Author Rakesh Satyal and singer Samita Sinha covering Madonna at R Bar on April 27
Fort Greene-based author Rakesh Satyal’s debut novel, Blue Boy, is the book the young author and HarperCollins editor says he always wanted to read as a child.
Blue Boy is the story of Kiran, a young Indian boy growing up in Cincinnati in the early 1990s, who struggles to fit into his community and make his parents proud while staying true to his individuality.
After a wildly entertaining release party at R Bar in Manhattan on Monday, this endearing tale of a non-conformist is now on sale. Brooklyn The Borough caught up with Rakesh, to ask about the debut, where he finds inspiration and what tickles his cute blue feathers.
Brooklyn The Borough: What inspired you to write Blue Boy?
Rakesh Satyal: I remember coming across the quote from the Bhagavad-Gita that I use as an epigraph for the book ("As fire is shrouded in smoke, a mirror in dust and a child by the womb, so is the universe enveloped in desire") and immediately being bowled over by it. I had read the Bhagavad-Gita before, but when I saw the quote isolated, the many sexual and social implications of it really hit me. The book sort of sprung from there, but I have always been fascinated by Krishna, as he is such an androgynous figure in many respects and certainly a hyper-sexualized one in perhaps even more respects. So the influence of Him as a deity and as an icon on a child’s mind gave rise to the full scope of the novel.
BTB: What books meant a lot to you as a kid?
RS: I made sure that the main character, Kiran, mentioned The Secret Garden because that was always a favorite book of mine as a young child, especially because it is one of the first full-length novels that I ever read. I also adored Roald Dahl (as I have found many of my most artistically inclined friends did when they were children) and Beverly Hamilton Chandler, who wrote the Boxcar Children series, which was so peculiar and mysterious and entertaining.
BTB: What message(s) do you think young people will take away from Blue Boy?
RS: I love this question because, in many ways, I wrote this book with a firm commitment to younger readers in mind. I keep telling people that, with Blue Boy, I wrote the book that I needed as a kid but definitely did not have. If anything, I want the book to show kids that there are people out there who share their pain in coming out or who are just dealing with feeling like sexual or social misfits — and that a strong sense of self and creativity are the bright paths out of that dark place.
BTB: What inspires you about Brooklyn?
RS: Brooklyn is one of the most enchanting places in the world. Of course, there is a literary scene here that keeps growing and growing in diversity and quality, but the architecture in particular blows me away and is so inspiring in its variety. And its lugubriousness — just on my block on the Clinton Hill/Fort Greene border, there are about three or four mansion-style homes that had fallen into dilapidation but that are slowly being renovated, and it is remarkable to see the ways in which these creepy but uncommonly gorgeous structures reveal themselves over time. That sort of evolution and restoration is undeniably helpful with the writing process, which is all about revision and mining or rebuilding the depths of one’s mind.
BTB: Who did the awesome makeup you wore to your book party? Also, was that a Madonna cover you sang?
RS: My dear friend Samita Sinha, who was the talented singer performing with me, did my makeup. I just wanted something over-the-top but very much in the spirit of Kiran, who is anything but reserved in the book. We did four songs — all Indian-fused: the first was "How Will I Know" by Whitney Houston; the second was "Sullen Girl" by Fiona Apple; the third was, yes, "Dress You Up" by Madge; and the fourth was an amazing Hindi song called "Aap Jaisa Koi."
(Photo by Aram Jibilian)