HomeBooks by AgeAges 4-8My Writing and Reading Life with Supriya Kelkar, Author of American as Paneer Pie

My Writing and Reading Life with Supriya Kelkar, Author of American as Paneer Pie

The Children’s Book Review | June 2, 2020

Supriya Kelkar

Born and raised in the Midwest, SUPRIYA KELKAR learned Hindi as a child by watching three Hindi movies a week. She is a screenwriter who has worked on the writing teams for several Hindi films and one Hollywood feature. Supriya’s books include AhimsaThe Many Colors of Harpreet Singh, and American as Paneer Pie, among others.

I write because …

I didn’t have books with Indian-American characters in it growing up so I never thought my story was important as a child. I would write books and stories in school and the characters more often than not had blonde hair and white skin. I write because I know my story is important and I want to tell it.

I read because …

I love stories. I love reading mirror books and I also love sliding glass door books, the phrase Dr. Rudine Sims Bishops coined, that allow me to walk into the world of someone else and experience their story.

My latest published book is …

AMERICAN AS PANEER PIE. It’s the story of an Indian-American girl named Lekha who lives in a small town in Michigan. Lekha feels like she has two versions of herself, Home Lekha, who is proud of her Indian culture and immersed in it, and School Lekha, who feels ashamed of it thanks to years of teasing and othering about it. When a racist incident rocks her small town, Lekha must find her voice and speak out against hate before it is too late.

I wrote this book because …

I felt the story so deeply. I wanted to put into words what my experiences were, as the daughter of immigrants in a town that didn’t value diversity. I wanted to do that because although I was in middle school years ago, unfortunately, the prejudice, racism, othering, and microaggressions I experienced growing up are still around today.

Best moment …

The best moment in the writing of American as Paneer Pie was when I finished the first draft and knew that while it had many revisions ahead of it, the story at its heart was working.

My special place to write is …

On my sofa, under a blanket in winter, with my dog. I have also been known to write in my car, parked in the school lot, waiting for the bell to ring to get out and pick up my son.

Necessary writing/creativity tool …

I like to switch mediums and work on collage art when I get stuck on a manuscript. I cut up old Indian wedding invitations and then paint over the collage digitally. I generally have a solution to what was causing the writer’s block by the time I’m done with a piece.

The person who has been my greatest writing teacher or inspiration is …

I have three actually. My dad is an engineer who also wrote some Hindi movies. I grew up watching him write scripts for his Indian radio program, and writing speeches for musical shows he would emcee. The second is Jim Burnstein, my screenwriting professor at the University of Michigan, who taught me about structure and writing. And the third is Hindi movie writer-director-producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra who taught me how to entertain while being true to the heart of a story.

Currently reading …

I’m about to start reading CHIRP by Kate Messner.

Favorite bookshop …

There are definitely too many to name but my four favorite bookstores in Michigan are The Book Beat in Oak Park, Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor, Literati in Ann Arbor, and The Book Bug/This is a Bookstore in Kalamazoo. They’re run by the most wonderful staff who are all super passionate about books.

All-time favorite children’s book I didn’t write …

This is also a tough one! A recent favorite that comes to mind is Spencer’s New Pet by Jessie Sima. I thought it was so smart! Two more recent favorites that make me teary-eyed any time I read them are The Remember Balloons by Jessie Oliveras and illustrated by Dana Wulfekotte, and Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellafora by Candace Fleming and illustrated by Eric Rohmann.

Favorite illustrator …

I have a lot of favorite illustrators. I adore Brendan Kearney’s adorable art in the Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast series, Christian Robinson’s art is always so striking, and I love Leo Espinosa’s work as well, just to name a few.

A literary character I would like to vacation with …

Carl from Deborah Freedman’s Carl and the Meaning of Life. He’s an earthworm, but he is super kind and seems like he would really enjoy living in the moment and appreciating earth’s beauty on a vacation.

When I am not reading or writing I am …

Making collages, watching TV or Hindi movies, or hanging out with my family.

To learn more about Supriya Kelkar, visit supriyakelkar.com.

American as Paneer Pie

Written by Supriya Kelkar

Publisher’s Synopsis: An Indian American girl navigates prejudice in her small town and learns the power of her own voice in this brilliant gem of a middle grade novel full of humor and heart, perfect for fans of Front Desk and Amina’s Voice.

As the only Indian American kid in her small town, Lekha Divekar feels like she has two versions of herself: Home Lekha, who loves watching Bollywood movies and eating Indian food, and School Lekha, who pins her hair over her bindi birthmark and avoids confrontation at all costs, especially when someone teases her for being Indian.

When a girl Lekha’s age moves in across the street, Lekha is excited to hear that her name is Avantika and she’s Desi, too! Finally, there will be someone else around who gets it. But as soon as Avantika speaks, Lekha realizes she has an accent. She’s new to this country, and not at all like Lekha.

To Lekha’s surprise, Avantika does not feel the same way as Lekha about having two separate lives or about the bullying at school. Avantika doesn’t take the bullying quietly. And she proudly displays her culture no matter where she is: at home or at school.

When a racist incident rocks Lekha’s community, Lekha realizes she must make a choice: continue to remain silent or find her voice before it’s too late.

Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Aladdin | June 9, 2020 | ISBN-13: 978-1534439382

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Bianca Schulze is the founder of The Children’s Book Review. She is a reader, reviewer, mother and children’s book lover. She also has a decade’s worth of experience working with children in the great outdoors. Combined with her love of books and experience as a children’s specialist bookseller, the goal is to share her passion for children’s literature to grow readers. Born and raised in Sydney, Australia, she now lives with her husband and three children near Boulder, Colorado.

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