Our Literary Mothers: Desi Authors on Influence and Inspiration Salon

Desi authors Tanaz Bhathena (Hunted by the Sky), Tanuja Desai Hidier (Born Confused), Prerna Pickett (If You Only Knew), Karuna Riazi (The Battle), Swati Teerdhala (The Archer At Dawn), and Shveta Thakrar (Star Daughter) gathered for an evening salon celebrating the books, music, art, and people that inspired and influenced their work.

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Participant Bios

Tanaz Bhathena

Tanaz Bhathena writes books for young adults. Her latest book, Hunted by the Sky, is the first of a YA fantasy duology set in a world inspired by medieval India, with the sequel Rising like a Storm releasing on June 22, 2021. Her novel, The Beauty of the Moment, won the Nautilus Gold Award for Young Adult Fiction and has also been nominated for the Ontario Library Association’s White Pine Award. Her acclaimed debut, A Girl Like That, was named a Best Book of the Year by numerous outlets including The Globe and Mail, Seventeen, and The Times of India. Born in India and raised in Saudi Arabia and Canada, Tanaz lives in Mississauga, Ontario, with her family.

Tanuja Desai Hidier

Tanuja Desai Hidier is an author/singer-songwriter. Her pioneering debut BORN CONFUSED, considered to be the first South Asian American YA novel, is an American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults and was hailed by Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone Magazine, and Paste as one of the greatest YA novels of all time. Sequel BOMBAY BLUES received the South Asia Book Award.

Tanuja’s album WHEN WE WERE TWINS (based on Born Confused) was featured in Wired (as the first ‘booktrack’). Music video “HEPTANESIA” (from her booktrack album BOMBAY SPLEEN) was a BuzzPick on MTV Indies. Tanuja also produced the DEEP BLUE SHE #MUTINY2UNITY #METOO music video/PSA: an award-winning intersectionality project featuring 100+ artist/activists (“the ‘We Are The World’ of our times” —Outlook).

She is working on her next book/album/video project.

Prerna Pickett

Prerna Pickett was born in India. She moved to the United States at the age of six and was raised in Northern Virginia. She briefly attended BYU-Idaho before getting married and settling down in Idaho. She briefly lived in Hawaii, which ruined all other beaches for her. Prerna has created stories in her head for most of her life, but didn’t attempt to write her first novel until college. It was a disaster. It took almost three years for her to attempt to write another novel.

Prerna wrote the first draft of her debut, If You Only Knew, in 2014. It took her four more years for her to receive her publishing contract with Swoon Reads/Macmillan. If You Only Knew released February 2020.

Prerna is the mother of five and manages to find time to write in between school pick up and drop off, after school activities, and the everyday insanity that is life. Prerna enjoys snorkeling, beach combing, hiking, and going on adventures. She, of course, also loves reading and writing.

Karuna Riazi

Karuna Riazi is a born and raised New Yorker, with a loving, large extended family and the rather trying experience of being the eldest sibling in her particular clan. She holds a BA in English Literature from Hofstra University, and is an online diversity advocate, blogger, and educator. She is a 2017 honoree on NBC Asian America’s Redefining A-Z list, featuring up and coming talent within the Asian-American and Pacific Islander community, and her work has been featured on Entertainment Weekly, Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls, Book Riot and Teen Vogue, among others.

Karuna is fond of tea, Korean dramas, writing about tough girls forging their own paths toward their destinies, and baking new delectable treats for friends and family to relish. The Gauntlet was her middle grade debut, followed up by companion novel The Battle. She has also adapted The Jungle Book for the Apple TV series Ghostwriter.

Swati Teerdhala

Swati Teerdhala is the author of The Tiger at Midnight series, which has appeared on both Barnes and Noble and Book Riot’s Most Anticipated Novels lists. After graduating from the University of Virginia with a BS in finance and BA in history, she tumbled into the marketing side of the technology industry. She’s passionate about many things, including how the right ratio of curd-to-crust in a lemon tart. She currently lives in New York City.

Shveta Thakrar

Shveta Thakrar is a part-time nagini and full-time believer in magic. Her work has appeared in a number of magazines and anthologies including Enchanted Living, Uncanny Magazine, A Thousand Beginnings and Endings, and Toil & Trouble. Her debut young adult fantasy novel, Star Daughter, is out from HarperTeen. When not spinning stories about spider silk and shadows, magic and marauders, and courageous girls illuminated by dancing rainbow flames, Shveta crafts, devours books, daydreams, travels, bakes, and occasionally even plays her harp.