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Jennifer Vido | Jen's Jewels Interview: INSIDE THE MIRROR by Parul Kapur


Inside the Mirror
Parul Kapur

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March 2024
On Sale: March 1, 2024
ISBN: 1496236785
EAN: 9781496236784
Paperback
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Also by Parul Kapur:
Inside the Mirror, March 2024

Welcome to this week's edition of Jen's Jewels, where I uncover literary treasures waiting to be discovered. Today, we're stepping into the mesmerizing world of Parul Kapur's INSIDE THE MIRROR. Set in the bustling streets of 1950s Bombay, this novel beckons readers with the allure of a hidden gem, offering a glimpse into the lives of twin sisters, Jaya and Kamlesh. With each turn of the page, Kapur's prose sparkles like a rare gemstone, illuminating the intricacies of family bonds, societal expectations, and the timeless pursuit of self-discovery. So, join me as we embark on a journey through the captivating depths of INSIDE THE MIRROR.

 

Jennifer Vido: Your novel, INSIDE THE MIRROR, takes us deep into the social and cultural fabric of 1950s Bombay. What inspired you to explore this particular period?

Parul Kapur: Growing up, I heard stories about my mother’s fun at college and my father’s adventurous early career in India in the 1950s, so I romanticized this period. The country was also full of hope after winning independence in 1947. What I realized in the course of writing the book was that it was a much more complicated and sorrowful time, shadowed by the violence of the British partitioning India before they left. Several million people were killed and tens of millions were left homeless. It took India more than half a century to recover from this calamity.

 

Jen: The dynamic relationship between Jaya and Kamlesh adds a layer of complexity to the narrative. Can you share more about the bond between these twin sisters?

Parul: As an immigrant child in 1970s Connecticut, I felt like an outsider in a homogeneous white community. In the back of my mind was a wish for a sister with whom I would share a perfect connection, ridding me of my loneliness. That was the impulse behind creating these twins, who love and care for each other deeply, though that doesn’t preclude conflict, hurt, or betrayals of each other.

 

Jen: Jaya's choice to reside with a woman mentor and the ensuing repercussions illuminate the hurdles women encounter when treading unconventional paths. How did you delve into researching and seamlessly integrating these aspects of women's lives in 1950s Bombay into your narrative?

Parul: The protection of women—with all the incumbent limitations upon them—is one of the principles on which Indian society is built. Women traditionally moved straight from their parents’ home into their husband’s home after an arranged marriage. They never lived on their own; their reputation depended on this. Jaya’s mentor, Sringara, a single woman, lives well outside the pale of respectable society. When Jaya moves in with her, she courts scandal and disgrace.

 

Jen: The title, INSIDE THE MIRROR, suggests a deeper exploration of self and identity. Can you elaborate on the significance of this title in relation to the themes and characters in your novel?

Parul: Art is said to be a mirror of life, and the story looks at what is happening behind the scenes in an artist’s life that drives her to create specific works or shapes her performances. The twins also are outwardly mirrors of each other, yet distinct individuals. As a teenager, I would study my reflection in the mirror and wonder, who is this person? I was surprised by the definite form I took, when I existed mostly inside my own head, lost in thoughts and daydreams. The mirror is a kind of dividing line between our external and internal selves.

 

Jen: Your novel touches on various forms of artistic expression, from painting to Bharata Natyam dance. How did you approach portraying the creative processes of your characters, and did your own appreciation for the arts influence this aspect of the narrative?

Parul: I fell in love with painting during a semester abroad in college, visiting some of the great museums in London and Paris. Later I took couple of life drawing and painting classes and found art-making an exhilarating process. I also took a Bharata Natyam dance class at Wesleyan University with an American disciple of the legendary Indian dancer Balasaraswati, who came from a long line of temple dancers. Dance, and even painting, are sensual arts that involve the whole body, and I wanted to capture an artist’s immersion in those arts. I also spoke to Bharata Natyam dancers and artists in India for a deeper understanding of their practices.

 

Jen: INSIDE THE MIRROR delves into the broader theme of India's struggle to rebuild itself post-colonialism. How did you navigate the balance between personal stories and the larger socio-political context, ensuring both were integral to the narrative flow?

