Produced primarily during Hebbar’s fall 2020 sabbatical, the manuscript features five interwoven short stories that follow an Indian American lesbian and her twin brother who conflict with their traditionalist Hindu family and community as both develop toward ultimate self-actualization.
The manuscript’s stories were selected — with the help of several Oglethorpe students — from Hebbar’s wider collection of 11 short stories.
“Submitting to chapbook contests being a new step for me, I felt I needed help trying to choose the best four to five stories out of my 11 to meet the intimidating word limit set by the chapbook presses,” said Hebbar.
“I decided to invite students to consult with me based on the respect I’d developed over the years for their critical reading abilities,” she continued. “Though I had never taught creative writing, I had witnessed these students’ abilities to workshop material and knew that several English students were minoring in creative writing and vice versa.”
Five Oglethorpe writing and English students — Christianna Brown, Josh Lambie, Dani Lindmier ’22, Kena Marubu, and Necalli Lopez Romero — offered their time to help evaluate the story selections and arrangements. Based on the student feedback, Hebbar realized there were advantages to modifying the story arrangement and rearranged the sequence for the contest submission, with positive results.
Hebbar says her creative inspiration comes from two writers she loves to teach — Toni Morrison and Salman Rushdie — and the advice they often give to aspiring writers: if there is a book that you want to read that you cannot find, then you must be the one to write it.
“I was inspired to write my collection after realizing that I could not leave it to other people to try and capture the realities of the second-generation Indian American experience shared by a small minority of us born to pioneering 1960s immigrant parents here in the U.S.” she explained. “The marketplace is filled with narratives of new immigration but has far fewer stories about people born and raised to middle age in a country that was not supposed to be their ‘true’ homeland.”
Among her 11-story collection, 10 stories have been published or will soon be published, and Hebbar hopes to soon secure an agent to help publish “The Divine In You” in full.
Reshmi J. Hebbar is an Associate Professor of English at Oglethorpe University. Her courses focus on multiethnic, postcolonial, and world literature, and she explores topics related to cultural identity and cultural studies in classes like “Television & Reading: Critical Literacy & American Narratives,” and “Literary Tribalism,” which was featured on Georgia Public Radio’s “On Second Thought” in 2018. Other teaching and research areas include African American literature and enslavement narratives. She earned a PhD in English from Emory University in 2002, and her dissertation was published as a book ““Modeling Minority Women: African & Asian American Fiction”. In 2015, she was selected as one of NerdWallet’s “40 Under 40 Professors Who Inspire.” After creating a collaborative, campus-wide podcast about South Asians in Atlanta, she produced a book of linked stories about second-generation Indian Americans, several of which have been published in literary journals, with stories forthcoming in The South Carolina Review and Ponder Review. In 2020, one of her stories was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.