Carmel Magazine

Summer/Fall 2020

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Page 147 of 171

"The Henna Artist" was published March 3 by Mira Books, whose parent company is HarperCollins. Author Alka Joshi, who was born in India but makes her home in Pacific Grove, wondered if publishing during a pandemic could be, somehow, fortuitous, or whether her words would wither without audience. Book sales indicate people were waiting for this type of story. Maybe it's because actress Reese Witherspoon discovered this tale of a young woman—who escapes an abusive arranged marriage, and makes her way to the vibrant city of Jaipur to become a henna artist and confidante to the wealthy women of the highest caste—and publicly introduced it to her "Hello Sunshine Book Club." Perhaps it is because so many people, sheltered at home, have reached for a book that would help them escape into a world unlike anything they are experiencing right now. Joshi's book has met with early success likely because its context was so carefully researched, and its storylines so artfully woven that it became a bestseller. By the end of May, it had appeared at No. 14 on the New York Times hard- cover fiction list. By June, it had come in at No. 7 on the LA Times bestseller list. "This book really started as an exercise in teaching and introducing my readers to a side of India they may not have been exposed to before," said Joshi, over a cup of tea at Bookworks in Pacific Grove. "When my family first came to the United States in 1967, I was Photo: Courtesy of Alka Joshi Sudha Latika Joshi, Joshi's mother, had three children by age 22 and lived a life constrained by rules. A group of women recently gathered in Joshi's garden to enjoy Indian cuisine and to discuss "The Henna Artist" with the bestselling novelist. What Alka Joshi's mother lacked in opportunity, she was determined to make sure her daughter did not. Photo: Courtesy of Alka Joshi 146 C A R M E L M A G A Z I N E • S U M M E R / F A L L 2 0 2 0

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