Chandra Prasad

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Chandra Prasad

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Born
New Haven, CT, The United States
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December 2013


ATTENTION ENGLISH/ELA TEACHERS: My YA novel DAMSELFLY is an increasingly popular read in middle and high schools across the country. Damselfly can be read as a stand-alone novel or in tandem with Lord of the Flies as a modern parallel text. The book grapples with modern issues that are relatable to today’s teens: bullying, racism, social media connectivity, and mental illness, among others. Resources for educators can be found at chandraprasad.com/damselfly. Complimentary signed bookplates and bookmarks available. Write to the author at www.chandraprasad.com/damselfly/contact/ to learn about class/author Q&A sessions via videoconferencing!

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My first young adult novel, Damselfly has arrived! If you'd like to read a modern, girl-centric
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Chandra Prasad Hi Tara,

Thanks for asking this thoughtful question. As a matter of fact, I recently wrote "The Story Behind the Book" for DAMSELFLY, which I've pasted…more
Hi Tara,

Thanks for asking this thoughtful question. As a matter of fact, I recently wrote "The Story Behind the Book" for DAMSELFLY, which I've pasted below. Forgive the long length!

Warm wishes,
Chandra

The Story Behind the Book
Damsellfy
by Chandra Prasad


When I first read Lord of the Flies in 9th grade English glass, I found it riveting. The novel nibbled at my conscience and made me question the true state of human nature, which hitherto I had assumed to be (mostly) good. Some of the scarier sections wormed their way into my sleep, giving me nightmares. Yet I was pretty sure my teacher would manage to find a way to make Golding’s book boring. She had a knack for sucking the life out of literature with her cold, clinical presentation style.

As we started the LOTF unit, history seemed bound to repeat itself. The droning of her sounded like static. She listed literary devices with all the panache of robocaller selling used tires. But just when I was about to tune out completely, she uttered a remark that made me instantly alert.

“So you see, class, Golding’s island was a perfect microcosm of human society.”

A perfect microcosm? Seriously? The island couldn’t possibly be a “perfect” microcosm because—guess what?—there were no girls on it! Nor were there any people of color. Nor was there any class hierarchy, except maybe by age. All of the kids on the island fit more or less the same mold: white British schoolboys.

I didn’t speak up about my skepticism. But I still remember how frustrated I felt that my teacher didn’t see what seemed so obvious to me. Those unvoiced feelings of discontent and exasperation, which carried over into adulthood, were the inspiration for Damselfly. Since 9th grade, I’ve wanted to read (and write) a Lord of the Flies-esque novel that represents a more realistic and diverse society.

As with my other novels, I made a detailed outline of the plot. And as with my other novels, I veered off course from it almost immediately. Damselfly started out as an indirect response to Golding’s novel. I attempted to ask and answer some of the same questions Golding did, but with a more heterogeneous cast of characters. What happens when vulnerable young people are displaced and left to fend for themselves? Do they create new rules and order? Or does the very notion of civilization disintegrate? If violence and chaos reign, does that mean that human beings are naturally depraved? Is civilization just a cover-up for our savage instincts? Somewhere along the line, however, Damselfly became its own unique, self-contained, autonomous narrative that was less homage to LOTF than crucible for a whole different set of questions. Would girls would act and react differently than boys if placed in similarly terrifying circumstances? Would one sex take a position of leadership over the other? How much does race matter when we are removed from regular society? What about class?

Almost all of these questions are addressed by the protagonists of Damselfly. Samantha “Sam” Mishra and her best friend, Amelia “Mel” Sharpe, quickly emerge as the heart, soul, mind, and central nervous system of the novel. The reader experiences and interprets the world of Damselfly through their discussions, thoughts, and actions.

Sam was the easier of the two girls to create. She is mixed-race, observant, and possesses an uneasy sense of self. Her voice is not my voice, but it is one I knew well. Mel was different. In my notes, I wrote that she should have a little of the spirit and verve of the following characters:

1. Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables
2. Huckleberry Finn
3. Nancy Drew
4. Elizabeth from Pride and Prejudice
5. Encyclopedia Brown
6. Laura Ingalls from Little house on the prairie
7. Jo from Little Women
8. MacGyver (the inventive secret agent from the ‘80s television show that only olds will remember)


Not an easy recipe, to be sure! Happily, Mel Sharpe turned out to be not a cockamamie combination of all these characters, but a fully formed person in her own right. She is someone I wish I could have known when I was a kid. How refreshing it would have been to hang out with a someone who “cared not a lick how she looked;” who’d rather invent and discover new things than crush on boys; who was unmoved by bullying, peer pressure, popularity, and gossip. I didn’t know an Mel then, but I’m glad to have made her acquaintance now.

