Rilla Jaggia is a biracial author and artist who grew up in an India of spicy daal and meatloaf, mango lassi and apple pie, parrot greens and pastels, heel-hammering Bharatnatyam and tippytoe ballet. In books, she found belonging; in fairytale realms of fantasy, she could be someone real. After immigrating to the US for higher education, and a detour as a professor of finance, she has returned to fantasy, to write for young adults who, like her, are searching for a place to belong.
I was born in the capital city of the largest democracy on the planet with two irrefutable signs of greatness--untameable hair and a permanent frown.
Right from the beginning, my brother tortured me...but I learned how to fight back. (Perseverance against all odds is key to being a writer and I learned early.)
By my first brithday, I had a few likes sorted out. Cake was not one of them. I HATED CAKE--period! Pass the bread, please.
I couldn't stand dresses either.
But, I was perfectly happy being in the entertainment business, especially when it included famous people.
In my tween/teen/YA years, I never tired of being in the limelight. I acted, sang, compered, presented on the radio,
But most of all...
...I was about the biggest bookworm, ever.
Don't believe me?
Get a load of my honking, ginormous glasses. That's what comes of reading with a flashlight under a blanket, or more often than not...forgetting the flashlight altogether. How do you explain needing that many batteries to the parents?
I read Enid Blyton and Georgette Heyer in the bathroom, Victoria Holt and Barbara Cartland under the bedcovers, Charles Dickens, Tagore, and Shakespeare in the living room, Rosemary Sutcliff and JRR Tolkien under the lid of my desk at school, Tintin and Amar Chitra Katha between the pages of my text while "doing homework..."
I read for inspiration. I read to escape my way too boring life. I read when I needed help making sense of the things because growing up biracial in a mostly uni-racial world was terribly confusing. I read to be someone else--someone who could fight dragons and win, solve crimes, have adventures, fall in love, fly.
Unlike so many of my colleagues, I did not write when I was a child. I was too intimidated by the creative people around me. My father was the consummate storyteller and had a passion for Urdu poetry. My mother was a linguist, musician, and poet, with a penchant for Puritanical perfection.
My brother grabbed all the looks and smarts and height the family genes had on offer.
So, when my hair stopped standing straight up on my head, I realized I was not destined for greatness, after all. I figured, my best bet was to live vicariously through the stories I read.
Yes, I was a typical teenager addled by angst.
Are you feeling sorry for me yet?
Luckily, all that reading and all that angst provided a great deal of material as I now write fiction for young readers.