In her debut novel, Anniqua Rana celebrated the differences which make all people alike while also observing another sort of otherness.
The native of Pakistan and Redwood City resident who works as a professor at the College of San Mateo published her first book “Wild Boar in the Cane Field,” which will be available Tuesday, Sept. 17.
Rana hoped the story, which draws from the experience of people she knew growing up as well as imagined characters, would work to unify communities through highlighting the beauty of diversity.
“In these times when people are so afraid of the other, this is an opportunity to read about another human being,” she said.
A majority of the story is told through the eyes of young Tara, found abandoned in rural India by two women who took in the protagonist and raised her. The book follows her development and growing relationship with the women, as well as other community members in a small village.
Shadowed by the absence of her biological parents, Tara grapples with a sense of belonging while still attempting to build bonds with others also fighting to survive in adverse conditions.
“The story is primarily about the girl and also the interconnectedness with the characters and people who are struggling as much as she is,” said Rana.
Rana said her inspiration to write the book drew partially from her childhood in Pakistan, where she still returns frequently to share her work as an educator.
“I needed to tell the story and I needed to make sure that people hear the voices of these people that are connected to my childhood, but are not people of my childhood,” she said.
“Wild Boar in the Cane Field” was also influenced by Rana’s experience as a mother who is deeply familiar with the pain and pleasure associated with raising children, she said.
“To me, the parent and child relationship is extremely important,” she said. “I think having children of my own has made me very, very aware of this bond.”
And while the story is immersed in reality — some of it harsh — Rana also reserved space for mysticism. The final segment of the book looks at the trials and tribulations of the characters through the omniscient eyes of an unwavering presence in the book’s remote setting.
Though met with mixed reviews when first proposed to her writing collaborators, Rana said she felt the unconventional writing mechanism paid great dividends while also allowing her to introduce a sort of enchantment she felt integral to the story.
“For me as a storyteller, I wanted to include the magical elements,” she said.
Following her completion of the work which took almost four years, including a final push featuring two hours of writing each morning over a stretch of a few months, Rana said she feels gratified.
“I really lost myself in that world,” she said. “It was somewhat horrifying but it was really engrossing.”
Looking ahead, Rana said she is hopeful the lessons she learned through crafting the world and sharing the tale will also allow her to become a better professor to her students in the local college district.
But the greater hope is that “Wild Boar in the Cane Field” is the first book in a long career allowing Rana to continue showcasing the similarities that make people the same.
“The basic human element we have and that we share compelled me to write and tell the stories,” she said. “And hopefully continue telling stories.”
“Wild Boar in the Cane Field” will be released Tuesday, Sept. 17. A launch party will be held that day, 7:30 p.m., at The Bindery, 1727 Haight St., San Francisco. It is available for pre-order on Amazon as well.
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