Artesia, Calif. — Indian American author Sharon Arpana Edwards in June of last year published “Pioneer Boulevard,” a collection of short stories centered around Pioneer Boulevard, a popular destination for Indians in Southern California.
Edwards took time out earlier this month to meet with India-West at Bhindi Jewelers, recently named “Small Business of the Year,” a store that is a cornerstone of Pioneer Boulevard for both the street and book.
The tagline of the book, “There are immigrants. And then there are pioneers,” is enough to pique interest.
“I’m very grateful that someone named the surface street Pioneer Blvd., because there’s a play on the word pioneer, she explained. “It’s not that every immigrant is a pioneer. The only character I’ve called a pioneer in the book is an old American white guy because he does something that’s so foreign to him that he’s never done before, so it requires the same courage as…moving to another country.”
Rather than write a novel about the Indian culture found on Pioneer Boulevard, Edwards chose to write a series of stories.
“Basically, the collection of stories worked well, because I wanted this quilt, this tapestry of the Indian community because [of] my experience in Los Angeles,” she told India-West.
Another common element throughout the stories is the female protagonists. Rather than commenting on social issues affecting women, Edwards chose to focus on the characters themselves.
“I think women are the main characters to whom things are happening…I’ve always been more fascinated with people and their dilemmas than people and their issues.”
In the stories, the characters and their dilemmas are fictional. The only character Edwards classified as nonfictional is the city itself. Each story is based loosely around the experiences she had regarding the Indian community surrounding Los Angeles. The cover, a blurred image of Los Angeles, is meant to reflect the mentalities of the community.
“We blurred it because I wanted Los Angeles to be visible yet not very clear, because from the eyes of an immigrant — we are talking first-generation immigrants — it’s accessible but still not as close to a person as it is to someone who was born here,” she said.
Edwards was born in Lakhna, India, before moving to Pune. After completing undergraduate studies in Pune, Edwards traveled to the UK to attend Keele University. In 2005, Edwards migrated to Los Angeles.
Most of her career revolved around publishing and entertainment.
“My first job was with a publishing company, actually, and it was owned by a woman,” the author said. “I remember walking into the office one morning, and a strange thought came to my mind — that one day I would have a publishing company.”
As an 18-year-old in college, she was already incredibly ambitious.
The dream came to fruition years later with the creation of Consonant Books. As the creator of the company, Edwards told India-West, “I’m very open to multicultural writers, [and] women writers. I’m very interested in their views.”
Her book was the first to be published by her company. She hopes that the book will appeal to Indians and non-Indians alike.
“I’m hoping to get readers of all ethnicities. Some Indian readers may have tears in their eyes and say, ‘This is my story,’ while some may say, ‘I’m fascinated, because this is someone else’s story and it gives me a glimpse into another person’s world,’” she commented.