Title: UNDER THE BODHI TREE
Word count: 65,000
When eighteen-year-old, Indian American, Rani Sekhar learns that a mysterious former housemaid, who’s buried in the Bangalore family plot, is her real mother, she also discovers they both belong to a group, so shunned in India no one even talks about them, Dalits. She vows to teach these hardworking people, who are treated like lepers, proper skills, so they can get decent work and regain their self-respect. In turn, Rani realizes her life’s purpose, and, eventually, reconnects with Nick, the boy who started her on her journey to self-fulfillment.
Q1: In your MC's voice, what costumed character do you most relate to and why?
Princess Leia, because I’ll need her drive and focus to persuade the disillusioned Dalit women to continue my vocational program, after our unsuccessful first visit to the market. The families can’t migrate to another farm, where they might become enslaved to another cruel landowner; the vicious cycle has to end, so their hope for a successful future isn’t destroyed.
Q2: As an author, what makes your manuscript a tasty treat (unique/marketable)?
Although my novel is geared toward all who enjoy coming-of-age stories, part of my audience would be the 3.18 million Indians who live in the U.S. and another portion would be women's book clubs. Both groups seek stories which blend diverse cultures.
It sucked to be different, to be the only Indian girl within a hundred-mile radius. Maybe, even a thousand.
Why did her parents have to settle in this godforsaken place? Why not California or the East Coast? Yes, Almond Joy thought living in this small town was hell. That was what her classmates called her. White on the inside, brown on the outside. The almonds? No one explained, but it probably stood for the shape of her eyes. They said it was an endearment.
Rani Sekhar didn’t think so.
Her last year served as a stepping stone to college, with no other purpose. While other kids looked forward to homecoming dances, proms, or senior trips, she was ready to leave it behind and move on to the real world.
Rani climbed out of her white V.W. Golf and slung her backpack over her shoulder. She followed the pavement to where Sophie leaned against the bronze statue of their school’s mascot, a nine-foot bucking bronco.
“How was your weekend?”
Sophie shrugged. “You?”
Endless. “Okay, I guess,” Rani said.
“Kip’s in AP Physics with you.”
“Hey, look. There he is,” Sophie said.
“The new guy. Everyone was buzzing about him all weekend. No one transfers here. Ever.”
An extravaganza was to be expected. Because a national news magazine had listed their town of thirteen thousand as one of the best for retirement in the Midwest, mostly old people relocated to Franklin.
“Not interested,” Rani said.