“No matter what age you are, you can always start writing. And I think in a way, as you get older you know more about life, you know more about yourself, you know more about the world. And I think that it actually becomes easier to write.” Author Alka Joshi talks with host J.T. Ellison about her book The Henna Artist on NPT’s A Word on Words.
J.T. Ellison: Welcome to A Word on Words. I’m really excited to have you. I love the book. Why don’t you tell us how you came to the page? How did this story come into being, because it was quite a long process, right?
Alka Joshi: I think for many, many years I had been watching my mother navigate her life. And I noticed that, in the same way that I think many women realize about their mothers life, as they get older, that their mothers had a very different life. They had a life that didn’t have all of the choices that they have been afforded. That was a conclusion that I came to in my fifties, when I was taking my mother back and forth to India, multiple times, I was doing that. We started talking about her girlhood. We started talking about the kind of dreams that she had, the things that she wanted to do for herself before she had been called back home by her father and told that she would not be completing college at the age of 18. She was called back to get married. And, that she had not even talked to my father ever until the day that they were actually married.
And then within four short years, she had three children. She was constantly either catering to my dad, to us, to all of the different priorities in family life that she had, but she never had a chance to make all of those decisions that she allowed me to make. So with me, she always said, you will make your own choice about your spouse, your career, and your family. I will never interfere in those decisions, but here’s something really important for you to know. You need to make sure that you are financially whole and that you are able to sustain yourself with or without marriage. And I thought that was such a remarkable gift because the subtext was, you need to always be able to take care of yourself in a way that I was not able to, maybe if I could have left my marriage, I would have.
That’s what I heard whenever she said that. And so when I started writing The Henna Artist, what I wanted to do was create a character who was living that life that I think my mother would have liked to live. So after two years of marriage at the age of 17, [Lakshmi] leaves her marriage. He deserves it. She leaves in the middle of the day. Nobody knows where she’s going. They think she’s just going about her daily business, but she lands 800 miles away in a different city, doing something extremely different and learning how to navigate the world without a family, without support, from her immediate mother and father and mother-in-law and husband. And I think that what I wanted to imagine was what would my mother have done in that case? What if she could have left her marriage? What profession might she have chosen?
And I chose the profession of henna for her because in India, as you grow up, every girl sees her mother with henna on her hands, henna on her feet. You see your neighbors, your aunties, anybody you run across within the market. Everybody’s always got an occasion for which they have had Henna painting done. So it’s a craft that’s been around for 5,000 years. And I thought, a woman like Lakshmi, without any formal education, could have picked up henna painting as a way to make a living. It’s really something that she has the ability to do on her own. She can make the henna paste, the plant grows in Rajasthan very abundantly. And in that whole part of the world where it’s hot and dry. And so she could have mixed her own henna paste, she could have had her own proprietary ingredients that she puts in. And then, she goes about and builds a business based on all of the knowledge of herbs and spices that she has. And these herbal remedies that she has learned from the mother-in-law that you spent the two years with while she was married, a very generous and kind woman who taught her all kinds of skills. So with all of this in hand, I thought here we are. Here is her life. The way I could imagine it happening in 1955 India.
Ellison: So 1955 India is actually a really important moment because there are things afoot that are giving women some more rights than they had. Talk to me about setting it there, and the work that you had to do to bring all of that to life.
Joshi: 1955 was the year that my parents were married. And so I knew that if I could talk to my parents about this period of life, they could tell me about India as they knew it before independence, when they were born after independence. And then during this period of India’s life, where we are past the partition era, the 14 to 16 million people who have crossed the border between this fictional creation of Pakistan and separation from India, what has been happening during the intervening years, India has been developing itself. It has been trying to rebuild itself after the destruction that was caused by the British colonization. The British destroyed so many industries in India that had kept the country afloat, that had kept so many people in jobs for centuries, but they destroyed a lot of those industries. And it was up to the newly formed Indian government to figure out how are we going to rebuild those industries?
Are there new industries that we are going to try to promote? Are there ways in which we want to educate our people that are different from the way the British set up for us? So it was a time of vibrancy in a time of tremendous optimism about the Indian people. You know, they finally had a country to themselves after 200 years of colonial rule. How are they going to manage? My father was one of those newly-minted engineers who was helping rebuild India during the 1950s. So he is helping build roads and dams and bridges and brand new buildings, and so it was a wonderful way for me to capture his life and to capture my mother’s life during that period, as a young woman, trying to navigate this whole new world of marriage and children, and, what does that feel like?
