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Saturday, August 06, 2011

Indian American author tackles racism in her first novel ‘Hometown’

HometownFor many Indians, America is the 'land of milk and honey.' Many middle-class Indians, especially those born and brought up in the semi-American culture of India's urban middle class in cities like Delhi and Mumbai, see it as the land of opportunities.

The US is seen (deservedly) as one of the most tolerant and diverse cultures in World.

So it comes as a surprise when a Indian-origin girl, born and brought up in the country, chooses to base her first novel on her brush-ups against racism and alienation, growing up in a town in the US Midwest (central USA, a region that has a reputation for being less sophisticated than the coasts.)

The writer is Leena Ceraveeni, a journalism graduate from the Indiana University whose parents, ethnic Malayalees, emigrated to the US in '70s and finally ended up in US state of Indiana, south of the Great Lakes.

Her debut novel, “The Hometown,” documents the racial experiences of an Indian girl born and raised in Indiana.

Each chapter of “The Hometown” focuses on a different racial experience when 23-year-old Mala Thomas packs up her Acura Vigor and makes an impulsive move to Houston. The death of the sister she cannot remember, her love for ’80s rock, and her past racial experiences follow her everywhere she goes.

"Indian Americans have to deal with people who tell them they smell like rice and curry. Indian Americans have been asked if they know the Indian people who work at the gas station down the street. If Indian people would eat the cow they wouldn't starve."

Says Leena, “I gradually became more comfortable with my Indian heritage. It started later on in high school when I grew into a more confident person. I started to appreciate my culture more. I stopped caring about what other people would think. In college, I started meeting more Indian people and attending more cultural events. I eventually moved to Texas and spent time in Houston and Austin and that is when I became really comfortable. I wasn't anything special there.”

Excerpt RTN

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