I’m very pleased to introduce you to Aditi Wardhan Singh! She has just published her short story collection Within: Short Stories for the Evolving Multicultural Woman, and I was able to chat with Aditi about her new book, her writing career, and multiculturalism more generally.
Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
How did you have the idea to write Within?
Within is a collection of stories I have written and re-written since 2007. They are stories of my observations, as well as anecdotes I heard or imagined owing to my personal growth as an Indo-American woman. The idea was to compile all my stories into a book. However, over the past two years I saw so many of us struggling with similar emotions. Trolling on social media, struggling with mental health, and balancing cultural traditions are all difficult issues. So, I added those to my compilation because each is tied up with emotions we hold within.
Your previous books were either children’s books or nonfiction. What was it like to write a collection of fictional stories?
It was surreal. Fiction is totally different. I had to pay attention to each character’s traits and show them in subtle ways. The dialogue was very challenging as I wanted to show tension or humor, or even culture, via the tone or conversation. I adapted each story to my vision of helping people see what most Indo-American households are like in small ways. I really enjoyed the process, but it was very daunting to keep re-reading the stories, thinking about them from each character’s perspective.
The protagonists of your stories are mostly women who seem to be very different from one another in terms of age, marital status, religion, etc. What connects them?
The cultural differences are not in your face. Instead, they are subtle, because the stories being told are universal in nature (as reviewers have said). But, each story has a different home setting. That’s because, in our world today, each home has a unique take on their heritage. Despite that, no matter our age, stage, status, etc., we all face similar emotions. They include pride, disgust, elation, confidence and more. That is the thread that ties all these stories together.
Every story is named after an emotion. I loved it. How did you come up with this idea?
Emotions, I believe, are the one thing we all experience in the same way. When we are embarrassed, our cheeks burn. If we feel sad, our eyes sometimes water. When we are nervous, our hands feel damp with sweat, etc. The depth of emotion may vary, but we all experience similar sparks of them all through life. I wanted the stories to bring up a certain emotion or to address how to overcome a certain emotion. Thus, the chapter titles.
The subtitle is “short stories for the evolving multicultural woman.” Can you explain? What is the evolution taking place in the women in the book?
Every book has a certain audience. I wrote this book for women who look for ways to be more mindful every day. The more awareness we look to imbibe, the more we find. While every protagonist is different, each grows and develops through the story, which allows the reader to follow along and observe the growth.
What can multicultural women learn from your protagonists?
I really want women to take away mindfulness around how we feel about certain things. If we look at the situation from an outsider’s perspective, things are not as difficult, or as black and white, as they may seem. I am doing a series of conversations on Instagram touching upon the topics that I have discussed in the book with women around the world.
More on Aditi Wardhan Singh
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your writing career? Where have you lived and what languages do you speak?
I was raised in Kuwait and got my Computer Engineering degree from Mumbai, India. I came to the United States after marrying my husband and was in need of something to keep me busy. That led me to blogging. We used to go to Barnes and Noble or some local bookstore, and I would peruse books on writing/publishing. I went from blogger to freelance writer to founding RaisingWorldChildren.com to now having published eight books. I attended numerous classes and read hundreds of books. To date, I have helped over 60 authors via editing or coaching services. I have found that I most enjoy working with multicultural books, similar to mine, as I have a keen eye of the best way to represent a multicultural life.
What does being multicultural mean to you?
To me, multicultural is the world we live in. As mentioned before, every family today is multicultural owing to the borders they live on within their home or the world they are surrounded by. To call yourself multicultural though, I think two things are of utmost importance. 1. The acceptance and openness of all, regardless of your own personal way of life. 2. A mindful desire to learn about the world’s many nuances to the best of your abilities.
What is your advice for multicultural women and mothers around the world?
Given the amount of avenues for us to explore the world, we must certainly take advantage and show our children. We can do this by trying new foods, enjoying new experiences, learning new languages, or accessing new books and movies. But, most importantly, try your best to understand the meaning behind all you do. Don’t just partake in a “fun tradition” for Instagram. Understand the essence of your own traditions, and those of others as well, and how they enrich our lives. It is always interesting to me how many people carry on traditions with no understanding of the “why” behind it. The more we explore the world and the why, the better we understand who we are as people. Give yourself and your children that opportunity.
What’s next in store for you? And is there anything you wished I’d asked you but I haven’t?
I have a couple of things coming up next. First, there is a children’s book on belonging. The other one I am quite excited about. It is a unique Hindi English book bundle resource that will help children understand the culture behind Hindi learning. I am bilingual in English and Hindi, though I can understand Gujaati, Marathi, and Punjabi, and I can read and write Arabic. New stories are emerging within, and I am excited for the pull they are having on me. I started working on these new story ideas, and I believe I may just have another collection of stories soon. The initial response to Within has been surprisingly heartwarming, even to myself. I look forward to the journey my words take me on.
Aditi Wardhan Singh is the author of the renowned Sparkling Me children’s books and books on multicultural parenting, and an award-winning, best-selling author of seven books. She is an authoritative voice on cultural sensitivity and empowerment, featured on numerous global publications and broadcast networks like NBC, CBS, Huffpost, Thrive, Richmond Family Magazine, Reading with Your Kids podcast etc. Her passion for diversifying dialogue within multicultural families led her to founding the collaborative RaisingWorldChildren.com platform. Today, she aims to help parents diversify their libraries by lifting other multicultural authors like herself via editing and coaching services. In her spare time, she enjoys choreographing dance recitals, volunteering and having impromptu dance parties with her two charming kids.
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