She was reading Life andLook magazines, which I got to incorporate into The Henna Artist. And I did all this research, looking through those old magazines. I looked at a lot of old films from that era, the Bollywood films of that era, and also, films by people who did very realistic films of that era. What was actually happening in villages as well as cities, with a lot of these women. So, it was really convenient for me to write about an era that nobody else had written about because I had people in my life who were available to meet, to interview from that era. And also it is a time of India that doesn’t get talked about. Partition gets the majority of the spotlight, but not the era after Partition, which is this era when India is rebuilding itself. And I think that it set itself up for the place that it has in society now, that it has in the global sphere. Now India is poised to become one of the three biggest powers of the world. And I think it all started from the 1950s. That’s what I wanted to write about.
Ellison: That’s fantastic. So Lakshmi is absolutely wonderful feminist icon to me. I mean, she’s everything, she’s leaving an abusive marriage that was arranged for her, going to a huge city and creating her own life. I mean, that’s absolutely amazing. She’s an artist, she’s a healer. She is an angel maker. But she’s a fixer in many ways and she’s incredibly strategic and she’s looking at ways not just to survive, but to thrive. And then Rahda comes running.
Joshi: Yes. And then comes her 13-year-old sister, who she did not know she had. And she has been brought to Jaipur where Lakshmi is building her very first house. She’s being brought to Jaipur by Lakshmi’s estranged husband, whom she also has not seen for the last 13 years. This is completely going to upend this very carefully curated life that she has developed for herself. All of her ladies, the ladies that she services know her as a woman whose husband might have deserted her, perhaps he deserted her because she was unable to have children, which is a very acceptable reason in India for a marriage to dissolve. And so they don’t question her very much farther about her life. It’s going to be a shock to them to find out that it was Lakshmi herself who might have abandoned her marriage and Lakshmi herself who abandoned her parents and disappointed them and left them in the lurch as people who were shamed and humiliated because their daughter abandoned a marriage. It is verboten in India to even consider doing something like that. Even in today’s world, maybe not in the much larger cities like Mumbai and Delhi, but everywhere else, it is still such an impossible feat for a woman to take on in India today.
Ellison: That’s what I was going to ask you. How often does this happen? How realistic could that be? Especially in 1955. I mean, that’s the beautiful romance of the story, obviously, but in reality, could that actually have happened?
Joshi: You know, I think in every era of our lives, in every century, in every decade, we have had women who have done the impossible, who have bucked the societal system to go their own way. You know, we are reading stories now about black women who passed as white, that was unheard of, but many women did do it. We are hearing about all of these women in the 1800s who were passing as men, let’s say just to be able to do the kinds of things they wanted to do, because they weren’t allowed to as women. So there have always been women in history who have done phenomenal things, even leading ordinary lives, they have done phenomenal things, and we need to hear about them. We need to know about these women. This is one of the reasons I wanted to write this story.
I do want to write about women who have, I think, navigated the patriarchy on very different terms than the rest of us may have, because they just felt within them this extraordinary power, this extraordinary need to realize their full potential. So, I think that that is where Lakshmi is coming from.
Now, let me tell you a story about what’s happening today in India that relates to what Lakshmi is doing. A couple of months after The Henna Artist was published, I got a call from a woman in Mumbai, a young woman in her thirties. And she said, Alka, I just finished reading The Henna Artist and I have to tell you, it felt as if you were telling my story here in 2019, you are telling my story. I was married, after I got my BA, and I had a son and my husband was battering me. He was abusing me to the point where I really thought, I don’t want my son to grow up seeing me like this in this marriage. So I went to my mother and I said, I do not want to be in this marriage any longer, will you support me? And my mother said, no, divorce is not done in our family. You need to stay. So I went to my sister and I asked my sister, would she support me? If I decided to leave my husband and my sister said, no, absolutely not. She had her own family, her own life. She did not want to be humiliated by having a divorced sister. So what this woman did, the woman who called me, she decided that she wanted to go see a lawyer about what her options were. The lawyer said, at this point, your, your husband is going to have full custody of your child because you don’t work.
And she said, but my husband won’t allow me to work. And the lawyer said, well, you’ve got to figure out a way, or you will lose custody of your son if you leave your husband. So she decided in a very stealthy way that every time her husband left for work, she put the baby in a stroller. And she went out on the streets of Mumbai and she looked for a job. She finally found one, she put the baby in daycare. And, she decided that she was going to keep this job and start saving the money so that she could afford her own apartment. One day, she finally saved up enough money that she got the lease on the apartment. Her husband never even knew that she was leaving for work as soon as he left and coming back before he got home.
