Mala Kumar is a 2010 M.A. international affairs graduate, concentrating in development. During her time at The New School, she co-founded the student organization, Association for International Development [AID], and was an India China Institute student fellow. After graduating, she worked as a Programme Officer on the African Risk Capacity of the UN World Food Programme. Mala’s first book, The Paths of Marriage, is scheduled to be released on 1 October 2014. The novel is about three generations of women from 1950s India to present-day NYC, and their battles of discrimination from the outside world and from each other.
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Is this your first foray into fiction?
Indeed it is. Though I will say that I wrote the first draft of the book nearly three years ago, and in that time, have learned a considerable amount about what it takes to construct a good story. At this point, it doesn’t feel like this is my first foray into fiction!
What was your motivation in writing this book?
Being in international development, I quickly realized that by the very definition of the word “diversity”, there is no one way to address what it means to face discrimination due to sex, gender, sexual orientation, caste, religion, or economic status in a scholarly or academic paper. That, combined with my family’s history motivated me to capture higher, more universal lessons through a compelling story. Writing in very micro terms in international development is often not effective; writing in very micro terms in fiction is often very powerful.
Is the book based on the experiences of yourself or others?
The book is entirely fiction, though a lot of the sentiments, emotions, and feelings are based on my family and me.
Where can people find your book?
The book will be released on 1 October 2014 everywhere books are sold in paperback and eBook. (Even if you don’t see it on the shelf, someone in the store will be able to order a copy for you.) All the info on the book is available on the The Paths of Marriage website at http://pathsofmarriage.com. My Communications Coordinator and I are also keeping the many social media platforms of the book current with relevant content. As I am currently living in central Africa for my job with the UN, I have to keep all in-person events in a consolidated time frame, so we are planning a multi-city US book tour in mid-November. Details on that and any virtual events, interviews, etc. can be found on the website or the Facebook page.
Besides your book launch, what else are you up to professionally?
I actually recently relocated to the Central African nation of Burundi for my job with the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). I’m in charge of the implementation and deployment of an SMS-based project to decrease maternal and infant mortality. There are a lot of challenges I foresee, but it has certainly been interesting working on an ICT project while completely based in the continent. Don’t worry though, I plan on making frequent trips back to NYC for the duration of my stay here!
How has GPIA impacted your life and career thus far?
For me, the best thing about GPIA are my fellow alumni. Though I sometimes wish I had gone to a grad school that was hyper focused in its program, I will admit that having friends who have professional competencies across a wider discipline of international affairs has been incredibly useful because we can help each other network without competing for the same leads. Equally, in my experience, GPIA alumni are very dynamic and very friendly, progressive, down-to-earth people. I worked like crazy to achieve the professional successes I have had, though the encouragement and the connections GPIA alumni have given me so far have been invaluable in those successes. When I think of the spectrum of experiences and trajectories NYC has to offer, I always think of GPIA as being a great representative microcosm.