From Dunes to Dior


Chennai in India
Chennai in India (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

July 2012 will mark seven years that I have lived in Qatar. Seven consecutive years is my record with only three other cities in the world. Doha joins a short list which includes Gainesville, Florida and Raleigh, North Carolina.

My formative years in American suburbia had erased most traces of my parents’ sub-continental pronunciation in my own speech. My “h” was “h”; not the “heche” of my parents.  I was American in sight and sound. However, on the inside, I was still Indian. By looking at me, you couldn’t sense there was a war being waged on the inside. To the outside world, identity was measured by clothing and speech—having an established Western orientation in both cases,  I was regarded as one of the crowd by my white, Southern classmates. On these counts I failed both tests and was eyed with suspicion by the other housewives at my mother’s parties. But blue jeans and flat vowels never hinted at  the inner world of my family or what happened when the front door closed on our home.
Inside life was governed by the same principles that had ruled my mother’s teenage years in Chennai, India. No movies after seven p.m. In fact, no women outside the house after dark, not for football games, parties, or sleepovers.

Like so many of the “American Born Confused Desi generation,” referred amongst ourselves as the ABCD generation, I was a socially emaciated, well-behaved Indian daughter who railed at endless parental restrictions. The split identity meant non-relatives never saw all of me. They only knew “white” me. Meanwhile my immediate family thought they might lose me to the outside world, so they mounted an “it’s better in India” campaign to override my resistance and

North America
North America (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

suspicious of inferiority with reasons for our cultural superiority.

“A better maths education,” was one of my father’s favorite refrains as I remained confounded by geometry.

“No child shows an over-dependence on calculators,” he would say throwing up his hands on yet another weekend when I failed to solve one of his problem sets…

Respect for elders – children taking care of their aging parents – more of it in India.

“Marriage as a commitment.”

My mother wouldn’t  say more but implied where a boy and girl learn to love rather than fall into it is taken more seriously in India.

I didn’t ask the obvious question, although it hammered in my brain; If everything is better there, what are we doing here? I didn’t dare. Partly out of fear of my father, but also partly out of fear there would be no answer.

What if the secret behind our semi-nomadic life had no greater answer than my father’s wanderlust? What if a series of pharmacology grants was the single red line on the map leading us from a veterinary program in South India to a series of North American institutions?

I continued to play these two parts simultaneously; intensely outgoing and enthusiastic – “American” – and constantly communicating with my parents – “Indian.” I didn’t find the bridge that spanned the outside/inside gap until later, after college and graduate school, when my own desires for professional fulfillment and monetary rewards led me to move several times. This realization emerged slowly as pieces of a scattered puzzle – from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Washington, D.C. – as I met more of my generation, children of immigrant parents from all over the world, juggling these competing demands. Then, for the second time in my life, globalization entered stage left, having already taken me as a small child with my adventurous father and sheltered mother from Chennai, India onto and all over the North American continent.

This time I traveled alone, east, not west, ending up four hours from my birthplace. I landed in the Arabian Gulf, thousands of miles from my upbringing in North America, and in an ironic twist, closer to the extended family of aunts, uncles, and cousins, than any of my immediate family. Situated in Qatar, I found myself in a region often described as a human rights quagmire for migrant South Asian workers. The questions from my young adult years resurfaced within the minutiae of life in the Gulf. Their return disturbed my temporarily coalesced identity. Familiar, opposing pressures reappeared – the tension between an outside/public life and the inside/private one, the contradiction between physical appearance and personal affiliation – and my newly gathered reflection erupted like a cracked mirror, splintered pieces flying in all directions.

The splinters of being South Asian American in an Arab country and the echoes of my teenage angst are the stories I tell in From Dunes to Dior which will be soon be released as an e-book on You’ll see some of the contrasts in Qatar in the book trailer.

In the meantime, enjoy one of my other four ebooks – on everything from modern motherhood to how to get started as a writer. The best part is they are ALL free to download until May 16, 2012. Drop me a line (or a review) and let me know what you thought about any or all of them. Happy reading!


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Why 1,195 Facebook Friends May Mean You're a Loser

facebook (Photo credit: sitmonkeysupreme)


On this blog I’ve mediated a lot on the nature of friendship and also described the shortcomings of being an expat in a constantly shifting community. Becoming a self published author has ratcheted up the nature of this long standing inquiry towards larger questions about the nature of friendships in the 21st century. Friendships that make up networks which are supposed to be the backbone of a distribution channel. If people mystified me before I started publishing ebooks, I’m out and out stumped now. I”ll give you three case studies as to why.

