What do you get when you combine Reese Witherspoon, the morality police, and the eggplant emoji? The career arc of Balli Kaur Jaswal.
The author, who hails from Singapore, is the latest pick for the Big Little Lies actress’ book club. As everyone who follows Hello Sunshine or book culture in general knows, that is a very big deal that basically guarantees instant fame and skyrocketing books sales. Jaswal has now joined a very exclusive group of female writers and her novel, Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows, is being discussed by voracious reader the world over.
The tome follows the daughter of Indian immigrants from the Sikh community living in West London (a.k.a. the fancy part) as she takes a job teaching creative writing at the local community center. Her students are a group of widows who accidentally happen upon an erotic novel — as word spreads about this slightly taboo class, they find themselves dodging the moral police and navigating a local scandal. As for the eggplant emoji part? Well, you’ll have to read to find out.
Below, Balli Kaur Jaswal answers EW’s burning questions for What’s In a Page.
What is the first thing — ever — that you remember writing?
I wrote a book for my second grade class project on Roald Dahl. We illustrated and wrote our own versions of The Magic Finger. When I say “versions,” I mean I wrote the exact same book, with different character names and much poorer illustrations.
What is the last book that made you cry?
Our Short History by Lauren Grodstein. It really resonated with me as a mother to a little boy.
What is your favorite part of Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows?
I enjoyed writing the part when Nikki’s mum and her gossipy friend Aunty Geeta have tea together. It presents the story from a different character’s perspective, while still capturing the tension between traditional and modern women in the community.
Which book is at the top of your current To-Read list?
It hasn’t come out yet, but I’m really looking forward to Curtis Sittenfeld’s new collection of short stories, You Think It, I’ll Say It.
Where do you write?
There’s a café near my home called Group Therapy where I do my best writing. They also have a shop across the street called Scoop Therapy where I do my best ice cream eating.
Which book made you a forever reader?
Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume. I remember the entire room disappearing around me whenever I read anything by Judy Blume as a child.
Pick a GIF that you think, in this moment, best describes you:
What is a snack you couldn’t write without?
Lindt 85% Dark Chocolate and roasted almonds.
What was the hardest plot point or character to write in Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows?
The mystery behind Maya’s death was challenging, because I had to figure out how it happened and how to reveal it in a way that wasn’t too convenient.
If you could change one thing about any of your books what would it be?
I don’t think I’d change anything, but occasionally, I do think of the characters’ lives carrying on beyond the story as it’s written. Perhaps a sequel is in the future.
Write a movie poster tagline for your Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows:
“You’ll never look at root vegetables the same way again.”