It’s the official #BookBirthday celebration for HOPE IN THE VALLEY
which releases today from Farrar, Straus and Giroux BYR.
What a treat to welcome author, and National Book Award nominee, Mitali Perkins!
Her compelling new mg novel has already received
FOUR starred reviews:
“Though the novel is set in the 1980s, issues surrounding housing inequity and financial precarity deeply resonate with present-day challenges. Employing Pandu’s lilting voice and quiet bravery, Perkins crafts an introspective novel about moving on from loss and finding the courage to fight for what one believes in.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review
And we have Questions!
Q 1. Welcome to the blog, Mitali. What was the inspiration for HOPE IN THE VALLEY?
Mitali Perkins: I wanted to write a book about a girl on the cusp of becoming a teenager who doesn’t want to grow up and hates change, because that was me. The metaphor of the housing crisis in California reflects her personal journey, as that particular conflict in our communities is rooted in a fear of change.
“…that was me.”
Q 2. What aspects of twelve-year-old Indian-American Pandita Paul are autobiographical? Which parts of her life or character evolved as your wrote and revised and she said, “This is me!”?
Mitali Perkins: The poems Pandita pens in the novel were all written by me when I was twelve. I was shy and hated to speak in public. At that time, my parents chose to encourage assimilation to avoid the xenophobia in our town. Just like Mr. Paul, my father was shot at by bee-bee gun pellets one night and our family didn’t call the police.
Q 3. How did you first approach the creation of this book? Did the characters come first or the story? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Mitali Perkins: Characters always come first for me. Pandita, her sisters, her librarian and elderly friend Mr. Marvin, Leo and Jemma — they all were alive in my head before I started playing around with plot. I am trying to be more structured lately with plot–while leaving room for the mystery of the creative process–,and have been using the format outlined in Jessica Brody’s brilliant Save the Cat! Writes a Novel.
Q 4. Which of your following book titles would best describe the path to publication for HOPE IN THE VALLEY—or your writing process?
a. Steeped in Stories
b. Bare Tree and Little Wind
c. Open Mic
d. Home is in Between
e. Hope in the Valley
Mitali Perkins: Probably a. Steeped in Stories
Like Pandita, I loved to read and re-read. I still do. It was that deep, meditative immersion into my favorite stories that made me a writer.
Q 5. What was one of the biggest challenges in writing this book?
Mitali Perkins: All the research! I had to study (and remember) the 1980s, when the book is set, as well as research the eras that Pandita discovers as she delves into the past of her town. I also had to learn about the history of affordable housing–or lack thereof–in California. I studied political science and public policy back in the day and, in a sense, put on my metaphorical academic cap and gown to write this book.
Surprises & Discoveries
Q 6. Were there any surprises you encountered while researching or something you remembered while digging into old memories?
Mitali Perkins: I was surprised by the vehemence of the “Keep California White” movement in the past and reminded that anti-Asian sentiment runs particularly deep in the Pacific states.
Q 7. Did you have an ah-hah moment or self-discovery during this writing journey?
Mitali Perkins: I reflected a lot on the passage of time and how we can’t stop it, no matter how much we try. Our job in the present moment is to weave together the best of the past and present to create a more just and flourishing future. I didn’t realize Pandita’s braid was a metaphor for this until a reviewer pointed this out.
Heads-up SF Bay Area, Hair-Braiding friends…
At my launch party at Rakestraw Books in Danville, California (Sunday, July 23rd at 3 p.m.), I want to set up a couple hair-braiding stations so if you know of anyone who might want to volunteer for this job, please tell them to contact me.
Takeaways and Tips
Q 8. What takeaways do you hope readers will have after reading HOPE IN THE VALLEY?
Mitali Perkins: I like to leave room for the reader to leave my stories with whatever they choose. I’ve been so thoroughly surprised by the takeaways from my past novels that I don’t try and predict them these days.
Q 9. Since you were the “new kid” many times growing up, what tips might you have for the young readers going through something similar?
Mitali Perkins: I’ve learned that most people, even long-term residents and students who are rooted in a community or classroom, feel like strangers and aliens in a deep, unseen place. We all have the power to create hospitality for others in the space around us, even if we’re newcomers. Feeling like an outsider enhances that power and turns it into a lifelong superpower.
Q 10. What’s next for you?
Mitali Perkins: HOLY NIGHT AND LITTLE STAR comes out in September from Waterbrook Multnomah PRH. It’s a Christmas story featuring a star who hates change (sound familiar?) but is invited to participate in a big event happening in the galaxy.
What a beautiful cover!
How fun that we both have Chistmas books coming out this year.
To learn more about Miltali Perkins and her work, visit:
Her website: mitaliperkins.com and follow her on…