Tag Archives: Padma Venkatraman

New Releases – May 2014

Shelter by Patricia H. Aust (Luminis Books)

Book Description: Miguel’s dad is at it again—physically abusing his mom and sister and terrorizing Miguel for no good reason. But when Miguel’s mom and sister, who have been whispering to one another for some time, decide to stand up to the abuse and decide to move to a women’s shelter, Miguel’s life begins to take turns he never expected. After the family moves out, it isn’t long before Miguel’s dad promises to change his ways before once again becoming abusive; leaving Miguel to summon the courage to stand up to the man he thought he loved. This emotional and stirring novel is told from the point of view of a young man who is torn between the love he feels for his abusive father and the responsibility to protect his family.

One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva (Farrar Straus and Giroux)

“Being forced to attend summer school becomes a blessing in disguise for 14-year-old Alek Khederian when it sparks a romance with an older boy named Ethan, who runs with a crowd of skateboarders and perceived burnouts. … Barakiva avoids stereotypes and clichés to create a sweet portrait of nascent adolescent love between two boys growing up and finding themselves (with some help from nearby New York City).” — Publishers Weekly

Remember Me by Melanie Batchelor (Bold Strokes Books)

Book Description: Jamie Richards has lost a lot. Her father died four years ago and her mother is consumed by her career. Jamie finds an escape through her artistic passion and her first love—the one person who hasn’t abandoned her, Erica Sinclair.

Overwhelmed by their own harsh realities, Jamie and Erica create a world of their own in an abandoned park—a place they call “Wonderland.” Jamie idolizes Erica until the two grow closer, and she realizes that her ideal image of Erica is nothing shy of fiction. When cracks beneath the exterior become more prevalent, Jamie begins to question the love she thought she had for Erica, and if that love was ever reciprocated.

And then it happens. A shocking event occurs that changes Jamie and Erica’s relationship forever. Jamie knows that there’s no escaping this reality—she’ll have to find a way to move forward without hiding behind her sketchbook.

Truth or Dare (Rumor Central #4) by ReShonda Tate Billingsley (KTeen Dafina)

Book Description: Maya has no problem turning up the heat when she takes her show on the road for Spring Break in Cancun. On and off camera, the drama with her crew is chart-topping scandalous. And when a reckless bet Maya makes with Evian turns into a full-blown kidnapping crisis, Maya turns disaster into a major ratings win. But she’d better watch her back, because Evian is taking advantage of her moment in the spotlight and she just may push Maya out of the way for good. Maya will have to work all her skills and face some hard truths to save her credibility—and make sure the best gossip diva wins …

Call Me by My Name by John Ed Bradley (Atheneum)

“A friendship between two teens, one black and one white, emerges both because and in spite of racial change in a 1970s Louisiana town. … Bradley is an accomplished sportswriter and deftly evokes the cultural importance of small-town sports and how these communities experienced racial change in the late 1960s and early ’70s. Rodney and his family are richly drawn characters; indeed, narrator Rodney’s grappling with his ambivalence about race is especially well-done.” — Kirkus

Undone by Cat Clarke (Sourcebooks Fire)

Book Description: Jem Halliday is in love with her best friend. It doesn’t matter that Kai is gay, or that he’ll never look at her the way she looks at him. Jem is okay with that. But when Kai is outed online by one of their classmates, he does the unthinkable and commits suicide.

Jem is left to pick up the pieces of her broken life. Before he died, Kai left her twelve letters—one for each month of the year—and those letters are all Jem has left. That, and revenge.

Although Kai’s letters beg her not to investigate what happened, Jem can’t let it go. She needs to know who did this, and she’ll stop at nothing to find the person responsible for Kai’s death. One way or another, someone is going down. Someone is going to pay.

