Alumna recalls racial experience in novel

The difference between her and other IU students is that Ceraveeni is an Indian American and doesn’t forget it.

Her life was filled with culture clashes of Indian heritage and American upbringing. These personal racial experiences led her to write her first novel, “The Hometown.”

The book is a coming-of-age novel that centers on 23-year-old Mala Thomas, an Indian American who copes with her racial identity.

Each chapter focuses on a different challenge of growing up with a mixed heritage based on Ceraveeni’s own life.

“The Hometown” was recently named Editor’s Pick from the Independent Publishers Magazine.

The inspiration for the novel came to the author after a co-worker told Ceraveeni that she has an Indian accent, even though she said she does not have one. Afterward, she began recalling all her past racial experiences and wrote them down.

“I documented future experiences and ended up with a journal of ignorant comments,” Ceraveeni said in an email. “I decided to weave them through a plot and mold them to fit the storyline.”

The story Ceraveeni shares is a common one. Many Indian Americans see a similar blending of cultures in their lives. 

IU sophomore Pallavi Bamzai said her family visits India as much as possible to keep the balance between Indian and America in check. Bamzai, originally from Kashmir in northern India, moved to the United States when she was 5 years old.

Bamzai said she feels connected to both sides of her upbringing and oftentimes sees the two sides come together. Her family celebrates typical American holidays, such as Thanksgiving, in addition to Indian celebrations.

“Diwali is like our Christmas, so my mom always wants to put Christmas lights up to decorate for it,” Bamzai said. “It’s in a week, though, so our neighbors don’t understand why they’re already out. It’s kind of awkward.”

While bringing multiple cultures together can create unique traditions and experiences, it can also cause identity confusion.

“The Hometown” explores this dilemma while the protagonist tries to equate Indian traditions with American ideals, as mirrored in Ceraveeni’s own life.

“I did have an identity crisis at times,” said Ceraveeni. “I wasn’t allowed to do the same things that my friends could do, like date.

I looked different, and my family life was different, and I had this desire to fit in.”
However, Ceraveeni feels grateful that her experiences with culture have shaped who she is today.

“I had the best of both worlds growing up,” she said.

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