The Inspiration for AMERICAN BETIYA
Years ago, I set out to write the kind of story I’d wished for as a teen: one that detailed an interracial love in all its beauty and honest complications, one that featured an ambitious Indian American teenager and her first-generation immigrant family…one that would feel fierce and unvarnished. After some tinkering, self-doubt, and false starts, I wrote a short story whose title was simply “Beginnings.”
“Beginnings” would be the story that, thanks to the encouragement of my fabulous writing group, was a true beginning: I’d flesh it out over the span of several years into what is now titled AMERICAN BETIYA (pronounced BAY-tee-uh, meaning “daughter” in Marathi). A young adult contemporary novel about an 18-year-old named Rani and her passionate boyfriend, Oliver, AMERICAN BETIYA details the desperate desire to escape into your beloved’s world and culture: what follows are heady highs, cultural misunderstandings, and the surprising emergence of one’s own identity. This novel delves into the complexities between Rani’s and Oliver’s relationship as well as Rani’s immigrant family, and all that happens as the two become interwoven.
AMERICAN BETIYA is a work of fiction. I drew upon my reading, research, and personal observations in creating Rani’s and Oliver’s world. I sought to discover what happens when two cultures collide in the form of feverish first love, and how we as a society might best support such relationships; how can we uphold and preserve our cultural heritage while viewing our differences as a boon, rather than a liability?
As I wrote AMERICAN BETIYA, I came to see how a couple’s cultural differences might intensify, strengthen and challenge their relationship, all on the same day. J Intercultural love is so beautiful a concept that it deserves its time in the sun in young adult literature—even if that means exploring the darker nuances of one such relationship. Ultimately, this debut is a meditation on love, sexuality, female friendship, diversity, and identity.
I hope you find AMERICAN BETIYA the sex-positive, swoony, heartbreaking, empowering book that I mean it to be. It is a book of my heart, and I can’t wait to share it with you! I’d love to hear your questions and thoughts, as I’ll aim to address them in upcoming posts. (Image from @hatecopy, whose solo exhibit FRAAAANDSHIP is at the Richard Tattinger Gallery in NYC, extended now through Oct. 6, 2019.)