The Jane Austen Summer Program has sold out! If you would like to join the waitlist, please add your name to the waitlist here. Waitlisted registrants will be notified if space becomes available. NOTE: You will need a credit card number to reserve your spot on the waitlist, but you will NOT be charged until space becomes available.
We’re about two months away from the Jane Austen Summer Program, and we’re so excited to hear from our amazing lineup of speakers, including award-winning Chicago-area author Sonali Dev. NPR said her 2014 book “A Bollywood Affair” was a “vibrant and exuberantly romantic” tale, while Kirkus Book Reviews called her 2015 novel “The Bollywood Bride” a “bright, beautiful gem.” With her latest work, “Pride, Prejudice and Other Flavors” (due out May 7), Dev offers a modern take on Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.” It centers on an Indian American neurosurgeon from an ambitious family who butts heads with a promising British chef. Why did Dev choose to put her own spin on the classic novel? Read on.
What was your first introduction to Jane Austen?
Amazingly, it was this Indian TV adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice” called “Trishna” in the 1980s. I was in middle school and so taken up by the romance of a girl being wanted for exactly who she was, opinions and all, that I went straight to the library and checked out “Pride and Prejudice” and read it over and over, and was lost forever.
What was it about “Pride and Prejudice” that made you want to put your own spin on it?
As a child I wrote a million adaptations of it in my head. There was just such a relatable quality to it for me growing up in India in a culture that made a huge deal of getting daughters married off. I come from a family that advocated hard for the belief that sons and daughters were the same. But ironically enough, the fact that such advocacy was necessary at all proved that they weren’t the same. By the time I was an adult I had fought that fight hard within myself and with the world around me, and the story of women needing marriage to secure their position in society was no longer relevant to me. I became obsessed with finding ways to translate the more deeply embedded themes in the novel, those of the power imbalances in society and the courage it takes to value yourself and shatter ranks in the face of those imbalances.
What was the most difficult part of “Pride and Prejudice” to adapt in your novel?
Keeping the conflicts authentic to the time and place in which my story is set, which is modern-day California. The divisions in society are much more subtle today and much less absolute than they were in Austen’s day, but they are much more complex and layered.
One of the things I loved about “Pride, Prejudice and Other Flavors” is the gender switch. Did you set out knowing you would make Trisha the “Darcy” and DJ the “Elizabeth”?
Absolutely. Wanting to write a female Darcy was the seed for this novel. I’ve always been fascinated by how very eagerly we lap up an arrogant, unapologetically prickly hero who has to make no effort to be “likable,” that non-negotiable quality demanded of all female heroes in fiction. I must stop to reiterate how much I love Mr. Darcy, but large as his economic privilege is, his male privilege is humongous. Needless to say, authentically replicating his pride and comfort in his skin (owning his privilege) in a woman was eye-opening.
If you could go back in time and give your past self a piece of advice about writing this book, what would it be?
It would be the same advice I should remember to give myself when I write any book: No matter how impossible it feels that everything you want to say and show in the story will end up on the pages, it does come together in the end. So, breathe.
Which “Pride and Prejudice” character are you most like? What about in “Pride, Prejudice and Other Flavors”?
Why, I’m Mr. Darcy, of course. That would make me Trisha, I guess?
Sonali Dev’s “Pride, Prejudice and Other Flavors” hits stores May 7. She is scheduled to speak at JASP on Saturday, June 22, followed by a book signing with fellow authors Uzma Jalaluddin (“Ayesha at Last”) and Soniah Kamal (“Unmarriageable”). To register for JASP, CLICK HERE.
The Jane Austen Summer Program is pleased to announce our six scholarship winners. Each year, JASP offers scholarships to North Carolina middle school and high school teachers who share a passion for Austen and a desire to bring her works into the classroom. Winners receive full program tuition, a scholar luncheon and a chance to attend the Regency tea.
School: SandHoke Early College High School in Raeford
Subject: English IV
Literary character(s) I’m most like: I actually find myself being compared to Elinor Dashwood (“Sense and Sensibility”) at times. I tend to be very mothering in a way but am often taken as having too much of a stoic outlook on life.
What are you looking forward to most at JASP? I’m looking forward to learning more deeply about this time period, especially the dancing and tea!
School: Phillips Middle School in Chapel Hill
Subject: Sixth-grade English and language arts
Literary character(s) I’m most like: Levin (“Anna Karenina”), Francie Nolan (“A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”), Harriet (“Harriet the Spy”)
What are you looking forward to most at JASP? Reviving my love for Jane Austen and period drama, learning how to make Austen more accessible for younger readers, and participating in cultural activities to make literature a more immersive experience (the Regency ball)!
School: Mooresville High School in Mooresville
Subject: AP Literature and Composition, and English IV
Literary character(s) I’m most like: Elinor Dashwood (“Sense and Sensibility”)
What are you looking forward to most at JASP? I am most excited to interact with others who share a love of all things Austen! I’m looking forward to enjoying the program on a personal and professional level, enabling me to implement new and exciting things in my classroom.
School: Mooresville High School in Mooresville
Subject: English IV
Literary character(s) I’m most like: The literary character I most relate to is Mary Lennox from “The Secret Garden”; I admire her tenacity, her sense of exploration, and adaptability.
What are you looking forward to most at JASP? I am looking forward to getting to know other educators and fans of Austen and classic literature, and finding new ways to spark interest in my classroom.
School: East Bladen High School in Elizabethtown
Literary character(s) I’m most like: I’m probably most like Josephine March (“Little Women”). Jo thinks for herself, comes up with imaginative solutions to difficult problems, and doesn’t let other people’s opinions stop her from pursuing her dreams.
What are you looking forward to most at JASP? I’m excited about the tea — and also about diving deep into one of my absolute favorite novels. “Pride and Prejudice” has been a favorite of mine since high school.
School: William A. Hough High School in Cornelius
Subject: Media coordinator
Literary character(s) I’m most like: Hermione Granger (in the “Harry Potter” series)
What are you looking forward to most at JASP? I am excited to attend JASP to have the opportunity to meet other educators and great readers who share my love for “Pride and Prejudice.” I love that I will get the opportunity to explore the classic book as well other adaptations that reflect various cultures from around the world. I look forward to working with other educators on how best to bring these great ideas back into the classroom.