Author Shanthi Sekaran has written a compelling and troubling story about immigration and motherly love. Her novel, "Lucky Boy", is about two women who love the same child.
One of the moms, who is living in Berkeley illegally, is forced to give up her biological son. The other is the woman who adopts that child. A reader may feel conflicted over which mom to cheer for. Sekaran feels the same conflict, but she says she wrote the novel to tell a greater story.
“I do have a personal preference,” she said. “I have a character that I side with in this story, but I feel for both, and I guess my real intention was to ask questions, to get the reader to start questioning what is happening in this country to immigrants and to people who are trying to adopt foster children.”
Authors often say a book writes itself, with stories unfolding in ways they didn’t expect. For Sekaran, the story of Lucky Boy became much more than a statement about immigration or a commentary about the adoption system.
“What is a good life for your child? Does it involve material wealth? Does it involve a nice car and music lessons? Or is a good life for a child more about being with the person they belong with? Is it more about being with a person who might be poor but will love them?”
As the conduit for the conversation, Sekaran doesn’t try to nudge readers toward a particular solution. In fact, she says, she doesn’t have an answer to her own questions.
“What makes a good mother? What makes a happy child? What makes the best life for a child? And what can we do for children that we don't normally think about? That’s another thing that’s come to mind.”
Any story that explores immigration and adoption could boil down to stereotypes, but Sekaran knows how to steer clear of that trap.
“Stereotypes are based on a very generalized and surface understanding of a culture or a person, so just doing research helps me avoid that sort of stereotyping.”
Sekaran has roots in the Sacramento area. Like the people in Lucky Boy, she now lives in Berkeley. And, like those characters, she understands the difference between a place where you live and a place you call home.
“It's easy to love Berkeley because it's a beautiful town, it's vibrant, it's energetic, and after living here for a number of years," Sekaran says, "I've gotten to make my little micro town. It's like any place -- you take a bigger space and you establish your smaller world within it.”
Shanthi Sekaran, author of Lucky Boy, spoke with CapRadio’s Donna Apidone as part of CapRadio Reads. The live author event is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 7th. Reservations at capradio.org/reads.