Today we are very excited to share an interview with Priyanka Taslim (THE LOVE MATCH)!
Read on to learn more about her, her book, and a giveaway!
Meet the Author: Priyanka Taslim
Priyanka Taslim is a Bangladeshi American writer, teacher, and lifelong New Jersey resident. Having grown up in a bustling Bangladeshi diaspora community, surrounded by her mother’s entire clan and many aunties of no relation, her writing often features families, communities, and all the drama therein. Currently, Priyanka teaches English by day and tells all kinds of stories about Bangladeshi characters by night. Her writing usually stars spunky Bangladeshi heroines finding their place in the world—and a little swoony romance, too. You can connect with her on Twitter and Instagram @BhootBabe and check out her website, PriyankaTaslim.com.
About the Book: The Love Match
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before meets Pride and Prejudice in this delightful and heartfelt rom-com about a Bangladeshi American teen whose meddling mother arranges a match to secure their family’s financial security—just as she’s falling in love with someone else.
Zahra Khan is basically Bangladeshi royalty, but being a princess doesn’t pay the bills in Paterson, New Jersey. While Zahra’s plans for financial security this summer involve working long hours at Chai Ho and saving up for college writing courses, Amma is convinced that all Zahra needs is a “good match,” Jane Austen style.
Enter Harun Emon, who’s wealthy, devastatingly handsome, and…aloof. As soon as Zahra meets him, she knows it’s a bad match. It’s nothing like the connection she has with Nayim Aktar, the new dishwasher at the tea shop, who just gets Zahra in a way no one has before. So, when Zahra finds out that Harun is just as uninterested in this match as she is, they decide to slowly sabotage their parents’ plans. And for once in Zahra’s life, she can have her rossomalai and eat it too: “dating” Harun and keeping Amma happy while catching real feelings for Nayim.
But life—and boys—can be more complicated than Zahra realizes. With her feelings all mixed up, Zahra discovers that sometimes being a good Bengali kid can be a royal pain.
What gave you the inspiration to write The Love Match?
Lots of things!
I’ve always wanted to set a book in my hometown, Paterson, New Jersey, which has one of the largest Bangladeshi diaspora populations in the United States. There are other wonderful books starring South Asian protagonists now, but not many yet that explore that very liminal place where you’re diaspora, but grow up surrounded by people of the same background—the food, the language, the clothes—like I did.
In January of 2020, I also visited a Pakistani tea shop and thought it would be fun to write about that setting someday. Many facets of the book are inspired by little things like that paired with my cultural history and my own family’s misguided matchmaking attempts—with a few creative liberties taken, of course!
Who is your favorite character in The Love Match?
I love pretty much everyone in THE LOVE MATCH! Spunky and smart Zahra whose scheming often backfires on her is a favorite, and each boy brings something admirable to the table, but if I have to choose characters who aren’t protagonists, I love Zahra’s best friends, Dalia, Dani and Ximena, who are a (loving) force of nature. The Tahir twins in particular will hopefully give readers Pakistani Mary Kate & Ashley/Tia and Tamera of the late ‘90s, early 2000’s vibes. I’m also a big fan of all of Harun’s cousins, as someone who grew up super close to my own cousins.
Which came first, the title or the novel?
Definitely the novel! It kept a working title during most of the early drafts, but cycled through a bunch of different options before finally settling on THE LOVE MATCH when I went on sub—which is perfect because I get to make a lot of jokes about the book being a love match for readers now. Sorry in advance if you get tired of that joke (and tea puns)!
What scene in The Love Match are you most proud of, and why?
I am very proud of the way the book celebrates Bangladeshi diaspora! One scene that does that in particular is at the Bangla Mela—or Bangladeshi Festival. I spent a lot of sultry hot summers as a kid getting dragged around festivals like that by my own mother, snacking on sanasur while she haggled for clothes and jewelry. I don’t know if I appreciated it very much when I was young, but it still blows my mind that I get to write about it!
Also, the concert at the end has a lot of moving pieces and if it comes across as epic to readers after all the effort, I’ll be very proud!
Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned as a writer from then to now?
A lesson I learned from writing THE LOVE MATCH is that there are so many more possibilities for me as a writer than I ever imagined. I don’t necessarily mean things like book deals—though they are very nice—so much as creative possibilities.
When I first started taking writing seriously, I wrote in a completely different category and genre and never let myself believe I could write YA contemporary romances, even though I was fan-girling over every Dimpleverse book Sandhya Menon wrote and lots of other romances, YA or otherwise. But after a lot of cheerleading from my friends, I began writing THE LOVE MATCH and never looked back! Now, I have many other projects planned—some in the same vein, some very different, all fulfilling to me. This is also why it’s important to find the people who believe in you, because whenever I face doubts, they keep me going.
What new release book are you looking most forward to in 2023?
I am extremely excited for Adiba Jaigirdar’s DONUT FALL IN LOVE, which follows a queer, fat Bangladeshi-Irish heroine who enters a Great British Bake-Off-like competition and finds love among the prizes. I actually read a very early version of the book and it was super cute even then!
I’m also eager to read the sequel of Akshaya Raman’s IVORY KEY and find out what her estranged royal siblings get up to in the finale of the duology. Some other stellar fantasy sequels coming up are Vanessa Len’s MONSTERS and Ashley Shuttleworth’s HOLLOW STARS series.
What’s a book you’ve recently read and loved?
So many! I love and hate this question because I can either babble about wonderful books endlessly or I clam up and forget every title I’ve ever read… Today’s a ramble day, sorry!
