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Rahul Mehta: One Last Read

One month ago, Lambda Literary published “Rahul Mehta on Pushing Through Writer’s Block and Exploring Pain Through Fiction,” an in-depth interview I did with author Rahul Mehta. We talked about what it was like to win the Lambda Award for Gay Debut Fiction for his short story collection, Quarantine, how that book came to be, and the eight year journey to his second novel, No Other World. Much of the interview focuses on the new novel and covers questions pertaining to the creation of the book, character insights, and the themes the book expresses. We also talked about teaching writing, Rahul’s influences (including Madonna!), and Twitter. But as with any great interview, there’s always something that ends up being cut. In this case, it happened to be a question I asked Rahul about his recent interest in the tarot. Having more than a passing interest in the cards myself, I asked Rahul about drawing a card for his main character. Because Rahul and I loved the question and the answer, we’ve decided to give you all one last read.

When we chatted at AWP, you mentioned that you were new to reading tarot cards. Shortly after that, you tweeted an idea you had about doing readings for your characters. I want you to tell me which card from the Tarot you think would be drawn for your protagonist, Kiran Shah.  

The idea for the tarot card reading for characters came from the friend I do the writing dates with. We had a writing date scheduled, but instead of writing we ended up doing Tarot card readings for each other. At first, her tarot reading didn’t seem to make sense for her, but when she applied it to the protagonist in her novel it was absolutely perfect and shed so much light on the issues and obstacles the character was facing.

If I were choosing a card for Kiran it would be the Ancestor card. It’s one that I have been drawing for myself a lot lately. So much of the pain in Kiran’s life—his loneliness and isolation—comes from not knowing his ancestors, both his Indian ancestors but also his queer ancestors. The more Kiran can learn from and take comfort from those who have gone before him the more sure-footed he’ll be in walking his own path. I’m constantly learning that lesson too. This is a little off-topic, but I’ve been thinking about it in relation to activism. Like a lot of people since the November election, I’ve been ramping up my activist efforts and trying to figure out how we are all going to survive this. It’s been very useful and inspiring for me to remember my “ancestors,” those who have fought before me and survived the unsurvivable, whether it be Larry Kramer, James Baldwin, Audre Lorde or Mahatma Gandhi.

If you haven’t read the full interview, head over to Lambda and do so now. Rahul Mehta’s new novel, No Other World, is available in hardback from Harper.