Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Q&A with Raj Tawney



Raj Tawney is the author of the new memoir Colorful Palate: A Flavorful Journey Through A Mixed American Experience. Also a journalist, he is from New York City. 


Q: What inspired you to write Colorful Palate


A: For years, I’d been publishing many personal essays on food and identity in a variety of news and media outlets. I was receiving emails from readers across the country who identified with my stories about being a multiracial American and the important role that food has played in helping me understand myself. 


I kept being asked if I was writing a book and then, one day, I decided to finally do it. Also, I wanted this to serve as a love letter to my family and to show them that people like us matter.  


Q: How was the book's title chosen, and what does it signify for you? 


A: Originally, when I had an agent, they shopped it around as Off White. After it didn’t sell and the agent sort of lost interest, I left the agency and decided to shop it around myself. 


I think many people in the industry want to talk about race and identity in a brash, aggressive manner. And although difficult stories are very important and need to be told, I felt like my life consisted of both beauty and pain, and it wasn’t necessarily “dark.” In fact, it was vibrant and flavorful. So, that’s how Colorful Palate came about.  


Q: The professor and author Krishnendu Ray said of the book, “Here is an Indian who is equally Puerto Rican as much as Italian. A kid raised well on Arroz Negro, Insalata di Mare and Tandoori chicken. Read it and cook from it to find out what it might mean to be authentically American.” What do you think of that description? 


A: I think what he means is that food is a tool I use to understand my own family’s journey and plight. Each meal tells a story about my mom, grandma, dad, brother, and now my wife and her family. 


Through this cross-section of cultures and their cuisines, I was able to discover how food was not only a pleasure but a gateway into learning more about myself.  


Q: Can you say more about the impact that writing this book had on you? 


A: Writing this book was highly emotional and sometimes distressing. I had revisit moments and memories in my life that I hadn’t come face-to-face with in a very long time. But it was cathartic and, although I still don’t have all of the answers to life, I feel like I’ve grown as both a writer and human being.  


Q: What are you working on now? 


A: I’m finishing a middle grade novel for Paw Prints Publishing/Baker & Taylor that will be out in fall 2024. I’m very excited about it. It’s also about a mixed kid.  


Q: Anything else we should know? 


A: I’ll be on tour this fall, visiting New York, Boston, Miami, and other cities. I’m excited to meet people and have lively discussions. It’s a time to celebrate and open minds… I hope. 


Thanks for having me, Deborah! 


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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