CopyKaavya Should Read More Widely

By Neal Comment

Here’s another passage from Kaavya Viswanathan’s NYT spin session that caught my eye, as the young author attempts to explain why her plotline was still authentically hers even though it so closely mirrored Megan McCafferty’s:

“‘It’s my plot, my characters,’ Ms. Viswanathan insisted. ‘I’ve never read a novel with an Indian-American protagonist,’ she said. ‘The plot points are reflections of my own experience. I’m an Indian-American. I got good grades.'”

sonia-singh.jpgBut Viswanathan isn’t the first Indian-American woman to get a book deal, not even the first Indian-American chick-lit writer, so I called Bollywood Confidential author Sonia Singh (left) to see whether she found that story plausible. “When I was in high school,” Singh recalled, “I would scour the libraries looking for books by Indian and Indian-American writers, or even just with an Indian character. I remember when Chitra Divakaruni’s Mistress of Spices came out; it was a huge deal for me and all my friends. And then there’s Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies… I just can’t believe she wouldn’t have read stuff like this.” (She might have gotten distracted rereading Sloppy Firsts that third time, I guess…)

Singh has been watching the story unfold with some amusement. “It started out as such an Indian achievement story,” she observes, “and everything was so exaggerated, and now it’s all gone downhill so fast. And she’s not a very good liar, is she?” Singh also spotted some mistakes in Opal Mehta that only other Indian-Americans would be likely to pick up on, like the heroine’s cousin, Kali. “Nobody would ever name their daughter that,” Singh insists, “not even if they were Kali worshippers.”