Tag Archives: Maya Running

Author Interview: Anjali Banerjee

With her past seven published novels – written for audiences that range from middle-grade readers on up – Anjali Banerjee didn’t particularly mention male body parts in any great detail. Maybe a twinkling eye here, capable hands there, but she certainly didn’t dwell. But as the saying goes, there’s a first time for everything.

Indeed, welcome to Haunting Jasmine, Banerjee’s eighth novel, her third for adults: Page one opens with an avid discussion on the fidelity factor of male genitalia based on ethnicity, complete with images of… well, shall we say… gold-embroidered formalwear for the faithful Bengali member. Five pages later, our betrayed heroine is not above asking the elephant god Ganesh to put a curse – à la Lorena Bobbit – on her heartbreaking spouse’s non-Bengali, all-American private parts. Oh, ouch.

Painful initial details aside, Banerjee’s latest is actually another easy-breezy, deftly entertaining love story, this time with spine-tingling twists. Searching for respite from her cheating soon-to-be-ex, the eponymous Jasmine heads home to remote Shelter Island in the Pacific Northwest where she’s agreed to watch Auntie Ruma’s bookstore for a month. Auntie Ruma needs the time to have her “heart fixed in India,” and only Jasmine can be entrusted to take care of the historic Victorian and the treasures – literary and otherwise – that reside within.

Books and writing – and certainly some multi-culti magic – have always been a part of Banerjee’s life. Born in India, and raised in small-town Canada and later big-city California, Banerjee found special inspiration in her literary maternal grandmother, herself an English writer who called India home.

From the moment Banerjee “could pick up a crayon and scribble,” she started writing. She wrote her first story at age seven, and in spite of “preposterous premises and impossible plots,” she never stopped. While she’s “not sure of a specific moment when I decided to become a writer” – she did have a few career detours as a veterinary assistant, an office manager, a law student, to name a few – Banerjee readily acknowledges that “writing has always been part of who I am.”

Since publishing her first title in 2005 – her lauded kiddie novel Maya Running, about an awkward young Indian American girl who goes through a 13 Going on 30-sort of transformation (sans the timely fast-forward) and becomes an assertive, multilingual beauty overnight – Banerjee has managed to publish more than a book a year. Even with five books for middle grade readers and three more for us oldsters, all out in just six years, Banerjee insists, “I’m not that prolific!”

In case you’re about to set off for the library or local bookstore, you’ll need the rest of Banerjee’s titles: In addition to Maya, her other younger-reader novels are Rani and the Fashion Divas, The Silver Spell, Looking for Bapu, and most recently Seaglass Summer; her adult titles before Haunting Jasmine are Imaginary Men and Invisible Lives (with nary a mention in either about certain appendages. Ahem).

So Haunting Jasmine starts with quite a saucy departure from your previous novels. What prompted the impulse?
The departure seemed right for my character, a jilted divorcée whose husband cheated on her. He dashed her dreams for a perfect life and a happy marriage – her thoughts seemed appropriate for the situation! [... click here for more]

Author interview: Feature: “An Interview with Anjali Banerjee,” Bookslut.com, February 2011

Readers: Adult

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Maya Running by Anjali Banerjee

Maya RunningAs the only South Asian in her middle school, Maya knows all about being different in her tiny Canadian town. She doesn’t speak Bengali, she’s at that awkward stage of pimples and endless limbs, she doesn’t want to move to California, and she’s madly in love with the coolest boy in her school who just might like her back. When her perfectly gorgeous cousin, Pinky, arrives from India to exacerbate Maya’s insecuritiesl, Maya prays to Pinky’s round-bellied Hindu elephant god, Ganesh, for help. She goes through a 13 Going on 30 sort of transformation, without the fast-forward, literally becoming an assertive, multilingual, overnight beauty. But then, getting her wishes granted is just the beginning to realizing what she really wants in life.

Review: “New and Notable Books,” AsianWeek, February 25, 2005

TidbitAnjali Banerjee was one of our many wonderful guests for SALTAF 2005 [South Asian Literary and Theater Arts Festival].

Readers: Middle Grade

Published: 2005

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Filed under ..Middle Grade Readers, .Fiction, Canadian Asian Pacific American, Indian American, South Asian American