Her Story: Ladies In Literature 2020 with Shveta Thakrar

Her Story: Ladies In Literature is a special, month-long series on Pop! Goes The Reader in which we celebrate the literary female role models whose stories have inspired and empowered us since time immemorial. From Harriet M. Welsch to Anne Shirley, Becky Bloomwood to Hermione Granger, Her Story: Ladies In Literature is a series created for women, by women as twenty authors answer the question: “Who’s your heroine?” You can find a complete list of the participants and their scheduled guest post dates Here!

About Shveta Thakrar

Shveta Thakrar is a part-time nagini and full-time believer in magic. Her work has appeared in a number of magazines and anthologies including Enchanted Living, Uncanny Magazine, A Thousand Beginnings and Endings, and Toil & Trouble. Her debut young adult fantasy novel, Star Daughter, is forthcoming from HarperTeen on August 11, 2020. When not spinning stories about spider silk and shadows, magic and marauders, and courageous girls illuminated by dancing rainbow flames, Shveta crafts, devours books, daydreams, travels, bakes, and occasionally even plays her harp. Shveta is represented by Beth Phelan of the Gallt & Zacker Literary Agency.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterInstagramGoodreads

When I was a kid, every single book I read — and I read a lot! — starred white main characters. I also read Amar Chitra Katha comics, which retold stories from ancient India, along with some modern-day history, but as far as novels went? I can’t remember a single one with a face the color of mine.

So it was an absolute revelation for me when I, twenty-two years old and then working in publishing, walked into a brown bag lunch and saw Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier on the book swap table. A young adult novel about a desi girl? Could it be true? We had to sit through an industry lecture before we could go pick books, but I can’t even tell you what the topic was, because all I remember is keeping my eye on the pink cover featuring a girl with a bindi doubling as a question mark, determined to nab it before anyone else could. (I did — and I still have that same copy to this day, nineteen years later.)

I’ve written on and off my whole life, but it took me a while to stop writing white main characters, since that was all I knew. Seeing and then reading about Dimple Lala, an Indian American teen who wondered where she fit in and what to make of her desi heritage, changed all that for me. While I couldn’t relate to some aspects of Dimple’s life, like having a best friend as a teenager or being an only child or having the option to be part of the local desi community, it didn’t matter. I absolutely understood her yearning to figure out who she was without having to sacrifice any part of herself to please someone else.

I understood her initial embarrassment about being Indian that later sweetened into acceptance. I understood her sneaking out with her best friend and getting in trouble with her parents but also wanting harmony with them. I understood her fighting off and then eventually falling for sweet Karsh. I longed to be able to go with her to the glittery party where people showed up in saris and combat boots.

Dimple helped me realize there was a place for stories like ours and protagonists like us. That we didn’t need to be pale of skin and blond of hair to be worthy of adventures and self-discovery and love. In fact, when I made the permanent switch to writing desi characters, I imagined my debut novel, Star Daughter, being the fantasy love letter to Born Confused and to Dimple. I’d like to think that Sheetal and Dimple could be friends.

More than that, I’d like to think that we can make sure everyone feels seen in the way I did when I first spotted the book. I’d like to think that my work will do that for others, and that helps me keep going on days when I want to quit writing.

Thank you, Dimple and Tanuja, from Sheetal and me for letting me know my voice mattered and matters, too.

Find Born Confused on GoodreadsAmazonChaptersThe Book DepositoryBarnes & NobleIndieBound

Title Star Daughter
Author Shveta Thakrar
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre Fantasy
Publication Date August 11th 2020 by HarperTeen
Find It On GoodreadsAmazonChaptersThe Book DepositoryBarnes & NobleIndieBound

This gorgeously imagined YA debut blends shades of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust and a breathtaking landscape of Hindu mythology into a radiant contemporary fantasy.

The daughter of a star and a mortal, Sheetal is used to keeping secrets. Pretending to be “normal.” But when an accidental flare of her starfire puts her human father in the hospital, Sheetal needs a full star’s help to heal him. A star like her mother, who returned to the sky long ago.

Sheetal’s quest to save her father will take her to a celestial court of shining wonders and dark shadows, where she must take the stage as her family’s champion in a competition to decide the next ruling house of the heavens — and win, or risk never returning to Earth at all.

Brimming with celestial intrigue, this sparkling YA debut is perfect for fans of Roshani Chokshi and Laini Taylor.

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Jen is a thirty-something Canadian book blogger and bibliophile currently residing in the wilds of suburbia. Aside from a penchant for older men, particularly those with the surnames Firth, Elba and Norton, Jen is also passionately interested in running, Mad Men, and Marilyn Monroe. In addition to being a voracious reader and self-proclaimed television addict, Jen is also an aspiring children and youth services librarian who would like to pursue a MLIS and better help readers find the perfect book for them.