Junior | Henrico, VA
Why did you decide to become an English major?
For me, it was a question of looking at all the pieces of my life and deciding what I couldn’t live without. There was a lot of pressure in my family to go into medicine, so in high school I was taking lots of classes like AP biology and BC calculus. I still have a deep respect for the sciences, but there were several times in high school when I felt like my entire being was pointing towards books and literature and writing. When the whole thing finally ruptured and I decided to become an English major, there was a profound sense of relief. Looking back, I’ve only felt like a real person since I started centering my life around the written word.
What is your favorite class taken in the department thus far and why?
I think it might be one that I’m taking right now! I’m currently taking a class called Women of Color Feminism, Literature, and the Politics of Visuality, taught by Pacharee Sudhinaraset. It’s made me angrier (and perpetually confused), and with the current state of things, I feel like angry is the only rational thing to be. And it’s also made me work harder, especially when it comes to my own writing. Recently in my fiction I’ve been trying to tell the truth about South Asian women in America, and unfortunately, writing a clear truth about women of color is in itself an act of rebellion. I’m coming to understand that telling these stories is something worth throwing all of my energy and effort into.
I hear you recently received the Owen Prize, an award given to high-achieving underclassmen in the English Major. Congratulations! How did it feel when you won?
It was such a wonderful surprise, and a much needed bit of recognition at a time when I was feeling very overwhelmed by everything going on and the sudden, terrifying realization that I was halfway done with school. I’m really grateful to have received it!
If you could create and teach any class in the department, what would you do?
So I’ve been thinking a lot about how women write about sexuality and the body. There are two books I read in the last year that really blew my mind; one is Sharon Old’s new collection of poetry, Odes, which contains poems like “Ode to Clitoris” and “Ode to Withered Cleavage.” The other is Han Kang’s The Vegetarian, translated from Korean, which won the International Man Booker. Both books, though very different, speak about the body in cuttingly truthful ways. The topic of sexuality has been claimed by men in literature for centuries, and I’m extremely interested in the way female writers throughout history have seized this topic of conversation, owned it, and given it new life. So I think I’d love to create a class on Women’s Literature of Sex and Sexuality.
How have any internships or work opportunities you've had been informed by your studies?
I’ve interned a lot in publishing; Poets House, Bellevue Literary Press, W.W Norton, and currently, Aragi Literary Agency. I feel like my professional and academic development feed off of each other. Close academic reading helps me form an opinion on manuscripts and contemporary fiction, while reading in large volume at my internships allows me to more effectively tackle schoolwork. I also feel like the publishing industry is crucial and inherently political; it’s been fascinating to learn how manuscripts become books, books become ideas, and ideas find their way into our fields of study.
You’re also one of the editors-in-chief of the Minetta Review. Tell us a little more about Minetta and your work there.
The Minetta Review is NYU’s undergraduate-run literary magazine. We accept submissions from anyone and anywhere, and create a finished product every semester. (If you’re reading this, please submit). I’ve been co-editor since last year, and it’s really been a wonderful experience. Minetta has grown so much since I was a freshmen; we now do readings every semester in the Jefferson Market Public Library, and our submissions have increased both in number and quality. It’s been wonderful to work with such a talented staff of young writers and editors.
If you could travel back in time to any literary movement which would you choose and who would you talk to?
I’m okay right here! I used to love the Lost Generation, but I’ve recently become wary of romanticizing the past. As an Indian woman, I feel like 1920’s New York wouldn’t have gone that great for me. I have a large list of literary celebrities I would love to have a conversation with, but knowing me I’d probably trip on something nonexistent and make too many bad puns.
What would you tell anyone thinking about becoming an English major?
I’d say that moving through the English major has also helped me move through life. Almost everything can and should be analyzed, and my classes have taught me how and why. Also, reach out to your professors! They are almost universally incredible. I’ve been astounded by how much my instructors are invested in their students’ academic development, and how far they are willing to go for someone who is genuinely interested.