Hello everyone! I’ve been away a while but I hope you’ve all been having a good, productive month!
I am very excited to be back with an author interview today, featuring two authors whose book will be coming out very soon! I’ve been in contact with them for TWO (!!) years now as they’ve been moving through the ups and downs of the publishing world. You may remember their guest post from last year when they talked more about their project.
So I was very happy to hear from them a couple months ago that they now have an official release date for their book, America Deconstructed!!! I’ll let the authors describe it more in the interview below but stay tuned for some more posts from them in the lead up to the release!
America Deconstructed by Chaithanya Sohan and Shaima Adin
Genre: Non-fiction | Short Stories
Release Date: February 12th, 2019
Naseer was nine years old when he escaped Taliban and fled Afghanistan. His story, “There are some people who are coming to take me away”, chronicles the resilience of a nine year old boy as he traveled from Afghanistan to America in his quest for the American dream. “I saw a ripe mango I’d like to pluck” showcases the love story of Chidibere and Ifeyinwa and their struggles with language, culture and being African in America. In the story “Kosovo, really…cool”, Lisian takes us through his journey to America and often being asked his identity in spite of being white. In the story, “I am exotic, mocha, P-diddy”, Parag describes his journey from a young sixth grader who hid his attraction to boys in conservative India to embracing his sexuality in America. America Deconstructed follows the journeys of sixteen immigrants as they maneuver cultural differences, accents and uncomfortable situations while feeling a sense of belonging in America.
Sam/Spines: Let’s start off with a little game to learn more about you both: what are two truths and a lie about yourself?
Chaithanya Sohan: Truth: I am a travel addict whose dream job includes working on the travel channel.
Truth: A tomboy who was obsessed with being the next Michael Jordan
Lie: I hate books and reading
Shaima Adin: Passionate about life, and always striving to improve would be the two truths and the lie would be that I don’t like chocolate at all, and that I don’t eat a little every day.
S: Congratulations on the upcoming release of your book! Can you tell us a little about the book?
CS: Thank you! America Deconstructed is a short story montage about immigrants in America. Although the stories are about people who immigrated to America, the stories would appeal to anyone who has moved away from home be it a state, or a country. Every immigrant journey is often talked about in terms of legal and illegal. While that stands true, what happens after one immigrates to a foreign country? Our book tries to give you the behind the scenes into the assimilation of a person into a new culture. Through this book we have tried to give immigration a human face beyond the stamp on a passport.
SA: Thank you. It’s a book about first generation immigrant experience in America. We interviewed people who mostly come from different background, and have completely different life journeys and experiences; how they got to US and what their overall experience of living here has been. We have tried our best to not have any influence on how they wanted to tell their stories and how their experiences have been. It is left to the audience to decide and have opinions about these experiences on their own. We have not steered the stories to any particular direction.
S: How did you come up with the idea for the collection?
CS: As a confident girl who grew up in modern India watching Friends, and other American show, I naively believed I would assimilate easily into the American culture. I was startled when I first went to Starbucks to get coffee. The choices baffled me. I did not even know what the options meant or if they were actually coffee. America Deconstructed was born in those moments. I have been freelancing as a writer for years often writing technical articles. The creative writer in me wanted out. Meanwhile people who had read my works always encouraged me to write. I pitched this idea to my coauthor Shaima and thus began this crazy journey called America Deconstructed.
SA: Chai and I have always shared and discussed our own experiences as immigrants in US with each other, and we’ve always been curious whether others have experienced similarly and I remember Chai one day mentioning to me how fun it would be if we actually interviewed people from different backgrounds and compiled it in a book. We thought it would give voice to those who put more effort in blending in here than to celebrate their differences.
S: Have your own immigrant experiences influenced this project?
CS: Absolutely! The idea stemmed from our personal experiences of being an immigrant in America. Shaima and I are extremely close, and our relationship bloomed through the initial shared experiences we had growing up as young people in America.
SA: Yes definitely. We have also included our own stories in the book.
S: It’s been a long journey to get this book published! What was this process like for you?
CS: I had researched extensively about book publishing at different junctures, some way before I had this concept in mind. I knew it was a long and tedious process. As we finished writing the book, I started querying agents. We got very positive rejections with the general idea that short stories don’t sell or that we weren’t Kim Kardashian writing a book. We almost signed with an agent, and that fell through. After two-ish years, I started researching on the next path. I was stubborn, I wanted to traditionally publish the book. I chanced upon a crowdfunding website for authors called Publishizer. Long story short, Publishizer is Tinder for authors where they hook up an author with a publisher if you reach certain pre-order milestones. We did not reach the milestone to get a traditional publisher, but Motivational Press happened to see our book and offered us a traditional contract. And here we are today!
SA: It has definitely been a long journey. We started this project in 2014 and while we really liked and felt positive about our book, we had to go through many hurdles to find a suitable agency as it is expected for first time authors publishing a book.
S: There are many people contributing to this collection. How did you find these contributors? Were you looking for specific experiences?
CS: Since this was the first book, we decided to stay in our comfort zone to see if we could pull this off. I wanted to see if I could write a story versus articles that I had always written. I wrote my story as a test case. After that was successful, I interviewed my friend to see it I could convert an interview into a story. With each interview that Shaima and I did, I was successful in converting it into a story. Initially it was all coworkers, friends and family. We did approach expats for one of the stories. I used freelancer.com where I used to freelance as writer to find one of the other protagonists. We wanted diversity in our book and our greatest challenge was finding European immigrants for which we approached expats and paid people to interview for us.
SA: Most of the people come from our own close circle of family, friends, and coworkers. We weren’t really looking for any specific experiences. I think our main goal was to include people from different countries, as much as possible. We have kept an open mind since the beginning of the project and we wanted to include all experiences, positive, negative, neutral.
S: Do you have other projects in the works?
CS: I am currently working on America Deconstructed part 2, for which I have consciously approached people accomplished in the immigrant and refugee space. This book is a little different in that I don’t know any of these people personally. I have approached strangers on social media, etc. and they have graciously offered to interview for the book.
SA: We do but mostly still in brainstorming stages.
S: And now for some fun questions: What is your Hogwarts house?
SA: Definitely the Gryffindor
S: Favourite flavour of ice cream?
CS: Chocolate. I am a big chocolate bar fan!
SA: Frozen yogurt for life!
S: Dogs or cats?
CS: If you’d have asked me this question seventeen years back, I’d say dogs but then my cat Kitty walked into my house 6 months after I moved to America, and gave us four kittens. I love them both, however I am slightly more of a dog person. My puppy Zed has me wrapped around his tail, and there is no better feeling than coming home to an excited dog and his slobbery kisses.
SA: Dogs for sure … easier to figure them out!
S: And finally, where can we find you?
CS: My website www.csohan.com
SA: My social media accounts, what I call my guilty pleasure and through text and emails … I think I’m one of those who responds quickly and tries hard to be reachable.
About the Authors: Shaima Adin and Chaithanya Sohan met as new immigrants at San Jose State University while receiving their Electrical Engineering degree. America Deconstructed was born during those moments when they bonded through their mutual immigrant goof ups and experiences.
Shaima Adin enjoys reading, traveling with her husband and daughter, and cooking during her free time.
Chaithanya Sohan enjoys reading, writing and traveling with her husband, daughter and German Shepherd puppy, which is chronicled in her blog www.nomadicsuc.wordpress.com
Stay tuned for more from these authors and be sure to add February 12th to your calendar!
Images, blurb, and bios provided by authors