Our Friend is Here! Asian Heritage Month Edition – An Interview with Sangu Mandanna, Author of A Spark of White Fire; On Retelling Mahābhārata, Free Will versus Fate, and the Stories Behind Her Books

Our Friend is Here! Asian Heritage Month. Author Interview with Sangu Mandanna; author of A Spark of White Fire, on retelling mahabharata, free will versus fate, and the stores behind her books. illustration of xiaolong the axolotl, her arms out wide as if showing off something, with sangu as a deer wearing a green jumper and brown pants, waving whole holding a Nintendo Switch.

Our Friend is Hereis a guest feature at The Quiet Pond, where authors, creatives, and fellow readers, are invited to ‘visit’ the Pond! In Our Friend is Here! guest posts, our visitors (as their very own unique character!) have a friendly conversation about anything related to books or being a reader — and become friends with Xiaolong and friends.

Asian Heritage Month Edition is a month-long event at The Quiet Pond, where Asian authors and bookish content creators are invited to celebrate being Asian, Asian books, and the experiences of being an Asian reader. (Note: Here is an explanation of why we are calling this guest series ‘Asian Heritage Month’.)

One of the best things that a reader can do for themselves is to read with curiosity and openness. When I started to diversify my reading and explore books by Asian authors that portrayed experiences outside my own, I was blown away by the beauty and wonder of their stories. In particular, I started to fall in love with retellings of Asian folklore and mythology. My first introduction to Asian mythology in young adult literature was A Thousand Beginnings and Endings edited by Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman, which only made me crave even more retellings.

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Five Reasons To Read: A Match Made in Mehendi by Nandini Bajpai – A Wholesome Story About Matchmaking, Desi Identity, and Friendship

A Match Made in Mehendi by Nandini Bajpai.

Blurb:

Fifteen-year-old Simran “Simi” Sangha comes from a long line of Indian vichole-matchmakers-with a rich history for helping parents find good matches for their grown children. When Simi accidentally sets up her cousin and a soon-to-be lawyer, her family is thrilled that she has the “gift.”

But Simi is an artist, and she doesn’t want to have anything to do with relationships, helicopter parents, and family drama. That is, until she realizes this might be just the thing to improve her and her best friend Noah’s social status. Armed with her family’s ancient guide to finding love, Simi starts a matchmaking service-via an app, of course.

But when she helps connect a wallflower of a girl with the star of the boys’ soccer team, she turns the high school hierarchy topsy-turvy, soon making herself public enemy number one.

CW’s review:

When I learned about A Match Made in Mehendi earlier this year, learned that it was about an Indian-American teen and that the story would be about matchmaking and love? I knew I had to read it. And after reading a string of fantastic diverse young-adult contemporaries, I’ve unofficially dubbed this year as ‘The Year of Diverse YA Contemporaries’ – and A Match Made in Mehendi is perhaps the hidden gem in YA contemporary.

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Want by Cindy Pon – A Cornerstone of YA Sci-Fi: Great Discourse, Thrilling Action, and Characters You Will Love

Xiaolong the pink axolotl, wearing a big glass helmet over her head as a cosplay of Jason Zhou from WANT by Cindy Pon.Xiaolong looks extremely excited today, though the big helmet she has over her head may have something to do with it.

“Hi friend!” she exclaims when she sees you, her voice slightly muffled. “Varian made this for me, especially since I read this book recently and loved it so much that I couldn’t stop talking about it.”

She pulls off the helmet, and shakes her head a little. “It was a little cramped inside there. My gills weren’t out and free. But that’s why I want you to read this book, friend! It’s important that we look after our environment, the thing that gives our magic life and power.”

She plops down, and holds a book out to you. “So, this book is called Want…

Text: Want by Cindy Pon. Image: An illustration of Jason Zhou, an Asian male, wearing a translucent helmet, with multi-coloured square lights reflecting on the helmet.
Blurb:

Jason Zhou survives in a divided society where the elite use their wealth to buy longer lives. The rich wear special suits that protect them from the pollution and viruses that plague the city, while those without suffer illness and early deaths. Frustrated by his city’s corruption and still grieving the loss of his mother, who died as a result of it, Zhou is determined to change things, no matter the cost.

With the help of his friends, Zhou infiltrates the lives of the wealthy in hopes of destroying the international Jin Corporation from within. Jin Corp not only manufactures the special suits the rich rely on, but they may also be manufacturing the pollution that makes them necessary.

Yet the deeper Zhou delves into this new world of excess and wealth, the more muddled his plans become. And against his better judgment, Zhou finds himself falling for Daiyu, the daughter of Jin Corp’s CEO. Can Zhou save his city without compromising who he is or destroying his own heart?

CW’s review:

Note: the following review is an edit and report of a review I wrote in my old book blog, Read Think Ponder.

It’s been two years since I read this book, and it’s still a book I think about often. Want has everything that you want in a science-fiction: powerful socio-political discourse about environmentalism and inequality, incredible characters, and is critical yet accessible. Set in the distant future, Want follows Jason Zhou and his friends who work together to bring down a corrupt organisation that perpetuates the inequality and poverty within Taipei. There are very few books that ever satisfy my sociologically-inclined and discoursing heart, but Want was such a book – and more.

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