Hello, my name is Serena Kaur. I’m a debut novelist from Leicester. I’m 26-years-old and I have an English degree from Loughborough University. I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember, so once I graduated, I got straight to work and produced All the Words Unspoken. Finally, I can sit here and say I am a published author!
- Please would you talk about your debut novel “All the Words Unspoken”
My novel follows the lives of two British-Asian characters. Maansi Cavale struggles with depression and is unemployed. Desperate to get herself out of the pit, she agrees to marry the rich and handsome Aryan, believing wealth and a new lifestyle might help eradicate her problems. Maansi and Aryan enter their arranged marriage with grief weighing on their shoulders. They both had to give up something precious to them because of the ‘what will people say?’ mentality prevalent in South Asian culture. With their secrets and their painful pasts hidden from each other, they try to force love to grow between them. But, of course, secrets have a way of revealing themselves… Will their pasts destroy their union? Will they ever recover from their pain?
This book is all about allowing love and taking hold of our freedom to make our own choices in life, despite what others may say.-Serena Kaur
- What has been your main motivation to discussing the taboos so prevalent in south Asian culture out in the open?
The silence around topics such as mental health, abortion, sexuality and sex (among others) leads to isolation and suffering in our community. These experiences are common. People do suffer from mental health issues. People are gay. People consider abortions and get them. However, because we don’t discuss these experiences or different ways of being in the Asian community, so many of us feel alone. By staying silent, we allow others to continue with the belief that our differences and our experiences are unacceptable. We should all be able to speak our truths, to seek help and to navigate difficult decisions without the voice of a judgemental community echoing in our minds. By tackling these taboos, we make room for authenticity and freedom.
- Your novel has a bisexual character- what were the main challenges in narrating an authentic representation of this character?
I drew from my own experiences of coming to terms with bisexuality and what that meant for me, particularly as a South-Asian person. I passed on much of my own struggles and feelings to my character. It was definitely a challenge to revisit a time in my life where I was uncomfortable with my sexuality and to portray my journey from there. It was even more of a challenge as I needed to educate myself about what it means to be a bisexual male before breathing life into my character. How would my experiences as a bisexual woman differ from his? This meant I needed to research and connect with the stories of others first. It is always wise to talk to others and to be aware of experiences that are different to your own. It was important to me to capture something honest and real.
- You describe yourself as a British Asian author- do you feel drawn to this dual heritage or is this term restrictive or otherwise in your opinion.
Personally, I love referring to myself as British Asian. I think some people feel that calling themselves British-Asian instead of just British diminishes their identify as a British person. I do agree that we can just call ourselves British (we are British, after all). However, I do feel connected to my Asian heritage and, much like being British, being Asian makes up a huge part of who I am. While I’m comfortable calling myself British-Asian, I do believe it’s a personal choice. We should never be required to hyphenate. Cultural identity is a complicated and personal thing!
- You talk about British Asian authors being vastly underrepresented in the bookshelves today? What are the challenges faced by young Asian authors today?
It is a sad truth that publishers aren’t publishing enough people of colour. Our stories are not always seen as sellable or marketable, which is a shame. I don’t think publishers realise that there is a market and a hunger for more Asian books. Editors may label our work not ‘exotic’ enough or too different from their own experiences and, therefore, ‘unrelatable.’ Asian authors have to battle with a publisher’s ideas around what an Asian book should look like. Because the publishing industry is largely made up of white people, Asian authors may also find themselves in a position where they must defend their choices to prevent damaging authentic representation. Editors help mould our work to appeal to the masses so it’s up to us to be mindful of how our work is changing and whether we are still representing our culture in a truthful way. This is why it is so important that we have more people of colour working in publishing. As readers, we can support Asian authors and other authors of colour by ensuring we diversity our own bookshelves.
- Where can we read your book and find out more?
All the Words Unspoken is available as an eBook on Amazon, the Kindle app, Apple Books and Kobo. The physical copies are available to order (or pre-order, depending on your country) from Amazon and other good book retailers! If you want to find out more about me, please do head to my website at www.serenakaur.com.
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