Girls Like Us by Gail Giles (Candlewick)

“Giles’s (Dark Song) background teaching special education students informs this blunt, honest, and absorbing story about two young women overcoming challenges that have less to do with their abilities to read or write than with how society views and treats them. In short, alternating chapters, the girls narrate in raw and distinct voices that capture their day-to-day hurdles, agony, and triumphs. The “found family” that builds slowly for Quincy, Biddy, and Elizabeth—with no shortage of misunderstandings, mistrust, or tears—is rewarding and powerful.” — Publishers Weekly, starred review

While We Run by Karen Healey (Little, Brown)

“In the follow-up to When We Wake (2013), a diverse, skilled and politically committed group of teenagers fights a chillingly sinister government in a future Australia. … This is the best kind of speculative fiction, combining diverse, well-realized characters with thought-provoking dilemmas. Abdi’s strong voice and keen awareness of his own ability to manipulate situations provide a compelling window into a future world. Suspenseful, well-crafted and visionary.” — Kirkus, starred review

Portrait of Us by A. Destiny and Rhonda Helms (Simon Pulse)

Book Description: Corinne is looking forward to a perfect summer taking classes at a local art studio, where a famous artist-in-residence will be teaching. She’s always wanted to focus more on her art, and the related competition (and grand prize) would be a perfect way to end the summer.

Her dreams become muddled when she finds out she has to work with Matthew—the arrogant, annoying jock whose postmodern style seriously clashes with her classic aesthetic.

But what she expects to be a total nightmare turns out to be something different when she finds that maybe, just maybe, Matthew isn’t as bad as she thought. Underneath that jock exterior, he might be someone Corinne could tolerate. Or possibly even like.

The question is…does Matthew feel the same way? Or is this all just a summer fling?

Reborn by C.C. Hunter (St. Martin’s Griffin)

Book Description: For Della Tsang, Shadow Falls isn’t just a camp: it’s home.  As a vampire who’s just starting to come into her powers, it’s the one place she can finally be herself. But when a new evil threatens everyone she cares about, Della is determined to do everything she can to save them … even if it means teaming up with the one boy who can break her heart. In Reborn, return once again to C.C. Hunter’s Shadow Falls, a camp where supernatural teens learn to harness their powers and discover the magic of friendship and love.

The Screaming Divas by Suzanne Kamata (Merit/Adams Media)

“Rock music offers four teen girls a much-needed outlet and escape in mid–1980s South Carolina. The Screaming Divas are an unlikely ensemble. Brought together by Trudy, a magnet for trouble who is fresh out of juvie, the band also includes gorgeous Cassie, a former child-beauty-pageant queen; stoic Harumi, a classically trained violinist who had a meltdown at her Juilliard audition; and shy Esther, who harbors a secret crush on Cassie. The third-person narration rotates through the four members’ viewpoints to show what attracts each girl to the group.” — Kirkus

Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour (Dutton)

“At age 18, Emi Price is making big strides toward a career in production design, with a rent-free Los Angeles apartment and an enviable and promising internship on a movie set. When Emi and her best friend Charlotte discover a letter written by a recently deceased film icon (think Clint Eastwood), it leads them to his unknown granddaughter, Ava. Emi is smitten, and as her life and career take ever more fortunate turns, her recently broken heart begins to heal with the hope of new love with Ava.” — Publishers Weekly, starred review

Guardian by Alex London (Philomel)

“It’s a grave new world when the revolution a reluctant hero inspired could mean the death of everyone he tried to save, including himself. … Proxy should be read first to fully comprehend this sequel’s complex conflict and characters. Though Book 1 established Syd’s homosexuality, he experienced only unrequited crushes. Here, Liam’s affection for Syd and Syd’s reluctance to perpetuate emotional attachment … is more foreground than back story. Don’t assume for a second that romance takes away from the volatile action and high-stakes tension. Corrupt powers, budding romance, an epidemic and grisly action synthesize to sate sci-fi fans.” — Kirkus

Frenemy of the People by Nora Olsen (Bold Strokes Books)

Book Description: Clarissa and Lexie couldn’t be more different. Clarissa is a chirpy, optimistic do-gooder and a top rider on the school’s equestrian team. Lexie is an angry, punk rock activist and the only out lesbian at their school.

