An interview with Himanjali Sankar

In a short interview with Hippocampus, author Himanjali Sankar tells us about how she got to writing a young adult novel and also talks about why she was so determined to write a book around a topic that’s considered taboo in India. Do read on to get to the wonderful author better.

  1. How did you come to choose writing as a career and why did you choose to write for children?

I wish it was a career! I am a writer by night and weekends only. My day job is that of an Editor at a publishing house.

  1. What made you attempt a YA novel – especially since you are not a great fan of YA books?

No particular reason. It just so happened. You could say partly because I read a lot of children’s books while my own girls were growing up and reading them as an adult was a different experience from when a child and I felt it would be challenging to try and write for children.

  1. How did you pick the very relevant but reasonably taboo concept of homosexuality in your latest book, Talking of Muskaan. Were you at any point discouraged? Did you face any criticism post publishing?

My older daughter was in her early teens when I wrote this book. I think it is a period of tremendous changes and growth for children, laying the foundation for the sort of adults they will grow up to be. I was interested in how her life was unfolding and felt I had the pulse on children of her age and a better understanding of that age group than any other.

Yes, marginalisation and bullying of children who are different has always bothered me. It was to express this discomfort that I chose the experiences of a child who was homosexual and therefore faced bullying in school. The re-criminalisation of homosexuality had also happened around the time I was writing this book – the judgement was passed by the Supreme Court. This strengthened my determination to write this book.

  1. Tell us about a book that you loved as a child – one that you revisit even today

“To Kill a Mockingbird”. I can’t say it’s for children only. What it talks about is important for every one of us but I do love the fiesty young protagonist Scout and her manner of dealing with life and its injustices.

  1. Share three effective ways in which schools can promote reading for joy amongst children

Organising author visits, opening book clubs and hosting book fairs.

  1. Name three contemporary authors which you feel children should be exposed to.

Suzanne Collins, Neil Gaiman and Peggy/Herman Parish for younger readers. And from India, Anushka Ravishankar and Asha Nehemiah.

  1. Which, according to you, are 5 books that every school library should own?

The Harry Potter series (of course!), The Golden Compass trilogy, “Swami and Friends”, “Coraline”, Junie B Jones series.

  1. If you could become any book character for a day, who would you choose to be?

Elizabeth Bennett from “Pride and Prejudice”.

Himanjali Sankar did her schooling in Kolkata. She then went to Delhi to do her Masters and MPhil in English Literature from JNU. Her book, The Stupendous Timetelling Superdog, was shortlisted for the Crossword Award for Children’s Writing in 2013. She currently works as a Commissioning Editor for Bloomsbury India.

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