Author Chat with Rajani LaRocca (Red, White, and Whole), Plus Giveaway! ~ (US Only)
Today we're excited to chat with Rajani LaRocca author of
Red, White, and Whole.
Read on for more about Rajani and her book, plus a giveaway!
Meet Rajani LaRoca!
Rajani LaRocca's debut middle grade novel, MIDSUMMER’S MAYHEM (little bee books), was a Kirkus Best Book of 2019, an Indies Introduce Selection, and an Indie Next Pick. She has forthcoming picture books with Candlewick, Abrams, and Lee & Low. Rajani was born in India, immigrated to the U.S. when she was a baby, and grew up in Louisville, Kentucky. A graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Medical School, she practices medicine and lives outside Boston with her family. Visit her at www.rajanilarocca.com [rajanilarocca.com].
Meet Red, White, and Whole!
Reha feels torn between two worlds: school, where she’s the only Indian American student, and home, with her family’s traditions and holidays. But Reha’s parents don’t understand why she’s conflicted—they only notice when Reha doesn’t meet their strict expectations. Reha feels disconnected from her mother, or Amma, although their names are linked—Reha means “star” and Punam means “moon”—but they are a universe apart.
Then Reha finds out that her Amma is sick. Really sick.
Reha, who dreams of becoming a doctor even though she can’t stomach the sight of blood, is determined to make her Amma well again. She’ll be the perfect daughter, if it means saving her Amma’s life.
~ Author Chat ~
YABC: What gave you the inspiration to write this book?
Red, White, and Whole is set in 1983 and is about 13-year-old Reha, the child of Indian immigrants, who is torn between two worlds: one with her parents and immigrant community, and one with her friends at school and 80s pop culture. But then her mother becomes seriously ill with leukemia, and Reha is torn in a different way. The book involves the interplay between heritage and fitting in, science and poetry, 80s pop music and Hindu mythology. It’s about being caught between here and there, before and after, and finding a way to be whole.
The idea for Red, White, and Whole came to me as a metaphor. I thought of the idea of blood, and all that it means in terms of biology, heredity, and culture, and the story began to take shape from there. The line, “What happens when your own blood betrays you?” came to me, and I wanted it to have two meanings in the story. I also wanted to explore the experience of being the child of immigrants—especially the personally resonant feeling of wondering whether you truly belong anywhere.
YABC: Which came first, the title or the novel?
Oh, the novel came first. Well, at least parts of it. I wrote a poem called “Red, White, and Whole” that described the biology of blood and realized it was the perfect title for the book. The title refers to red and white blood cells and whole blood; the connotations of the colors red and white in Indian and American culture; and the colors of the American flag. It also captures the concept of feeling divided but still striving to be a whole person.
YABC: Do you have a favorite writing snack?
I’m a huge fan of tea (masala chai, of course) and almond biscotti.
YABC: What do you like most about the cover of the book?
I love EVERYTHING about the cover! Artist Vrinda Zaveri and designer Erin Fitzsimmons did such an incredible job creating a cover that reflects so many themes and metaphors from the pages of Red, White, and Whole. The red and white flowers on Reha’s dress float up as red and white blood cells to become stars in the sky above. Reha’s name means “star,” and her mother Punam’s name means “moon,” and the full moon is prominent on the cover. To either side of Reha, there are landscapes which represent cities in the U.S. and India, the two halves of Reha’s world.
Red, White, and Whole is written in poetry, and the cover is like a poem itself.
YABC: What’s on your TBR pile?
I can’t wait to read V. E. Schwab’s latest novel, The Invisible Life of Addie Larue. Once I reach my next writing goal, that’s my reward!
YABC: What’s a book you’ve recently read and loved?
I was lucky enough to read an early copy of Reem Faruqi’s forthcoming novel in verse, Unsettled, and I absolutely loved it! It’s about a girl who immigrates to the U.S. from Pakistan and has to learn how to make friends and adjust to life in her new home.
YABC: What’s up next for you?
I have four more books publishing this year! Three picture books: Bracelets for Bina’s Brothers, (Charlesbridge, April), The Secret Code Inside You (Little Bee Books, September), and Where Three Oceans Meet (Abrams). I also have another middle grade novel, Much Ado About Baseball (Yellow Jacket/Little Bee Books, June), which is a companion novel to my debut, Midsummer’s Mayhem. And I’m working on my next middle grade, which is a dual POV novel written in poetry and prose featuring twin sisters.
YABC: Which was the most difficult or emotional scene to narrate?
There’s a scene near the end of Red, White, and Whole when Reha receives a letter from her mother that tells her so many things she never said out loud. I remember writing this scene in my kitchen and literally sobbing even after I’d finished and had moved on to cooking dinner. It’s still the scene that makes me tear up every time I read the book. It reveals how those who love us understand so much about us, even when we’re not sure they do.
YABC: Which part of the writing process do you enjoy more: Drafting or Revising?
I love revising! Drafting is really hard for me, because a first draft can be so messy compared with a completed book. I love revising, because it allows me to take a big step back and to look at the story analytically, and once there’s something to work with, it’s easier (in my mind at least) to fix. But I can’t revise without a first draft, so that’s how I convince myself to complete the draft, even when it’s difficult.
YABC: What advice would you give to new writers?
- Read a lot and read widely. Read for pleasure and read to analyze.
- Write what you love and put a piece of yourself in everything you write.
- Spend time learning the craft of writing, and never stop learning.
- Find great critique partners and be a great critique partner.
- Include emotional truths in your writing, even if it’s fiction.
- Work on a variety of projects so you always have something at various stages of development.
- Find people who support you and hold on to them; don’t spend time with those who drain your energy.
- Be kind to yourself. Writing is hard!
- Be bold and unafraid to try new genres and formats.
- Keep writing and keep trying, even when you feel discouraged, because the world needs your stories.
Red, White, and Whole
By: Rajani LaRocca
Publisher: Quill Tree Books
Release Date: February 2nd, 2021
Two winners will each receive a copy of Red, White, and Whole (Rajani LaRocca) ~ (US Only)
*Click the Rafflecopter link below to enter the giveaway*
I love revising too. This book sounds fantastic. And I'm so excited for Rajani and how her writing career has taken off.