend to them so they may learn more about Indian-American culture?
Western readers who send me feedback on my books typically seem to be pleasantly surprised that romance can indeed be found in a conservative, arranged-marriage culture like India. They also appear to be doubtful about how some horrific practices like dowry and female fetus abortion that plague contemporary Indian women, could possibly exist side by side with loving, caring relationships.You've often described your books as 'Bollywood in a Book' (for those who don't know, Bollywood is a specific genre of Indian film-making that often involves family politics, romance, singing and dancing), do you feel this helps new readers to know what they are to expect?
Consequently I try to portray my protagonists battling such antiquated customs and finding love and romance.
One of my fellow Indian-American mainstream authors that I recommend to my readers is Anjali Banerjee. She writes interesting women's fiction with Indian-American characters and hints of romance. Most other South-Asian authors write literary fiction and may not always appeal to romance readers.
I describe my books as "Bollywood in a Book" because they combine the drama, emotion, tastes, and textures of India with a refreshing dose of reality to make them more interesting and vibrant. However, my books are not pure Bollywood, because there is none of the unrealistic singing and dancing typical of Indian movies. My novels are primarily tales of intelligent and passionate women who are willing to fight for freedom from their old-fashioned and often repressive Indian culture.Are there other aspects of Indian-American culture you hope to explore in future novels?
And yes, "Bollywood in a Book" does indicate to readers that my novels are indeed lively entertainment.
I don't have any new books in the pipeline at this time since I just retired from my day job and moved to Arizona to spend some quality time with my two small grandchildren. I am enjoying a long hiatus from writing at the moment. If and when I resume writing, I may look to India once again for more women's issues. Homelessness is a topic that has caught my interest as a potential theme for a book.And lastly a hard question--what's been the best part of writing for you?
For me, the most fulfilling part of writing has been the ability to reach so many thousands of
readers through my books. The feedback that pours into my mailbox each week is beyond my wildest expectations. More than the words of praise, it is the fact that I have brought awareness to contemporary Indian women's issues to such a wide readership that pleases me the most. Naturally, I love seeing my books in bookstores, signing books for readers, and speaking to book clubs and other readers groups. Nevertheless, the best part is being able to interact with readers not only in the U.S. and Canada, but across the world.
Thank you Shobhan!! My favorite of Shobhan's books is The Dowry Bride, still holds me heart after all this time, but I encourage everyone to check her books out! More than romances, these are intriguing looks into a culture often misunderstood.