When Clarissa declares she’s bi and starts a Gay-Straight Alliance, she unwittingly presses all of Lexie’s buttons, so Lexie makes it her job to cut Clarissa down to size. But Lexie goes too far and finds herself an unwitting participant in Clarissa’s latest crusade. Both are surprised to find their mutual loathing turning to love.

A change in her family’s fortunes begins to unravel Clarissa’s seemingly perfect life, and the girls’ fledgling love is put to the test. Clarissa and Lexie each have what the other needs to save their relationship and the people they love from forces that could tear them all apart.

Girl in Reverse by Barbara Stuber (Margaret K. McElderry Books

“Ever since age four when Lily joined the Firestone household, where ‘hard topics are… wrapped in sandpaper and swallowed,’ she has wondered why her parents adopted her. When the advent of the Korean War exacerbates the barrage of ethnic slurs 17-year-old Lily, her school’s only Asian student, endures…she is increasingly less able to ‘make a joke of it,’ as her father advises. Lily’s determination to resist her tormenters sparks a search for her pre-adoption origins and core identity. … a remarkable journey of self-discovery, inner resilience, and the fragile, surprising, and exquisite complexity of family.” — Publishers Weekly, starred review

A Time to Dance by Padma Venkatraman (Nancy Paulsen Books)

“Flowing free verse tells the story of a teenage dancer in Chennai, India, who loses a leg and re-learns how to dance. … Veda’s no disabled saint; awkwardness and jealousy receive spot-on portrayals as she works to incorporate Hinduism and Buddhism, life experience and emotion into her dancing. When she does, her achievement is about being centered, not receiving accolades. A beautiful integration of art, religion, compassion and connection.” — Kirkus, starred review

Bad Luck Girl by Sarah Zettel (Random House)

“Calliope Margaret LeRoux deMinuit, half-human and half-Unseelie, Heir to the Midnight Throne, can save or destroy all of fairykind. Now that Callie and best friend Jack have rescued Callie’s parents, everything’s going to be just fine, right? Jack, Callie and her parents reach Depression-era Chicago, struggling against dangers both magical (cold iron, which has a worse effect on Callie’s Unseelie father, Daniel LeRoux, than on half-fairy Callie) and mundane (the racism of Jim Crow, which endangers dark-skinned Daniel more than light-skinned, half-white Callie). … Callie and Zettel bring this stellar trilogy to a satisfyingly sentimental conclusion.” — Kirkus, starred review

10 Asian Pacific American YA Authors to Know

Swati Avasthi

Melissa de la Cruz

Andrew Fukuda

Jenny Han

Malinda Lo

  • Author of Adaptation and Inheritance, William C. Morris Award finalist for Ash, and co-founder of Diversity in YA
  • malindalo.com | @malindalo | Tumblr

Ellen Oh

Cindy Pon

  • Author of Silver Phoenix, Fury of the Phoenix, the forthcoming Serpentine (Month9Books, 2015), and co-founder of Diversity in YA
  • cindypon.com | @cindypon | Tumblr

Padma Venkatraman

  • Author of the critically acclaimed and award-winning novels A Time to Dance, Climbing the Stairs, and Island’s End
  • padmasbooks.com

Gene Luen Yang

  • Author of the National Book Award finalist and LA Times Book Prize winner Boxers and Saints, the Printz Award-winning and National Book Award finalist American Born Chinese, and co-author of Dark Horse Comics’ Avatar: The Last Airbender
  • geneyang.com | @geneluenyang

Laurence Yep

  • Author of dozens of books for children and young adults including the Gold Mountain Chronicles, winner of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal, and two-time Newbery Honor winner
  • Wikipedia page

5 Things I Learned While Writing A TIME TO DANCE

In A Time to Dance, a novel in verse set in contemporary India, a young dancer loses part of her right leg and re-learns how to dance.