So suddenly she presents him with divorce papers, and now she lives very happily by herself in a little studio, which is what she can afford in a big apartment building in Mumbai. And she has her job, which she loves. And she has her son who she just adores. And she is teaching him how to live in a genderless society. So he is also growing up learning how to cook and clean and all the things that she has to do. She says, in fact, he is a better cleaner than I am. And I said, how is that? And she said, because Alka, I am blind. I have always been blind. And so it took a lot of courage for me as a blind woman who had been raised in a very traditional society to say, I could make it on my own.
And I thought, what a tremendous thing for a woman to be able to do when she has no support from her family. I asked her, I said, how did you read my book if you’re blind? And she said, Oh, a screen reader. It’s attached to my computer. It reads everything. It also dictates my emails to me and I, speak into it and so on. So this was 2019 that this woman is calling me with her story. So can you imagine these things are happening today, women with no agency who are having to navigate their own way in this world without support?
Ellison: And that’s one of the things I was really interested in, that I wanted to talk about, is this societal culture of shame. Everything that Lakshmi is deciding is balanced against the shame that she’s going to experience. And she’s going to be ostracized if she doesn’t walk this line perfectly. Can you talk a little bit about that shame-based culture, and how you escaped that? I mean, if you’ve grown up in that environment, how do you escape it?
Joshi: I think that Lakshmi doesn’t escape it. I think that she pulls herself outside of it, but her mental image of herself is still as a woman who needs to make up for all the shame and humiliation she has caused her family in her mind. She was always still trying to apologize to her parents, always trying to apologize to that wonderful mother-in-law who she knows she left behind and she just loved more than anything. So I think that she never gets over that shame and humiliation. It’s only at the very end of the novel when we see where her journey has taken her, that she decides to leave all of that behind, at that moment when we are at the train platform and her train is taking off to take her away from Jaipur, that’s when she finally lets go.
It’s a decision that I think women have to make when they have done something that they know their family does not approve of. At some point they have to let go of what they’ve been holding onto. They have to let go of this idea that they’ve been a bad girl in a very similar way that Radha has to let go of this idea of being the bad luck girl that she was tainted with in her own village. She ultimately still carries that around. She still feels like she’s going to bring bad luck on everything until the end of the novel where I think she also realizes, okay, I’m no longer a bad luck girl. That was something that was foisted upon me. That is not me as a person. Me as a person is a whole person who can realize their desires and be whatever I want me to be.
Ellison: Which is a wonderful sentiment. It’s a rather ironic novel really, when the plot lines with Lakshmi and Radha are explored, and I wanted to know, are there any proverbs that would explain that?
Joshi: You know, all the proverbs come from my dad. My dad is now 88 and he is from the generation in India that always spoke in proverbs. I think there are a lot of cultures in that part of the world, that were actually taught poems before they were even taught stories. So like Rumi for instance, those poems, in India, there are so many people who grow up with poetry and these Proverbs as a way of communicating the things that they need to teach in life, or that they need to learn in life. I’m not sure that there is one proverb that would accentuate, or that would explain everything that’s happening in the novel. But how about this one: only a fool remains in the water and stays an enemy of the crocodile, right?
So Lakshmi, in The Henna Artist is actually in a very treacherous place, [surrounded by] all of these ladies whom she serves [who are] just waiting for her to make one wrong move. And if she makes one wrong move she could be ousted from that entire society, one wrong move. And she no longer has her livelihood. She no longer has her status and her reputation as this great henna artist. So she is constantly on edge. She is the person who is trying not to provoke the crocodiles in the water. And yet that is exactly what happens towards the end of the book. So sometimes I think if we are too careful about what we don’t want to have happen, I think in a way we sort of make it happen. And sometimes, as happens in some cases, when that happens, it may not be a bad thing. It may be the thing that induces us to go into a life that is better for us, a life that is happier for us, a life that is more fulfilling for us. And I think that’s exactly what happens with Lakshmi.
Ellison: Those are words to live by. Actually, I think we should all have a moment and think about that, and how it applies to ourselves. That’s really true. So you’re an artist and you’ve said that you think in color. I was curious, do you have synesthesia or is it just your artistic way?