As for my ninth grade English teacher, I still don’t think she was right about that “perfect microcosm” thing. But you know what? No microcosm can be perfect. Each is destined to be as complicated, curious, relatable, and provocative and as the characters who inhabit it.
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Damselfly by Chandra Prasad
"I often teach "Lord of the Flies" in my literature class, so I was intrigued when this book was touted as a modern-day version of LotF. But the title really confused me, as did the picture on the back of the book of someone holding a damselfly in the" Read more of this review »
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"I gave this book a 5 star rating because right when I started reading this book, I was already carried in and just kept on wanting to read more. Personally, I enjoy when books start off with the main conflict and slowly progress background informatio" Read more of this review »
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Damselfly by Chandra Prasad
Hi Ali,
Yes. It is a stand-alone novel. It can be read on its own or in tandem with Lord of the Flies (many Grades 6-12 English teachers are opting to pair the two books). Damselfly features an original plot and unique characters.
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"Normally, I'm not a huge fan of deserted island type books, but Damselfly was an exception. I loved the creative and detailed relationships throughout this book. I think what struck me was how complicated and well-described all of the characters were" Read more of this review »
Damselfly by Chandra Prasad
" Hi. I am not presently working on a sequel, but the possibility is certainly on my mind. I am fond of Mel, especially, and would like to explore what ...more "
More of Chandra's books…
“Sometimes girls, especially those whose tastes aren't routine, don't get a fair break. Too many of us have been bred to timidity. That is why those who escape must run, not stroll, toward what they desire. They mustn't look back. They mustn't question their own instincts. And they mustn't listen to the naysayers. If they can only follow their own true course, well then, they will be as renowned for their bravery as the greatest men are.”
Chandra Prasad

“In the mornings I awoke with salty crust of tears around my eyes--my grief struggling to surface when I was in my weakest, lost in sleep. But by day I would not allow myself to feel. My misery was muted; it had to be. If I faced it in earnest, I would truly drown.”
Chandra Prasad, On Borrowed Wings

“Mother once said I’d marry a quarryman. She looked at me as we washed clothes in the giant steel washtub, two pairs of water-wrinkled hands scrubbing and soaking other people’s laundry. We were elbow-deep in dirty suds and our fingers brushed under the foamy mounds.
“Some mistakes are bound to be repeated,” she murmured
We lived in Stony Creek, a granite town at a time when granite was going out of fashion. There were only three types of men here: Cottagers, rich, paunchy vacationers who swooped into our little Connecticut town in May and wiled away time on their sailboats through August; townsmen, small-time merchants and business owners who dreamed of becoming Cottagers; and quarrymen, men like my father, who worked with no thought to the future.
The quarrymen toiled twelve hours a day, six days a week. They didn’t care that they smelled of granite dust and horses, grease and putty powder. They didn’t care about cleaning the crescents of grime from underneath their fingernails. Even when they heard the foreman’s emergency signal, three sharp shrieks of steam, they scarcely looked up from their work. In the face of a black powder explosion gone awry or the crushing finality of a wrongly cleaved stone, they remained undaunted.
I knew why they lived this way. They did it for the granite. Nowhere else on earth did such stone exist—mesmerizing collages of white quartz, pink and gray feldspar, black lodestone, winking glints of mica. Stony Creek granite was so striking, it graced the most majestic of architecture: the Battle Monument at West Point, the Newberry Library in Chicago, the Fulton Building in Pittsburgh, the foundations of the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge. The quarrymen of Stony Creek would wither and fall before the Cottagers, before the townsmen. But the fruits of their labor tethered them to a history that would stand forever.
“You’ll marry one, Adele—I’m sure of it. His hands will be tough as buckskin, but you’ll love him regardless,” Mother told me, her breath warm in my ear as the steam of the wastewater rose around us.
I didn’t say that she was wrong, that she couldn’t know what would happen. I’d learned that from the quarry. Pa was a stonecutter and he cut the granite according to rift and grain, to what he could feel with his fingertips and see with his eyes. But there were cracks below the surface, cracks that betrayed the careful placement of a chisel and the pounding of a mallet. The most beautiful piece of stone could shatter into a pile of riprap. It all depended on where those cracks teased and wound, on where the stone would fracture when forced apart.
“Keep your eyes open, Adele. I don’t know who it will be—a steam driller, boxer, derrickman, powderman? Maybe a stonecutter like your father?”
I turned away from her, feigning disinterest. “There’s no predicting, I told her.”
Chandra Prasad

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“Desperately, I looked in all directions. What struck me immediately was the violence. Everything seemed to be choking something else: Creepers twisted around brambles, brambles around vines, vines around trees. Every plant vied for space and the thin shafts of light that pushed through the greenery overhead. But there wasn’t enough space for all of them.

“Mel,” I screamed again, my throat scratchy and raw. My brown school oxfords made sucking sounds as I walked. I felt as if I were being pulled down, like the jungle might consume me.

From DAMSELFLY”
Chandra Prasad

“The scents bring us back. That’s what Mr. Agrawal says. He says the scents of summer are the most potent, the most enduring.

The sun beats hard in Duxton, Massachusetts, in late July. It shrivels soft things: flower petals, the worms that struggle up through the ground after a midday shower. The sun here cares nothing for exteriors. It is interested only in essences, the soft middles. Mr. Agrawal doesn’t bother to pick the ripening tomatoes in the garden, infested with rangy weeds and fat iridescent beetles. He says he likes the smell of the flesh once the heat has sizzled the peel.


--from "Wayward," a short story by Chandra Prasad in MIXED: An Anthology of Short Fiction on the Multiracial Experience”
Chandra Prasad




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