Leadership Profile

Award-winning Author Provides Guidance to First-Year Students

Neela VaswaniNeela Vaswani, author of Where the Long Grass Bends and You Have Given Me a Country, spoke with first-year seminar students about her most recent book titled, You Have Given Me a Country, on Nov. 9 in the multicultural center on campus.

As the daughter of an Irish-Catholic mother and a Sindhi-Indian father, Vaswani’s experiences growing up inspired her to write You Have Given Me a Country. The book, winner of the American Book Award as well as many other honors, focuses on Vaswani’s experience growing up as a biracial child. It tells the story of her mother and father, how they met, and what growing up as a biracial child was like. According to the description listed on Vaswani’s website, the book combines memoir, history, and fiction to tell their story.

“Everything I’ve learned in each new genre, I can take and apply to another genre,” she told Cedar Crest students. “I’m not just a writer when I’m sitting at the keyboard with my fingers on the keys—I have to be a writer all the time. When I’m out in the world, I’ve got to be looking through my writer’s eyes for all the little details.”

In addition to writing, the author focused her talk on issues of identity, place, and other themes in the book. First-year and honors students who attend this discussion received a free copy of You Have Given Me a Country and had the opportunity to have it signed at the event. The program was sponsored by both the multicultural center and First Year Experience program at Cedar Crest.

Neela Vaswani

Throughout her life, Vaswani held a number of jobs before earning her Ph.D. in cultural studies. She has earned recognition for her work including the American Book Award, an O. Henry Prize, and the ForeWord Book of the Year gold medal, to name a few. She has visited numerous colleges and universities to speak about her writing and currently teaches in Spalding University’s brief-residency MFA in Writing program and Manhattanville College’s MFA in Writing program.