Talia Lakshmi Kolluri on Exploring the Mixed-Race Experience Through Literature
This Week from The Common Podcast
Talia Lakshmi Kolluri speaks to managing editor Emily Everett about her story “The Good Donkey,” which appears in The Common’s spring issue. In this conversation, Kolluri talks about writing fiction from the perspectives of different animals and where the inspiration for those stories comes from. She also discusses how being mixed race can complicate conversations about race and identity in the US, how books and literature are making space for those conversations, and how she balances writing with a full-time job as an attorney.
On writing about animals:
Anytime I write from an animal’s perspective, I do a lot of research on animal behavior. I also infuse some of myself into those animals. In a lot of ways it can be a filter for me to explore my own emotions and my own feelings about relationships. But I also feel very strongly that all living creatures have a perspective and thoughts and feelings and complex inner lives. It’s just a leap of imagination; I try to imagine that I have the limits of a donkey’s understanding, and the environment a donkey would live in, and then I try to extrapolate what that means to me.
On being a mixed-race writer:
When I think about the kind of space that is made for the mixed-race experience, and how it’s a little bit narrow, I think that comes from the sort of short-form conversations that don’t leave a lot of room for nuance. Literature is a great space to explore the mixed experience. There are a lot of writers today that are writing around and toward and from that experience. They really tackle both the mixed experience and also all of the things that come with that life. I try to do that in my own writing, in that I like to ask questions about belonging and identity and what it means to be from somewhere, and what it means to connect the place where you are with the place where your heritage is from.
Talia Lakshmi Kolluri’s short fiction has appeared in The Minnesota Review, Ecotone, and Southern Humanities Review. She was born and raised in Northern California and now lives in the Central Valley, where she is at work on a collection of short stories and a novel. Read more about Talia and her work at taliakolluri.com.
Emily Everett is managing editor of The Common magazine and host of the magazine’s podcast. Her stories appear in the Kenyon Review, Electric Literature, Tin House Online, and Mississippi Review. Say hello on Twitter @Public_Emily.