On November 4, the Reading Into History book club will be discussing Same Sun Here by Silas House and Neela Vaswani. We spoke to author Neela Vaswani about her inspiration for the book, and her favorite parts of New York!
DCHM: What were you like between the ages of 9 and 12?
NV: I loved to lie in the grass and read or look up at the sky and dream. I was very connected to my family and the natural world. I remember feeling like I was always on the brink of adventure, discovery. I was quiet on the surface but inside I was bursting with thoughts and feelings that I kept mostly to myself out of a sense of shyness and self-protection.
DCHM: What is your favorite time period in American history? Why?
NV: Right now in American history seems positive to me because it’s the most equal time (with room to grow) for women, people of color, people of minority religions, and LGBT folks. I’ve always been fascinated by Gold Rush-era California — the mix of cultures, the raw potential and freedom of movement. In terms of style and art, I’m drawn to the 1920s and 1930s. I love the shapes of clothing from those decades, how well-made things were. I love artists like Frida Kahlo, Dorthea Lang, the Harlem Renaissance movement, Depression-era folk paintings, Art Deco buildings and skyscrapers. It’s moving to me that during the WPA era artists were valued and supported by the government through programs like the Writers’ Project, the Federal Theatre Project, and the Federal Art Project.
DCHM: What is your favorite place in New York City? Why?
NV: Too many favorites to pick just one! The whisper corners at Grand Central. The High Line—local flora sprouting around the old metal tracks, the amphitheater seating above 10th Avenue that makes the whole city into a show. The upper deck of the Staten Island Ferry on a windy day. The quiet nooks and crannies at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
DCHM: What made you want to write Same Sun Here?
NV: Wanting to create in Meena a character that I would have related to and felt comforted by when I was in middle school. Wanting to celebrate New York, the parts of the city that are often invisible to outsiders. My friends in the Adult Literacy/English as a Second Language world and my neighbors struggling with unfair rent control conditions were very inspiring to me. Also, being in dialogue with Silas! The opportunity to be a part of bringing Eastern Kentucky and mountaintop removal protest to kids’ attention was exciting.
DCHM: What 3 words best describe Same Sun Here?
NV: Companionship, compassion, community.