1. Voting

In the nearly two years since I’ve been a blog tour host, I’ve never won the traffic breaker poll. To win, a blogger has to get people over to a poll to click their blog name. That’s all. There’s no merit involved. The average winner has 100 votes. The most I’ve ever had is 3. According to my network stats, the goal of 100 should be fairly easy to reach as this is about 1% of my “friends” on Facebook.

2. Liking

During a Skype chat, my mother admitted she hadn’t yet liked my page for a newly released title. My own mother. No wonder the goal of getting to 50 likes on Amazon was a monumental task, even for someone with a newsletter distribution of 75 people.

3. Winning

Perhaps you’re not that compelling, you’re thinking  and it’s an idea that has occurred to me as well. Imagine our surprise when our son was a finalist for a “Beautiful Baby” contest sponsored by a photo studio. Here surely was a cause that our friends and family would rally around. Well, he has yet to break 100 and the winner has nearly 400 votes. And yes, someone in our family went to the voting page and actually like another baby. (Voting is open until the 25th, so give the kid in the blue a like).

4. Kickstarting

As someone who has funded friends to walk/run marathons, produce their own music, or live their dream at a certain moment, imagine my surprise when at least these same people didn’t join a Kickstarter campaign to fund a pilot for a TV show I was working on. I didn’t want to push, since of all the examples, this is the one that is tied to money. But the mailing list of another Kickstarter campaign sent me weekly updates on their fundraising. Updates that included a “we did it.” Sadly, my campaign could not say the same.


SAN FRANCISCO - NOVEMBER 15:  Facebook founder...
SAN FRANCISCO - NOVEMBER 15: Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks during a special event announcing a new Facebook email messaging system at the St. Regis Hotel on November 15, 2010 in San Francisco, California. Facebook will launch a new messaging system aimed at enhancing it's social media product to its 500 million users. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

So what is it? What is that the others who are getting the likes, winning the traffic break, the mamma whose kid has 400 fans, what are they doing I’m not? I don’t quite know but I do know that the answer will be important to me as I continue to write, market, and promote my work. There are dozens of articles telling us not to spam people with our links or requests. But how else to explain the phenomena of in a world of online voting?

The last two activities are the ones that make me cringe. Self promotion has never come easy. After all work should speak for itself. Apparently not in the era of social media. Relentless self promotion is how to mobilize. Perhaps irritating someone is better than people not knowing that a contest is even happening (as two of my friends professed on the baby contest at lunch this weekend). What do you think? What makes you give a click? Where is the line between friendship and support?

One thing is certain: indie authors rely on the kindness of strangers who often become friends. I’m hosting Michelle Cornwell-Jordan today and her cover reveal for Night School for this very reason (and why I have the Writer’s Studio). Michelle’s solo debut YA title Night School: Vampire Hunter Bk.1 (Angel) releases March 31st 2012. The first in a trilogy, Night School mixes a little of Michelle’s favorite obsessions: Twilight versus Buffy the Vampire Slayer! (Amazon,, Smashwords &Goodreads). Read more about the heroine Dasheen and Michelle’s work below.
Dasheen Bellamy has lost everything. Now with just her brother, they enter Ame Academy. Soon her only family is threatened… That’s unacceptable… Dasheen enters Night School…where the monsters play…. Angel is born… She is a Vampire Hunter and also…Angel is like any other kid…except the monsters are afraid of her…

Twitter: @mcjordan37Michelle Cormwell Jordan



Books on Sale

Michelle  is a book lover, with YA paranormal adventures as her favorite genre, although she can be a glutton for any young adult title. Michelle’s other love is writing, Michelle has been writing about as long as she has been a bibliophile! Losing herself in a fantasy world that she or others have created is how she loves spending her spare time. Along with author Danny Jones, Michelle Cornwell-Jordan completed, a YA paranormal called Reahket, which is available on,, Smashwords and Goodreads.

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Does Love Come Later?

Big Heart of Art by Q Thomas Bower

I grew up as a South Indian girl in North Florida. Needless to say, I was presented with a variety of ideas about the best conditions under which love could flourish.

My parents, cousins, everyone in the Indian community over the age of thirty, said that love came after the wedding. You chose a partner based on shared values and everyone was involved in the process from your parents to their best friends. Love was the bond that tied you to someone for life and grew like a well-tended garden between neighbors who became friends. You paired in order to create another stable family that would raise more productive members of society in one of several respectable professions. The community put forward an ironclad contract between the two parties. Even if one person (often the man) didn’t hold up parts of the bargain, a good wife always did hers.