Award-winning author Mitali Perkins was just 7 years old when her family relocated from her hometown Kolkata, India, to the United States. Mitali’s name, which means “friendly” in her native Bangla language, was a good fit for the young girl as she easily made new friends and adapted to different places. Mitali also discovered that reading and writing in her journal helped her express what it’s like to grow up as an American girl in a traditional Indian family.
Her first novel, The Not-So-Star-Spangled Life of Sunita Sen, tells the story of an eighth-grader growing up in a California suburb who finds her typical teenage lifestyle challenged when her Indian grandparents visit for a summer. “When I tell those stories, I’m telling my own story, even though it’s fiction,” Mitali says. “I draw upon those deep places in my life that come from memories.”
There are two kinds of books that Mitali says she loves to write—ones to make you laugh and others to make you think. Her humorous stories often feature a bit of romance and explore the experiences of girls who grow up between the culture of their parents and the culture of their school and friends.
With books like Rickshaw Girl and Bamboo People, Mitali writes about kids in today’s world who grow up in faraway places and face different challenges. Mitali believes that while you might change people’s minds with politics, you can change people’s hearts with stories. She urges girls to tell their stories with honesty. “You need to do that in order to have the power to go really deep and far into someone’s heart,” she says.
Watch Mitali talk about her work here! And to see other Storytellers in our video series, click here. To find out more about Mitali’s life and explore her wonderful world of stories, visit The Studio.