Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A conversation with Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar, author of 'An Unlikely Goddess'

What was the inspiration behind this book?
The culmination of years of thinking about immigrants in the United States and South Asians in particular. It’s a coming of age story and as my 4th novel, 8th book, a coming of age for the character and for myself as a writer.
How did you come up with the title?
I can’t remember exactly, as it was several years ago, but during a writing workshop I realized I was kind of writing an anti-story, against a master feminine narrative, the Hindu version of a “St. Mary”.
How much do you have in common with Sita, the main character?
Ah, Sita and I are good friends; we’ve spent years together trying to figure out what makes her work. She’s a composite of many different people and women in particular that I’ve known over the years with a similar national or cultural background. What is one of your favorite scenes? I love the sequence when the family is trying to fight off the lice epidemic with the children; sums up their struggle to appear normal and yet balance their pressures.
What message do you hope readers will take with them?
Not all immigrants are financially successful; not everyone who works hard can avail themselves of the American dream.
On your website, you define yourself as Modern Mother, Writer, Scholar. How did you choose these specific words?
I was working with a fantastic publicity consultant at the time and she gave me a three word challenge. And I figured these roles encompass me as a parent, the writer, and also the academic.
Please tell us about your other published works.
There are 8 ebooks and 2 scholarly books. I love learning about new places, people, and material so there is always another title in the works. I love indie publishing because I don’t have to choose between fiction or non-fiction.
On what projects are you currently working?
I’m in the process of releasing paperback editions of all the e-books and also putting the finishing touches of my next novel, set in the East Asian country of Laos in 1975.
Your PhD is focused on gender and postcolonial theory. How did you come up with that focus?
My interest was sparked in a Master’s class centered on women of South Asia and Islam. I saw how similar their concerns were to how I grew up and I was hooked by the common themes.
What is something that readers may be surprised to learn about you?
I have dyslexia. Doesn’t mean I can’t write; only that I have to develop strategies to work around it.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Thanks for hosting me. Writers would be nothing about readers. Or sad people telling ourselves stories we already know!
Thank you so much for your time!

An Unlikely Goddess
by Mohanalaskshmi Rajakumar



Sita is the firstborn but since she is a female, her birth makes life difficult for her mother who is expected to produce a son. From the start, Sita finds herself in a culture hostile to her, but her irrepressible personality won’t be subdued. Born in India, she immigrants as a toddler to the U.S. with her parents after the birth of her much anticipated younger brother. Her father’s academic ambitions take the family all over the United States, as he chases grant funding at universities in several states. His financial challenges make life at home stressful for Sita, her mother, and younger brother – but the women of the family bear the brunt of his frustrations – both physically and emotionally. Hers is a South Indian family, from Tamil Nadu, one of the most conservative states in the subcontinent.

Read an excerpt:
The Hindu goddess, Sita, is said to have been born from the Earth.

King Janaka discovers the beautiful infant and in her beauty, believes in her divinity. He raises her as his own daughter……


Unlike her namesake, Sita's first mistake was being born.

A girl, her mother thought, eyes dark in abject terror. What if he leaves me? She swallowed, increasing the dryness in her post-delivery mouth, the stiches across her abdomen itching. No water. Only ice chips until her bowels passed the tests. Mythili pressed back against the pillows. She closed her eyes, pushing her fingers into the sockets until the darkness was punctuated by bone-white stars. She wished she could as easily tune out the gurgles of the baby in the bassinet beside her.

Yet, even premature and unwanted, Sita was obliviously happy to enter the world, beaming her infant smile at anyone or anything she saw: the nurse, her aunt, her mother's back, the noxiously-pink cement walls of the Madras hospital in which she found herself. Several pounds underweight, she was otherwise fine—a petite, brown-skinned baby with tufts of black hair crowning a smooth scalp. How could she be expected to know that from her first breath she was, and always would be, a living reminder of her mother's failure to produce a first-born male heir?

Though swaddled and placed in the bassinet immediately after delivery, her eyes were alive with motion. She blinked up at the faces of passersby, but they were admittedly few, so instead, she followed the blinking lights, the creeping shadows and the occasional appearance of a nurse. Everything about the world kept her busy with delight until sleep washed over her little body

“Look at that smile,” the young nurse said, cradling Sita against her flat bosom.

“Aamam,” Priya, the childless aunt, agreed, rubbing a forefinger across the baby’s somewhat wrinkly face.

Instead of replying, Mythili, Sita’s mother, pulled a see-through blue sheet up to her chin and turned her face away.

Available on Amazon

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar is a South Asian American who has lived in Qatar since 2005. Moving to the Arabian Desert was fortuitous in many ways since this is where she met her husband, had a baby, and made the transition from writing as a hobby to a full time passion. She has since published seven e-books including a mom-ior for first time mothers, Mommy But Still Me, a guide for aspiring writers, So You Want to Sell a Million Copies, a short story collection, Coloured and Other Stories, and a novel about women’s friendships, Saving Peace.

Her recent books have focused on various aspects of life in Qatar. From Dunes to Dior, named as a Best Indie book in 2013, is a collection of essays related to her experiences as a female South Asian American living in the Arabian Gulf. Love Comes Later was the winner of the Best Indie Book Award for Romance in 2013 and is a literary romance set in Qatar and London. The Dohmestics is an inside look into compound life, the day to day dynamics between housemaids and their employers.

After she joined the e-book revolution, Mohana dreams in plotlines. Learn more about her work on her website at or follow her latest on Twitter: @moha_doha.


Mohanalakshmi will be awarding a free ecopy of An Unlikely Goddess to one randomly drawn commenter at every stop, and a Grand Prize of a $50 Amazon GC will be awarded to one randomly drawn commenter during the tour. Follow the tour for more chances to win!


  1. Great interview, I enjoyed learning more about you.


  2. Thanks for hosting me Andi! I hope your readers get a glimpse of the writer's life.

  3. Very nice interview

    bn100candg at hotmail dot com

  4. Great interview!
    Thanks for the chance to win!
    natasha_donohoo_8 at hotmail dot com

  5. Thank you for the wonderful interview. I enjoyed the humor.


  6. Loved the interview and excerpt too!

    kareninnc at gmail dot com


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