Parul: That’s a great question. I started with the twins’ intimate need for expression through their arts. As I wrote, I discovered this need grows out of a deep wound inflicted on the entire society: Partition. As children, the girls witnessed the grief of their extended family members who became refugees and took shelter in their home. What is personal and emotional has its roots in an historical crisis that affected the whole nation.

 

Jen: What books currently occupy a prominent place on your "To Be Read" stack?

Parul: Roxy and Coco, the latest novel by Terese Svoboda, a prolific writer I admire. Get the Picture, by Bianca Bosker, a journalist who infiltrates the elite contemporary art world. Dear Memory by Victoria Chang, which compiles a poet’s letters questioning a family history that unfolded in another country.

 

Jen: Keeping up with authors between releases adds an extra layer of fun to the reading journey. How can readers stay up-to-date on your latest news?

Parul: They can friend me on Facebook or follow me on Instagram.

 

Jen: Thank you for stopping by to discuss your book. Wishing you the absolute best as your new release makes its debut!

Parul: Thanks for your interest in my story. It’s been a pleasure talking to you.

INSIDE THE MIRROR by Parul Kapur

Inside the Mirror

Winner of the AWP Prize for the Novel
Ms. Magazine's Most Anticipated Feminist Books of 2024
Named to Brown Girl Bookshelf's List of 24 Books to Read in 2024

In 1950s Bombay, Jaya Malhotra studies medicine at the direction of her father, a champion of women’s education who assumes the right to choose his daughters’ vocations. A talented painter drawn to the city’s dynamic new modern art movement, Jaya is driven by her desire to express both the pain and extraordinary force of life of a nation rising from the devastation of British rule. Her twin sister, Kamlesh, a passionate student of Bharata Natyam dance, complies with her father’s decision that she become a schoolteacher while secretly pursuing forbidden dreams of dancing onstage and in the movies.

When Jaya moves out of her family home to live with a woman mentor, she suffers grievous consequences as a rare woman in the men’s domain of art. Not only does her departure from home threaten her family’s standing and crush her reputation; Jaya loses a vital connection to Kamlesh.

Winner of the AWP Prize for the Novel, Parul Kapur’s Inside the Mirror is set in the aftermath of colonialism, as an impoverished India struggles to remake itself into a modern state. Jaya’s story encompasses art, history, political revolt, love, and women’s ambition to seize their own power.

 

Women's Fiction [University of Nebraska Press, On Sale: March 1, 2024, Paperback, ISBN: 9781496236784 / ]

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About Parul Kapur

Parul Kapur

Parul Kapur was born in Assam, India, grew up in Connecticut, and earned an MFA from Columbia University. Her debut novel, INSIDE THE MIRROR, about twin sisters who aspire to become artists in 1950s Bombay, won the AWP Award for the Novel and is forthcoming from the University of Nebraska Press on March 1, 2024. It is based on her explorations and experiences as a journalist in Bombay in the 1980s.

Parul's award-winning short stories about the lives of Indian immigrants have appeared in Ploughshares, Pleiades, Prime Number, Midway Journal, and the anthology Extinguished & Extinct (Twelve Winters Press). As an arts journalist and literary critic, she has contributed to The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal Europe, New York Newsday, Esquire, GQ, ARTnews, Art in America, Los Angeles Review of Books, Guernica, Slate and The Paris Review. She founded the Books page at ArtsATL, Atlanta’s leading online arts publication, and covered the city’s literary scene for four years. She has appeared on panels at the Jaipur Literature Festival (Houston), the Decatur Book Festival, the Indo-American Council for the Arts and more. The Hambidge Center, Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and Jentel Artist Residency have awarded her writing fellowships.

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About Jennifer Vido

Jennifer Vido

Jennifer Vido writes sweet romances set in the Lowcountry filled with southern charm and hospitality. In between chapters, she interviews authors for her bi-weekly Jen’s Jewels column on FreshFiction.com. Most mornings, she teaches an arthritis-friendly water exercise class for seniors before heading to the office to serve as the executive director of a legal non-profit. A New Jersey native, she currently lives in Maryland with her husband and two rescue dogs and is the proud parent of two sons who miss her home-cooked meals. To learn more, please visit her website.

Gull Island

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