Carmel Magazine

Summer/Fall 2020

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148 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 The lead character in the novel was loosely based on Joshi's mother; the protagonist escapes an abusive marriage to become a henna artist in Jaipur in the 1950s. Guests recently enjoyed their own henna experience in Joshi's Central Coast garden. shocked at how little the West seemed to know about India. It was if as if we'd arrived from some primitive jungle, as opposed to the rich and vibrant country I knew." Alka Joshi had been writing the story in her head for just about as long as she can remem- ber, and in earnest, for 10 years. Yet it was her mother who had, in some ways, lived the life of the protago- nist, inspiring the message Joshi wanted to explore. As a child in America, Joshi did not want to be associated with India. She wanted to assimilate, blend into American culture. Yet, as she grew into adulthood, which afforded trips back to India, she rediscovered the country she came from, and the home she remembered. Realizing she didn't need to see India through an American lens, she was able to return to her perception of her native country as a rich, vibrant place. "I started exploring my earliest memories of my life in India," Joshi said, "and asking my moth- er about her life. As she shared more and more of her girlhood, I thought, what if I made her the protagonist of this novel? She had such a differ- ent life than I have. She didn't have the agency, the power, the freedoms I've had in my life." To a lot of Joshi's questions, her mother didn't have an answer. Raised to aspire to an arranged marriage, she'd never questioned how her life would go. Starting to imagine on her mother's behalf, Joshi began writing. What Alka Joshi's mother lacked in opportu- nity, she was determined to make sure her daughter did not. She taught her child to be self- sufficient, educated, forward-thinking, strong. Joshi graduated from Stanford University and went on to receive her MFA from the California College of the Arts. After working as an advertising copywriter, a marketing consultant, and an illustrator, she opened her own marketing agency. "Now," she said, "I am a novelist. I couldn't self-identify as an author until my book existed. Yet once I saw my name on the cover of the book I thought, 'Now I am an author.'" Even as she completes the sequel, "The Royal Jewel Cinema House," coming out next year, Joshi is working on her third book, making it a trilogy. 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. Photo: Courtesy of Alka Joshi

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