Joshi: I’m just artistic. Yeah. I don’t have synesthesia, but I dream in full color. I dream so vividly that sometimes I smell smoke in my dreams or I smell food in my dreams. And I wake up because the sensation is so strong and I look around my house. I actually go down to the kitchen and I go, Oh my God, did I leave a burner on? Is something cooking? Nothing. It’s just, my dreams are so vivid. They always have been, in full color, full patterns, people moving around doing incredible things. Those are like my dreams now, people have said to me, do you want to write down your dreams? Cause maybe that would be a good thing to do as an author. I actually don’t write down my dreams. I think I kind of live my dreams all day long.
Ellison: That’s incredible. You’ve had an extraordinary amount of success. You’re late to being a debut author, as you’ve talked about. I don’t know, personally I don’t think it’s ever too late to write a book, that’s how I feel about it. You’ve had an extraordinary amount of success with this book and the series. How has it changed your life? Has it?
Joshi: I don’t think it’s changed my life at all because it happened during the pandemic. So I actually have not been out and about. Maybe it would have changed my life had I had an opportunity to go to large conferences or be on a panel or go to The Strand [bookstore] in New York and have some kind of an author or event. I have not had a chance to do any of those things. I’m just sitting in my house right now, talking to you in my dining room. And this is where I have been for the last year. I’ve done something like 350 book clubs just on Zoom, because that is the only communication right now that’s available to you and me and frankly, I think it’s been extraordinary. It’s been a great way for me to connect with readers in a way that I don’t think I could have done this physically.
I can’t visit 350 book clubs. It would be like going to a different city every single day. And I can’t do that in reality. And so it’s been actually a boon to be in a pandemic and to go book a book launch like this. So the success, I think may have been due to the fact that people are hungry for a connection, first of all. So they want to connect with authors. They want to connect with other people reading the same book. And secondly, they’re hungry for an escape. People are looking for a way to get out of the home environment that they’ve been locked down in for like a year. And, just to experience something different. And in The Henna Artist, they get to go to a whole different country. They get to experience food in The Henna Artist.
There were so many times when I was writing about food that I actually got so hungry, I had to set my computer down and I have to go order some food from the outside. So I could have a samosa or I could have paratha and Aloo Gobi Subji. So, they want to connect with food. They want to connect with tradition from other countries, and people are so curious and generous about wanting to learn about other cultures. So I think this pandemic has been a perfect time for them to do that because we’ve all had more downtime than ever. And I think that finding out about other cultures is a great thing to do when you have all this downtime. Things that may have seemed really important for you to do when you could get out of the house, when you could take a drive anywhere, when you could travel, you don’t get a chance to do. And so you think, wow, what am I going to do with my time? Oh, let me learn how to cook something.
Ellison: Massive societal shift, too. An awareness of other cultures is really at the forefront. I mean, you couldn’t have timed it better.
Joshi: No. And you know, the weird thing about all of this is that I started this novel 12 years ago. So I had no idea that by the time the novel was published… I kept waiting for my agent to say, yes, we’re ready now to show it to a publisher. Yes, we’re ready now to show it to her. And she never did. And she waited all of those years until she finally said, okay, now we’re ready to show it to a publisher. And I was so mad at her for such a long time, because I thought she was keeping me from success. But in reality, what she was really doing was ensuring that the book was ready for success. And once the book really felt as if to her, it was going to be a bestseller, then she shopped it and, so that, what an amazing thing for her to be able to do.
But because I think she did that, we ended up in conjunction with the Me Too movement with the Asian hate sort of thing that’s going on right now. And so people do want to know more about the Asian cultures. People do want to know about women and the issues that they’re having. We have that other book by Chanel Miller [Know My Name] about being raped and being in this kind of rape culture and a culture where we still don’t have gender equity. So these are all issues that are discussed in my book. And I think that the time was just right for it to come out. So thank you, Emma Sweeney my agent.
Ellison: Good job. Good job. So I want to do a quick lightning round and I want to start with, what’s your favorite book?
Joshi: Jane Eyre. It’s very hard for me to pick a book, but I do have to say that as a nine-year-old, when I first came here as an immigrant to the United States, I felt so different. I felt so lonely. I felt so scared and I felt like I was never going to fit in. And Jane Eyre, the book spoke to me because there was a girl who did not fit in, who didn’t have love from her immediate family. And so I think she developed in character, she developed this amazing strength of will and strength of self knowledge, of self. And I thought, wow, I wish I could do that. I would like to be like Jane Eyre and have such a strong idea of myself that I could navigate this world with that kind of self-confidence. So I loved Jane Eyre for that.
