Interview with Monika Schroeder, author of Saraswati's Way

I'm pleased to interivew Monika Schroeder, author of Saraswati's Way, on my blog today. She's led such an interesting life! Please check her website for further information.

But without further ado, I'll give her center stage:

CE: Do you plan to write another book set in India? What will it be about?

MS: I am working on a novel set in the early 1830s about a boy from Massachusetts who ends up in Calcutta after he becomes a deck-hand on a ship that brings ice from New England to India. Yes, this is based on a true event. An inventive merchant from Boston came up with the idea to export ice from Massachusetts to tropical countries, among them India. So I thought it would be exciting to put an American boy on that ship and let him experience Calcutta. But the project makes only slow progress as I have to research a lot of the details of the time period.

CE: I read that you’ve taught English in Chile, Egypt, and the Sultanate of Oman, besides your current position as an elementary school librarian at the American Embassy School in New Delhi. Did your experiences in these other countries spark ideas for books set there? Do you plan to write any of them?

No, I am not currently plan on writing a book set in any of these countries. I do have an idea and research notes for a novel set in pre-revolutionary Russia about a young girl who becomes involved in the anarchist movement planning to kill the czar. I have always been interested in Russian history, so I hope to write a book set in this fascinating country.

CE: I read that the number of street children in India ranges from 100,000 to half a million. What is causing this? Are their families, like Akash’s family, starving to death somewhere? What can be done for these children? Their families?

Not all the street children are in Delhi without their parents. Many families who lose their farmland or fall on hard times due to other circumstances come to Delhi from the impoverished northern Indian state of Bihar. They move in with relatives who already live in slums or just camp next to the road or under flyovers. Some of the adults find temporary work as construction workers while their kids beg on the streets. There are many nongovernmental organizations who are trying to help these kids. The Indian government just passed a law to provide free and compulsory education for all children between 6 and 14. But as long as poverty prevails, children will be forced to contribute to their families’ income through begging or child labor.

What do you love most about living in India?

Generally, I find it interesting to live in a country where everything is so different. Since I moved to New Delhi I have read a lot about Indian history, made an effort to learn Hindi (but never became fluent), and tried to understand Hinduism with its myriad myths, gods, and stories, but much of what I see around me remains exotic and mysterious. In some ways India seems to resist modernization. For example, New Delhi is a city of 15 million people, yet there are still cows on the road, sometimes even elephants and camels, and you have to protect your garden from monkey attacks.

What do you love least?

While the Indian government is working to alleviate poverty, the World Bank estimates that today still about 41% of Indians live below the poverty line of $1.25 per day. In Delhi poor people settle in slums next to the roads or live under fly-overs. Many of the poor are children and it makes me sad to see this.

What will your next book be? Does it have a release date? Tell us a little about it.

My next book is called, MY BROTHER’S SHADOW. It will be published by Frances Foster Books/Farrar Straus Giroux in September 2011. The novel is set in Berlin 1918 at the end of World War I. 16-year Moritz works in the print shop of a Berlin newspaper and longs for the old times, before the war changed everything. While his mother participates in the socialist revolution that sweeps away the monarchy to make way for a democracy, Moritz falls in love with a Jewish girl of socialist convictions. When his older brother returns a bitter, maimed war veteran, ready to blame Germany’s defeat on everyone but the old order, Moritz has to chose between the allegiance to his dangerously radicalized brother and his love for the women around him, who enthusiastically usher in the new democracy. This will be my first YA novel. Just as in, THE DOG IN THE WOOD, the novel deals with an important transition period in German history and shows the horrible consequences of war.

Is there anything else you’d like to say about Saraswati’s Way, or yourself, that you’d like readers to know?

My husband and I are planning to leave India at the end of this school year. He is ready to retire and I want to become a full-time writer. But we are taking a special ‘souvenir’ from India. Last January we adopted a street dog who will come with us. I hope when we live in the US I will get a chance to come to Idaho, visit the Palouse Country, and meet young readers in your library district.

Thank you, Monika, for engaging us with your answers.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for introducing me to an author who is new to me.


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