Roshani Chokshi: Science fiction with a purpose

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Star-Touched Stories, Macmillan, 2018

Young adult author Roshani Chokshi is a regular on the book festival circuit.

With three books out since 2016 and another slated for publication in January, Chokshi’s visit to the Bookmarks Festival is just one of the many stops on her book tour this year. It will be her second visit to the festival, where she will be moderating a panel called “Check Your Reality at the Door,” about young-adult fantasy fiction. As a Filipino-Indian woman, Chokshi uses her craft to tell fantasy stories that draw from her heritage and empower characters that look like her.

“It’s important to me because they are me,” Chokshi says about her characters. “These are the stories of my childhood.”

Find Chokshi at the “Check Your Reality at the Door” panel from 12:15 to 1:15 p.m. on Saturday at the Hanesbrands Theater; book-signing at 1:30 p.m.

In her first novel, The Star-Touched Queen, Chokshi used Hindu folklore and mythology to tell the story of a young woman who becomes queen of a mysterious nation, while her upcoming novel, The Gilded Wolves, takes place in 19th Century Paris during the 1889 World Fair. This era, often described as la Belle Epoque, or French for the “beautiful era,” was actually steeped in deep colonialism, Chokshi says. She notes the dichotomy of glimmering creations such as the Moulin Rouge with atrocities like “human zoos” that were found in world expos where people of color were displayed like animals.

After the election of President Trump, Chokshi says that writing and fantasy took on even more meaning and showed her again, how necessary her genre is.

“It’s not about escaping,” says Chokshi. “We need to see that voices matter and that monsters are taken down.”

She notes the importance of inclusion and diversity in storytelling, especially now.

“My hope is that at the end of something, readers ask who is telling them the story,” Chokshi says. “History is shaped by the tongues of conquerors and a story is a multifaceted jewel; it has many faces.”

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