By Anjana Parikh
She read one of her short stories from Love Across a Broken Map during the recently held Manchester Literature Festival held in Manchester. Reshma Ruia is a British Indian writer based in UK. She is the author of Something Black in the Lentil Soup. The Sunday Times described the book as “a gem of straight-faced comedy”.
Born in Motihari, India, and brought up in Italy, Reshma’s short stories and poems have appeared in various international anthologies and magazines such as “Too Asian, Not Asian Enough”, and was also commissioned for BBC Radio 4. Reshma is also the co-founder of The Whole Kahani — a collective of British fiction writers of South Asian origin.
Reshma speaks to Kitaab about the challenges faced by British Asian writers, and their effort to break the glass ceiling.
British Asian writers are struggling to get their works published, or adapted for TV or movies. Is it due to a lack of infrastructure or interest?
I think the main reason is that publishers are afraid to market and publish the works of British Asian writers. The publishers aren’t much aware that there’s an appetite for the kind of fiction that writers like us write.
Publishers would prefer something that is mainstream. These days, publishing is determined and governed by the marketplace.
What is your take on the dwindling situation of British Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) in the creative industry?
I agree with this. In an ideal world, a writer should be recognised as a writer and not with a label like BAME or South African.
A writer’s work should stand on its own. We don’t need to be pigeon-holed; however, I believe that some positive discrimination is necessary to break through the glass ceiling. Having said this, publishers are waking up to the fact that minority writers are under-represented in the mainstream. These days, some publishers are actively encouraging BAME writers to apply for mentorship or to submit their works for consideration.
Books like Good Immigrants by Nikesh Shukla broke the boundary because it was crowd-funded. Therefore, BAME writers are becoming more proactive; they’ve realised that they can’t just wait for the handouts. Moreover, with social media, we feel that our voices can now be heard loud and clear.