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Get to Know Asian American Children’s Authors: Uma Krishnaswami, Author of The Problem with Be

Updated: May 11, 2022

Next up in this series is Uma Krishnaswami, the author of numerous books for all age ranges. Her newest book, The Problem with Being Slightly Heroic, is the sequel to critically acclaimed novel The Grand Plan to Fix Everything.

1) Which of your characters do you most identify with and why?

Uma Krishnaswami: I don’t think of myself as identifying with any of my characters. When I’m writing I’m simultaneously in their skins and at their sides, taking turns almost, dancing around inside the story and trying to bring it all to the page one or two layers at a time. Sometimes I’m close to a scene. At other times I may be hovering above the story trying to see its bigger picture. I have no time to stop and think about who I love most in that story. That’s not the way I see my job. I’m looking in many mirrors at once, playing with the story’s light and shadow and trying to figure out the lives of the fictional people I’m following. That said, it’s a treat for me when readers tell me they can identify with any of the people in my stories. Dini often gets mentioned this way, the main character in The Grand Plan to Fix Everything and The Problem With Being Slightly Heroic. I love getting those notes from kids because it means that the work I did in creating this illusion that we call story–that work has succeeded.

2) If you could give your Asian American kid readers one piece of advice, what would it be?

UK: Read generously. Read everything you can lay your hands on. Many viewpoints, many kinds of fiction and nonfiction. Question it all, and then make your own meaning for stories and for life.

3) Who is your favorite Asian American children’s author right now (other than yourself)?

Most recently, I’ve enjoyed reading Padma Venkatraman’s books. I’ve long admired Grace Lin’s work, and of course Linda Sue Park and Cynthia Kadohata. And the writer who led us all years ago with his groundbreaking books, Laurence Yep. Then there’s my colleague at Vermont College of Fine Arts, YA novelist An Na, who has some amazing new work due out in the next year or two.

Uma also answered my alternate question!

4) Were you a reader growing up? Why or why not?

UK: I was. I was a voracious reader. We moved a lot when I was a child, and books were sometimes my friends. I think they also allowed me a place where I could dream and inhabit worlds very different from my own life, which seemed quite humdrum in comparison.

About the author:

Uma Krishnaswami was born in India and now lives in the United States. She teaches at Vermont College of Fine Arts, in the MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults.

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