By Padma Venkatraman

venkatraman-atimetodance1. Go “Method”

Veda, the protagonist of A Time to Dance, looks like me (she’s of Indian heritage too) — and doesn’t (she’s differently abled).  Yes, her “voice” often spoke in my head, but when she wasn’t haunting me, I wanted to do all I could to understand and empathize with her experience of losing a limb.

I invested in a pair of crutches and spent a good deal of time hobbling up and down the basement stairs on them, with one leg scrunched up. I even bound my leg loosely on some days so I would be forced to hop on one leg.

The inspiration for the gripping scene in “Nails and Spears” came one night after I’d spent a grueling day trying to make my way around the home on one leg without crutches (crawling, basically), and then forcibly sending my leg to “sleep” (because people I’d interviewed said phantom pain felt a little like pins and needles).

Going “Method” the way actors do, to “get into character” is painful and time consuming. But for me, for A Time to Dance, it was worth the pain.

2. Play Party Tricks

Or, maybe the real lesson here is read, read, read. As part of the background research for A Time to Dance, I read V. S. Ramachandran’s Phantoms in the Brain. Ramachandran describes experiments you can do to experience something similar to an amputee feeling a “phantom limb.”

These experiments also work quite nicely as party tricks. For a while, whenever someone came home, I experimented (played this party trick) on them. I watched their expressions, noted their feelings, and of course made them do this experiment with me as the subject, too.

The end result? One of the women who’d had an amputation and kindly agreed to read my novel draft and give me feedback,  kept starting at my feet when I met her. Then suddenly burst out, “You’re two-legged! How did you know so well what it feels like to have Phantom pain?”

Is that a compliment, or what! I felt so honored and so humbled when she said that.

Author Padma Venkatraman
Author Padma Venkatraman

3. Interviewing is listening, not asking questions

As I wrote A Time to Dance, I interviewed numerous dancers, musicians, scientists, doctors, prosthetists (people who manufacture and fit patients with prostheses), and of course, people who had had amputations.

I started off with a sheet of questions, but soon realized that interviewing is not about asking the right questions. It’s about creating a bond of trust and then allowing the other person to open and up and listening, as well as you can, to what they share with you.

4. Be bold

Few novels explore a character’s spiritual awakening and growth — one of the main themes in A Time to Dance.

At first, this didn’t scare me at all. But sometime in the murky middle of writing the novel, I got cold feet for a while. Because I realized the reason why hardly any protagonist questions and learns about spirituality.

Writing about spirituality without religiosity is tough. It’s incredibly hard to write it well. What’s more, even if you do it well, it’s risky, because it’s not a fast-moving action-packed type of story, the kind of story most readers (young and old adults) gravitate towards, these days.

Luckily, I was strong enough to keep going and committed enough to Veda to tell that important aspect of the story. And one of the greatest rewards was the magnificent review a remarkably perceptive teen wrote of the novel, at LitUp reviews in which it’s clear that she loves the novel because of the depth it achieves through the exploration of spirituality.

5. Aspire to Achieve Agapé

Veda, in A Time to Dance, reconnects with the world after the tragedy in which she loses a limb. She becomes more compassionate and starts to share her gift with others as a dance teacher. She opens up enough to let romance into her life. And, as she grows, her love of dance deepens. She awakens to the power of her art and understands that dance isn’t about winning awards. Dance becomes, to her, a way to touch something spiritual.

I don’t write for external recognition and validation. But Veda isn’t a saint, and I’m no saint, either.

I’m ecstatic, elated, honored, humbled, pleased, proud, that A Time to Dance was released to starred reviews in Kirkus, Booklist, VOYA and SLJ. And what amazing reviews each of those was — I was moved to tears by each one of them.

And some of the other marvelous reviews the book got — online at LitUp reviews and in newspapers such as the Denver Post — also made me weep with joy. Because it feels like out there in the ether, there are some people who really, truly, “got” the book, and love my work.

But then, I keep reminding myself — and I hope I’ll never forget — that for me, as for Veda, art is and must remain a way to stay in touch with something above, beyond and vaster than my puny self.

