Yale Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies
Volume 1, Issue 2
Spring 2011
Editor, Geetanjali Singh Chanda
Managing Editor, John-Albert Moseley
Layout Design: Nick Appleby

Alumni/ae Profile: Chandra Prasad

Chandra Prasad
Photo by Rene Genest
Chandra Prasad ’97 is the author of the novels On Borrowed Wings, Death of a Circus, and Breathe the Sky, which investigates Amelia Earhart’s last days.  She is also the originator and editor of Mixed: An Anthology of Short Fiction on the Multiracial Experience.  Prasad’s works have been published in the Wall Street Journal, The Week, Teen Voices, and The New York Times Magazine, among others.

On activism and the process of writing

Although I graduated from Yale almost fifteen years ago, I still retain much of what I learned in my Women’s Studies classes, and those valuable ideas continue to embed themselves in my writing, in unexpected ways.  My novel On Borrowed Wings is essentially a plot-driven adventure story, yet right under the surface, issues pertaining to feminism are simmering.  The protagonist, Adele Pietra, navigates Yale in the 1930s, when it was an all-male undergraduate institution.  She herself is disguised as a boy, and in this persona she sees the world through a new and rather jarring lens.  I think Faith Middleton of National Public Radio described the book best when she said: “On Borrowed Wings is a story of race, class, gender, and family—though you so root for the young woman’s dream of ambition that you don’t notice until the novel is done.”

When writing a book, activism is not first and foremost on my mind.  And yet, invariably, my books are infused with issues and ideas that I think are worthy of analysis and exploration.  This is especially true with Mixed: An Anthology of Short Fiction on the Multiracial Experience.  Here, original stories by mixed-race authors turn up the volume on what it’s like to live on a racial borderland.  The subject matter of Mixed is personal to me; it’s one of the reasons I was passionate about the project.  Yet I also thought in very practical terms when putting the book together.   It had to pass the test I put all my books through.  Does the book have enough punch for publishers?  Are the characters unique and memorable?  Do I love this concept enough to work on it every day, several hours a day, for at least a year?  And especially, is this book both timely and timeless?
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