Dhaka, Bangladesh
'Unplanned adventures'

'Unplanned adventures'

"As a young journalist, I wanted to change the world and set out to cover burning civic issues," says Valerie Miner. "I still want to change the world. But now I do it in a more sophisticated way-through my books and the emotions I put in them," she adds. The feminist writer from the US, who has over 14 books to her credit, feels the best a writer can do is to increase human compassion and love. During a workshop on 'Attention and Observation in the Arts' organised by Study Centre for Indian Literature in English and Translation (SCILET) at The American College, she quoted several famous personalities from various fields of art to drive home the point that in order to flourish in arts one needs to be responsive to one's surroundings. "To just hear is of no significance, a duck hears also," she says. Valerie finds prayers to be the best form of writing. "One cannot evolve stories and characters without attention," she says. As a writer, she believes in the instincts that guide her to develop her characters. Though sometimes, fears Valerie, looking too closely at the muse may also make it disappear. Most of her books focus on human relations across generations, social spheres, races and countries. "The goal of my writings is to understand the complex world we live in, to understand each other as communities and as humans and I always start with a philosophical or spiritual question in mind." says Valerie, whose stories are mostly an intricate fabric of personal emotions and social unrests or issues. "I believe in engaging the reader, raising a poignant question in the end and leaving them to ponder. A good book should continue to disturb the reader for a long time." As a feminist, Valerie looks beyond the issues of just women and delves into a larger spectrum inclusive of all the marginalised sections of the society. "Feminism is of many kinds. Apart from having a strong female lead, my stories also contain significant male characters. I have men friends who are feminists," says the Professor and Artist-in-Residence at Stanford University. Valerie is also a teacher of Feminist Gender and Sexuality Studies at the University's Department of English. "To embrace gender-and-sexual minorities is also feminism. I am interested in the unheard voices of gay men, lesbians, and people of colour, race and lesser known ethnicities." Valerie calls each of her books, an adventure. "None of my books are planned scripts. I evolve while writing them and they evolve while I write." One of her recent books, After Eden, is a metaphor inspired by John Milton's Paradise Lost. "It's a reinterpretation of The Book of Genesis, where I make Adam and Eve lesbian lovers, the archangels as gay males and the snake as the garden hose," explains Valerie. "I attempt to honour difference and celebrate variety through my writings." Her latest book, Travelling with spirits, set in Northern India showcases the experiences of an American lady doctor caught in the extremities of the land. Upon the catchy titles she comes up for her books, Valerie points out that many of them are gerunds. "I prefer using 'ing-words' as they give more dynamicity to moments." Among Indian writers, Valerie picks Khushwant Singh, Rohinton Mistry and Amitav Ghosh as those who appeal to her a lot. She names Toni Morrison, Paule Marshall and Doris Lessing among those who inspire her. About her next book, Valerie says, "Writing is like packing for an unplanned trip."

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