Five Questions With Aditi Sriram
Aditi Sriram teaches Critical Thinking and Creative Writing at Ashoka. She has written for several international publications including The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Guardian and The Atlantic. Her first book will be out in December 2018; it is a narrative nonfiction book about Pondicherry, as part of a series on Indian cities by Aleph Book Company in Delhi. For more information, visit her website, www.aditisriram.com
Who is your favorite villain, and who is your favorite protagonist in literature?
Villains, what a great question! First to come to mind is Charles Kinbote, the narrator of Vladimir Nabokov’s brilliant and clever novel Pale Fire. Kinbote is yet another classic, Nabokovian unreliable narrator, and while his actions are more sneaky than anything else, there’s something wonderfully sinister about him throughout the book. As for a protagonist, one of my favorites is Julie from The Pickup by Nadine Gordimer. At the beginning of the novel she is just another white upper class South African woman; by the end, she is someone very different. Gordimer shows Julie’s sensitivity to her environment evolve with each page of the book, and it’s just mesmerizing.
When did you know you were a writer?
I never took my own writing seriously, until I did a workshop organized through Columbia University’s Alumni Center in 2009. Each of us had to submit a writing sample, and then bring it in to workshop. A group of strangers listened to me read and gave me surprisingly positive feedback. It was the first time I felt like my words were actually readable!
What are you currently working on?
I have just submitted the final manuscript for a book I’ve been working on for the past 2 years. The subtitle is “A Short Biography of Pondicherry,” and it’s a narrative non-fiction book about a coastal city in South India called Pondicherry. The book will be out this December, with Aleph Book Company, which is based in Delhi, India.
How has your writing process changed over the years?
Thanks to several different workshops I’ve taken around NYC, which helped me get into the New School’s MFA program, I have been able to practice editing my work down to manageable lengths and depths. Prior to that, my writing was unfettered and often lacked context. Nowadays, I retain that flair for getting excited on the page, but I’m able to contain it in more structured formats. To put it another way, I now take much more seriously the idea of having an actual reader on the other side of my work!
Describe your writing style in one sentence.
Animated, sometimes breathless, colorful — and hopefully reaching something near beauty.