I’m not sure I’ll ever lose the immense relief and gratification and sheer joy that I feel whenever my work is sincerely loved and praised. I even admit I yearn for even more recognition and even greater honors and awards than my work has already got.  I admit I think my work deserves and I hope it attains far higher levels of success, even though I feel incredibly grateful for all the blessings people have showered on me and my work thus far.

But, despite that rather materialistic craving that overcomes me every now and then, I know I need to nurture the deeper aspect of my love of writing.

Ultimately, I love writing the same way Veda loves dance. Writing is my art. Even if (heaven forbid) no one ever published my work again, I’d still keep on writing. Writing is my life.

So I never google myself or any of that. Instead, I try to stay centered, and write for and from that centeredness.

Because when I write, despite all I’ve said, I realize the books are like gifts given to me. I’m lucky I can transcribe the voices I hear in my head — and those voices aren’t “mine.” Stories possess me.  I don’t own the world of words.


A Time to Dance is now available. Find out more about Padma Venkatraman at her website.

10 Diverse YA Historicals About Girls

In honor of Women’s History Month, here are 10 diverse young adult historical novels about girls. Descriptions are from Worldcat.

Mare’s War by Tanita S. Davis (Alfred A. Knopf)

Teens Octavia and Tali learn about strength, independence, and courage when they are forced to take a car trip with their grandmother, who tells about growing up Black in 1940s Alabama and serving in Europe during World War II as a member of the Women’s Army Corps.

Wildthorn by Jane Eagland (Houghton Mifflin)

Seventeen-year-old Louisa Cosgrove is locked away in the Wildthorn Hall mental institution, where she is stripped of her identity and left to wonder who has tried to destroy her life.

The Lightning Dreamer: Cuba’s Greatest Abolitionist by Margarita Engle (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

In free verse, evokes the voice of Gertrudis Gomez de Avellaneda, a book-loving writer, feminist, and abolitionist who courageously fought injustice in nineteenth-century Cuba. Includes historical notes, excerpts from her writings, biographical information, and source notes.

Willow by Tonya Cherie Hegamin (Candlewick Press)

In 1848 Willow, a fifteen-year-old educated slave girl, faces an inconceivable choice – between bondage and freedom, family and love – as free born, seventeen-year-old Cato, a black man, takes it upon himself to sneak as many fugitive slaves to freedom as he can on the Mason-Dixon Line.

The Fire Horse Girl by Kay Honeyman (Arthur A. Levine Books)

When Jade Moon, born in the unlucky year of the Fire Horse, and her father immigrate to America in 1923 and are detained at Angel Island Immigration Station, Jade Moon is determined to find a way through and prove that she is not cursed.

The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano by Sonia Manzano (Scholastic)

It is 1969 in Spanish Harlem, and fourteen-year-old Evelyn Serrano is trying hard to break free from her conservative Puerto Rican surroundings, but when her activist grandmother comes to stay and the neighborhood protests start, things get a lot more complicated–and dangerous.

Anahita’s Woven Riddle by Meghan Nuttall Sayres (Amulet)

In Iran, more than 100 years ago, a young girl with three suitors gets permission from her father and a holy man to weave into her wedding rug a riddle to be solved by her future husband, which will ensure that he has wit to match hers.

Climbing the Stairs by Padma Venkatraman (Penguin)

In India, in 1941, when her father becomes brain-damaged in a non-violent protest march, fifteen-year-old Vidya and her family are forced to move in with her father’s extended family and become accustomed to a totally different way of life.

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein (Hyperion)

When young American pilot Rose Justice is captured by Nazis and sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious women’s concentration camp, she finds hope in the impossible through the loyalty, bravery, and friendship of her fellow prisoners.

Daughter of Xanadu by Dori Jones Yang (Delacorte)

Emmajin, the sixteen-year-old eldest granddaughter of Khublai Khan, becomes a warrior and falls in love with explorer Marco Polo in thirteenth-century China.