It really helped me. I think as an immigrant learning about first of all the Western culture and how you can, go through this Western society and maintain much more self confidence as a woman.
Ellison: Favorite painting.
Joshi: Ooh, my goodness. Oh gosh. I have so many, so many, so many. Which one am I going to choose? Okay. I will choose one of the ones by Cezanne, because I loved his fruits. I loved the Gauguin ladies, the Tahitian ladies of Gauguin. I loved the Van Gogh’s Starry Night and the Potato Eaters. So, perhaps my favorite paintings are from the impressionist period. I’ve got that color, right? All that color and vibrancy.
Ellison: What’s your favorite word?
Joshi: I wanted to say power, but I feel like I have to qualify it, but I think power. I think power of self is really important.
Ellison: Favorite food from your childhood?
Joshi: Aloo Gobi, which is a potato cauliflower, curried, vegetable. I love, love, love it. And I order it every single time I eat Indian food or if I make it at home, that’s the thing that I can make. It’s something my mother used to make all the time and I loved it. And we all still my brothers and I, it’s the first thing that we ask for when we go to a restaurant
Ellison: Maybe we can drop a link in the transcript because that sounds so good. What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
Joshi: Take the time to make it the best product that it can be, have patience with yourself. You’re not going to get it on the first try or the second or the third try, when people readThe Henna Artist, I don’t think they realize this is my 30th draft of the book and that’s how much it takes to get the book right. And to go really deep into the characters. That’s how long it took me. Maybe somebody else, it will only take five drafts, but I tried many different ways to go with the characters. The stories went in one direction in the first set of drafts, maybe in another direction. And the second set of drafts, maybe a subplot here, or a character here got changed in another set of drafts. So I think by the time the 30th draft was here, I knew pretty well what each character was going to do. And I had a good idea of how I wanted each of those characters to play out, but I have to play with them a lot.
Ellison: Doing 12, 30 drafts of a book and then selling it, and then writing a sequel, now you’re doing a trilogy. How has it changed, writing the second book from writing first?
Joshi: It’s so much easier to write the second and third books because I have already gone through the learning process of figuring out how to thread the chapters together, how to make sure that I didn’t drop a character throughout the book and make sure that every character arc is going up and then back down again. And also, I think, I just know now how to build a story over the course of 350 pages. It’s almost like I have unlocked a door and now I just go through that door and there’s a story laid out in front of me. And all I have to do is just make sure that I do my due diligence and make sure it all hangs together.
Ellison: Well, I think that’s a wonderful example for new writers to remember that yeah, once you figure out how to do this and you unlock it, then you can do it again and again and again, and just believe it.
Joshi: Yeah. Just like you’ve done. Right. I mean, again and again, and again, probably the first book took you a long time and you may have had to plot everything out. I imagine with mysteries, you have to plot out things a lot more, right?
Ellison: Yeah, no. [Laughs]
Joshi: Well, for me, I have to. I wait for the story to unfold because I don’t know what the ending is. I don’t know where these characters are going until I get them there. And then I go, I don’t know if that feels right, let me go back maybe 10 paces and try again. What if they went in that direction? And then I don’t know about that. Let me go into this third direction. And that’s the only way that I know how to get to the end of a story. I don’t know how to plot all the pieces of it out. Other people, other authors, I know have to plot out the whole story before they even start writing. I can’t do that. I have to get inside the character’s heads and figure out who they are in order to know how the whole story is going to end. So I’m glad to hear that you also have to do those same things. I always thought mystery writers have to plot everything out immediately.
Ellison: No, no, that takes all the fun out of it.
Joshi: But don’t you find, by the way, don’t you find that the characters are the most interesting part of a story, building the character, trying to figure out what are they all about? What did they want in their lives? And what are they, how are they going to surmount this next obstacle that’s been put in front of them. I love that whole idea of the character in your head, starting to do things that you didn’t expect them to do. Right? Don’t you find a lot of joy in that?
Ellison: All the time. It’s the best part of writing. It happened yesterday and it’s like, Oh my gosh, I didn’t know she was going to do that.
Joshi: Oh yay! Do you start another book as soon as you’ve finished? Or do you take a little bit of time in between?