Some excellent 2022 books I recently read in YA contemporary alone include: LULU & MILAGRO’S SEARCH FOR CLARITY by Angela Velez (two very different Peruvian-American sisters go on a college road trip, learning about themselves, their family, and their evolving dreams along the way), BEING MARY BENNET by J.C. Peterson (a Pride & Prejudice reimagining focusing on a prickly heroine who is ready to become the main character), YOU TRULY ASSUMED by Laila Sabreen (centering three Black Muslim girls in the wake of rising hate who start an online movement), A LITTLE BIT COUNTRY by Brian D. Kennedy (a gay country musician and a closeted aspiring chef whose family was ruined by country music meet at a Dollywood-inspired theme park and fall in love), FLIP THE SCRIPT by Lyla Lee (a Korean-American actress who gets her big break on a kdrama has to fake date her male co-star for publicity while hiding real feelings for her on-screen rival), and TJ POWAR HAS SOMETHING TO PROVE by Jesmeen Kaur Deo (after her devout Sikh cousin is turned into a cruel meme for being hairy, the popular debater main character decides to forego her own usual beauty routine to show hairy girls are still worthy).
My heart is happy even if my wallet isn’t! I got to read a bunch of these early because their kind authors and/or the NetGalley gods blessed me and they’re all worth buying! I read a lot of books by marginalized authors in particular and try to document my adventures on Goodreads, if anyone is interested in more recommendations!
What’s up next for you?
I’m working on another young adult novel that will be releasing in 2024, as well as a few other secret projects I can’t talk about just yet but I’m super excited for! Most of my planned projects have plucky Bengali protagonists, meddling families, and of course some swoony romance, so even though the premises are often different, I hope readers resonate with everything that follows THE LOVE MATCH. It’s really important to me to write the tropes I’ve always loved, while shining the spotlight on Bengali protagonists.
Which was the most difficult or emotional scene to narrate?
THE LOVE MATCH is a romance, but it’s also a mother-daughter story that explores the complexities and clashes of wanting to do the best for someone out of love while having very different ideas about what “the best” actually is, especially when informed by things like grief, different experiences with the same culture, generational trauma, etc. Moments where Zahra sees beneath her mother’s bluster even as they clash were difficult and emotional to write, but ultimately some of my favorite scenes. If you liked Turning Red, THE LOVE MATCH might appeal to you!
Which character gave you the most trouble when writing The Love Match?
Both of Zahra’s love interests, Nayim and Harun, gave me plenty of trouble! I flip-flopped constantly between who should be end-game, how to make them stand apart from each other, how their arcs reflected Zahra’s—which required lots of revisions and rewrites. I really love the boys, though, and I hope readers do too, so the hassle will be worth it. I grew up in the golden age of love triangle books and never believed I’d get to write one, or that one would ever exist, where all three parties are Bangladeshi and unique!
What is the main message or lesson you would like your reader to remember from Love Match?
I wrote THE LOVE MATCH for the reader I used to be, who never envisioned main characters like her in anything but issue books (which have their place and are very important too). I don’t just mean Bangladeshi or Muslim, but working class families as well. So if there are readers out there who also fear they’re not enough—enough for their loved ones, for their hopes and dreams, for being more than just a side character in the world—I hope that books like THE LOVE MATCH make them realize they’re worthy of tropey goodness and epic love love stories and any other magic they desire!
What would you say is your superpower?
I feel like Zahra, as an Oldest Daughter™, can relate to this, but I swear, every time one of my parents or siblings complains to me that something isn’t working, the second I begrudgingly make my way over, it starts doing what it’s supposed to do again. Printers are a perfect example of this. I carry this Big Sister Energy™ with me into situations where other people might even be older than I am. They ask for help and suddenly my presence makes the world right itself again. But it does get tiring to have a superpower that helps everyone else and doesn’t come in very useful for me. It’s even lost me some writing time. Big Sister Problems™, I suppose.
Is there an organization or cause that is close to your heart?
I am a fan of organizations that push for educational equity and making books more accessible to kids whose families and classrooms can’t afford them. Until I got a job, most of the books I read were from libraries, gifts from teachers who let me keep them, or the once-a-year Scholastic Book Fair book my parents let me pick out to buy. Now that I’m an educator and author myself, it’s important to me that other kids get to fall in love with reading too. Firstbook.org is an organization that provides free books and resources to kids and classrooms throughout the United States that struggle to get them. I also support organizations like Books Behind Bars NJ, an abolitionist group that facilitates access to books for inmates in New Jersey.
What advice do you have for new writers?
Write the book. You might be filled with doubt, but once you’ve finished a book, you’ll always have that knowledge—you’ll always know that you can the next time you’re drafting and “the end” feels too far away to fathom. It may not be a perfect book. It’s hard for me to let go of being a perfectionist too. But imperfect books can be fixed; a book you never finish, even if what you have written is utterly brilliant, can’t go anywhere. And even if your finished book doesn’t lead you to an agent or a book deal, you learn something from every book you work on, I promise. That’s valuable too.
Is there anything that you would like to add?
I hope THE LOVE MATCH will be your cup of tea—a warm and comforting one that feels like a hug and makes you smile! If you’d like to find me elsewhere, I usually post under the username @bhootbabe on most social media and have a website, priyankataslim.com!
~ Giveaway Details ~
Three (3) winners will receive a copy of The Love Match (Priyanka Taslim) ~ US ONLY (NO P.O. boxes)
*Click the Rafflecopter link below to enter the giveaway*
6 thoughts on “Author Chat with Priyanka Taslim (THE LOVE MATCH), Plus Giveaway! ~ US ONLY (NO P.O. boxes)”
I’m so excited for this book!
looks and sounds adorable
I love putting diverse books in my MS library! I would love to add this one to the stacks!
Looks like a perfect read
I love this cover and the synopsis sounds exciting and unique to me.
Sounds like a really cute story, and I love the cover!
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