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Rumki Chowdhury - Another Bangladeshi storyteller in America

Rumki Chowdhury - Another Bangladeshi storyteller in America

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Published by ekram.kabir
Born in Sylhet, Rumki Chowdhury’s family moved to the United States in 1989 when he just turned three. She was in the Bronx, New York City, and later moved to Paterson, New Jersey. Chowdhury’s Her Feet Chime is the Bangladeshi version of the Cinderella story. Because it is set in Bangladesh, highlighting its culture and values, it may be considered Diasporic. Chowdhury had her BA in English with writing concentration from William Paterson University. Her book is also a inspiration of Jhumpa Lahiri and Natalie Babbit’s works. She spoke to Ekram Kabir about her first novel.
Born in Sylhet, Rumki Chowdhury’s family moved to the United States in 1989 when he just turned three. She was in the Bronx, New York City, and later moved to Paterson, New Jersey. Chowdhury’s Her Feet Chime is the Bangladeshi version of the Cinderella story. Because it is set in Bangladesh, highlighting its culture and values, it may be considered Diasporic. Chowdhury had her BA in English with writing concentration from William Paterson University. Her book is also a inspiration of Jhumpa Lahiri and Natalie Babbit’s works. She spoke to Ekram Kabir about her first novel.

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Published by: ekram.kabir on Jul 23, 2008
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08/27/2012

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A Bangladeshi storyteller in the US
Born in Sylhet, Rumki Chowdhury’s family moved to the United States in 1989 when he just turned three. She was in the Bronx, New York City, and later moved to Paterson, New Jersey. Chowdhury’s
Her Feet Chime
is the Bangladeshi version of the Cinderellastory. Because it is set in Bangladesh, highlighting its culture and values, it may beconsidered Diasporic. Chowdhury had her BA in English with writing concentration fromWilliam Paterson University. Her book is also a inspiration of Jhumpa Lahiri and NatalieBabbit’s works. She spoke to Ekram Kabir about her first novel.
Q: Why did you want to write
 Her Feet Chime
?
Ans: The Cinderella story is a fairytale that will continue to entice the youth. In fact, atage twelve, my literature teacher gave the class an assignment to break up into groups,each group with a different cultural version of the Cinderella story, and create a performance based around that story. That was the first time I encountered the story of the Korean Cinderella, the Egyptian Cinderella, the Caribbean Cinderella, and the AfricanCinderella among others. Years later, when I began my university career, I did not let goof the concept of the Cinderella story and decided to venture through my universitylibrary to search for the Bengali version. Instead, I found an Indian version. I thensearched the internet, but could not find any publications of a Bengali Cinderella.However, I remember seeing a Bengali natok with actress, Ishitha, playing the role of aCinderella-like character. Finding no sign of a publication of a Bengali Cinderella story, Icreated
 Her Feet Chime
.
Q: Was it really difficult for you to publish the novel, especially in a big market likeUSA?
Ans: I wrote
 Her Feet Chime
three years ago. I decided to develop the story more withthe feedback from my peers and professors until I felt it was complete and ready to present to the world. Interning at a publishing company,
Simon and Schuster,
in NewYork City, I hoped to learn more about the publishing world. I even had some editors look over my work to determine whether it was publishable or not, but they told me that I hadskipped a step. Before my writing could be traditionally published, I needed a literaryagent. My professors and editors recommended that I purchase
Writer’s Market 
and
Guide to Literary Agents
, both texts with the most up-to-date list of literary agents andthe step-by-step directions on how to approach an agent. These books were beneficial ineducating me about how the publishing industry works. As a result, I spent monthscontacting agents, but they all gave me the same answer, which was that my particular work was not exactly what they were looking for at the moment. I concluded that perhapsmy work may not have been considered commercial enough. I also read that literaryagents sometimes take priority upon works based on the recommendation of their clients;I contacted one of my professors who recommended me to her agent. However, I was stillthe last in the pool and have yet to gain a response. Agents give top priority to already- published authors before the novice ones. Then, I spoke to another one of my professors
 
who had self-published her work with one of the world’s largest self-publishingcompanies,
 Author House
. She had recommended that I try
 Author House
and here I am,self-published. I do
not 
wish to discourage anyone from going through the process of finding a literary agent and having his/her work published traditionally. In fact, I pray thatan aspiring author takes advantage of the experience that the literary world provides of searching for an agent. In the near future, for my successive projects, I may try this process again.
Q: Writers belonging to Indian Diaspora in the West are making their presence felt.Why do you think Bangladeshi-origin Americans or British are not taking upwriting as a career? Do you think Bangladeshi-origin writers have potential of having a place in world literature? Apart from you, are any more Bangladeshi-Americans writing?
Ans: I believe there are many Bangladeshis breaking into the world of writing in mediaand books. In fact, my aunt, Dr. Najma Chowdhury of Dhaka University, wrote in andedited
Women and Politics Worldwide
, published under Yale University Press New Havenand London. She gifted me with the book when I was ten-years-old. At the time, I had yetto fully understand the value of such an accomplishment. It was an achievement after much diligence. Diligence is the key to any endeavor, especially when it comes towriting. When one has a literary idea, it is important that he/she wakes up every morning,excited to continue the project by writing the next paragraph, stanza, or chapter. It is alsoimportant to have one’s peers, teachers, and other professionals look over the work inorder to help further it to its best potential. These are your readers, critics, and mentors.There is plenty of room in literature or media for Bangladeshi writers in any part of theworld; it just takes dedication, diligence and sometimes, a bit of struggle.
Q: Is the new generation of Bangladeshi Diaspora becoming totally American?
Ans: I always say that there are three aspects that may shape the person one becomes: the parents, friends, and/or personal will. In most cases, from what I have seen and personally experienced, there is a struggle when growing up as a Bangladeshi-Americanand trying to maintain the Bengali culture, while adapting to the American environment.William Faulkner, who wrote
The Sound and the Fury
and
 As I Lay Dying 
, said, “Writewhat you know.” Such struggles in life are the experiences which shape what theBangladeshi Diaspora in the United States has to offer to the literary world.
Q: From this distance, how would you portray Bangladesh if you ever write a novelin Bangladeshi backdrop?
Ans:
 Her Feet Chime
takes place in Bangladesh. In order to create this setting, I journeyed through my personal memories of the times I had visited Bangladesh as achild, I asked my parents questions, and I did research on the web.
Q: Have you ever considered writing a novel in the backdrop of 9/11? What wouldyou write, then?

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