Ellison: I start right away and then I will find other things, usually promotion, the book comes out and you have to kind of stop and do promo and all that kind of stuff. But other than that, no, I’m pretty much always writing.
Joshi: Wow. Do you have a practice? Do you have a certain time of the day that you’re always writing?
Ellison: No. I mean, I try to write every day, but usually either between 10:00 am and 12:00 pm or 2:00-4:00 pm, those are my really creative times.
Joshi: See, JT, I don’t do that. I know that in my MFA program, they always said you need to develop a writing practice. So you need to give yourself a certain amount of time every day, maybe the same time everyday, like 9:00 am to 12:00 pm, I’m going to write or, the way Anthony Paul used to write, he would write from, I think, 5:00-7:00 in the morning before he went to his work as a station master. But I can’t do that. I cannot set up a structure. I’ve tried and I always fail, because I write so much in my head that I can’t predict when the story is going to start flowing. If I take a walk in the morning or afternoon or nighttime, that’s when the story starts flowing. And that’s when I start creating it in my head.
And then I finally will go down and put it on my laptop, but it may not be for another week. It may not be for another day. It may not be for another month. And then when I do actually start putting all of this stuff together in my head, the story does start coming out pretty organically. But I cannot seem to stick to a schedule and I kind of want to let people know that, because I think so many people feel like I’ve got to sit here with this blank page in front of me and fill it up. You know, this is how I’m going to write. And I don’t think it works that way for everybody. I want to let people off the hook.
Ellison: There are many ways up the mountain. So we see the book behind you: The Secret Keeper of Jaipur. When does that come out? That’s what’s next you?
Joshi: Yes, so, The Secret Keeper of Jaipur, I just got my ARC’s. This is really fun. And it’s coming out on June 22nd. And this story is advancing The Henna Artist’s by 12 years. So the same characters come back, but they’re older and Malik, who turned out to be only eight or nine in The Henna Artist is now 20 years old. So he has become this posh gentleman because of all of this boarding school education that he has had courtesy of Samir Singh who paid for his education. And now he’s come back to Jaipur as an apprentice to the Palace, some major tragedy is going to happen. He is going to be trying to figure out the mystery behind that tragedy. So in a way, JT, I think I’m writing my very first mystery with The Secret Keeper of Jaipur.
It’s really kind of fun to do that. I didn’t even know it was going to be a mystery when I first started writing it, but that’s kind of how it’s turned out. And of course he has to enlist the help of all of the characters from The Henna Artist, in this made up family that he has, to help him navigate this mystery. So he’s going to get that. And then my third book is taking place largely in Paris. I was supposed to be in Paris right now, by the way. And I thank you COVID. I was supposed to be in Paris writing book three, and I deliberately set it in Paris so that I could go there and do my research for the book. But I really want one of the characters from The Henna Artist, Radha, who was 13 in The Henna Artist, is now 33 and she is in Paris. She is working as a perfumier. She is designing a signature scent for her fragrance house. And there’s a knock on the door. And of course a stranger has come into town, a stranger from her past whom she does not ever want to see again. So, you know what they say about writing a book: there are only two stories in life. One is a stranger comes to town and the other is the protagonist takes a journey.
Ellison: I like that. That distills it down pretty well.
Joshi: Yeah. Right. So like in Her Dark Lies, you’re basically doing the character takes a journey, right? Because the characters go to this island?
Ellison: Yeah! Alka, this has been absolutely delightful. Thank you so much for joining us today.
Joshi: So welcome. I think this was really, really fun. One of the things that I love to tell people is that no matter what age you are, you can always start writing, no matter what age. Right? And I think in a way, as you get older, more about life, more about yourself, more about the world. And I think that it’s actually becomes easier to write. Maybe you’ve been through therapy, maybe you’ve been through a divorce. Maybe you’ve been through a loss, grief and it’s easier to process these things as we get older and then to actually share our experiences with others. So frankly, I find it easier to write now that I’m 60, as opposed to back when I was 20 or 30 or 40. If you had told me then I was going to write a novel, absolutely no way. I would have said you were dreaming. But now I feel like, Hey, I did. This is where I’ve been working towards all this these years. I think this is the place I’m supposed to be. I’m supposed to be an author writing about women’s agency.
Ellison: Fantastic. Thank you very, very much.
Joshi: Thanks so much JT for having me.
Convenience Store Woman, by Sayaka Murata
Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee
All The Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte
The Known World, by Edward P. Jones
Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel García Márquez