The Proust Questionnaire, popularized by the French novelist and essayist Marcel Proust, is said to reveal a person’s true nature through a series of probing, soul-searching questions. In the hot seat today: Mitali Perkins, award-winning author of books for young readers including You Bring the Distant Near, Forward Me Back to You, Tiger Boy, Bamboo People, Secret Keeper, Rickshaw Girl, and many more!
What is your idea of perfect happiness? Rereading Little Women by the fire with my Labrador retriever, a cup of chamomile tea, and an oatmeal raisin cookie right out the oven. With Gregorian chants playing the background.
What is your greatest fear? That I’ll give way to fear.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? Contempt.
What is the trait you most deplore in others? Unkindness.
Which living person do you most admire? My 80-something mom who pursues life with energy and valiance.
What is your greatest extravagance? See’s vanilla lollipops – they’re expensive!
What is your current state of mind? Motivated and hopeful.
What do you consider the most overrated virtue? Hard to answer. All virtues can shift into vice if not regulated with humility and love—self-control can become rigidity, gentleness can morph into apathy, etc.
On what occasion do you lie? When my sister asks if she looks chubby in a new piece of clothing.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse? “Flourishing.” “Resilient.” “Verklempt.”
Besides writing, which talent would you most like to have? Comedy. I would like to be hilarious.
What do you consider your greatest achievement? Staying married for 34 years and raising our twin boys. Also, being at peace with friends and relatives.
If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be? Myself, but without the taint of vice.
What is your most treasured possession? My sense of humor.
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? Losing someone you love.
What do you most value in your friends? Faith.
Who are your favorite writers? They are all dead. I’m writing a nonfiction book about seven of them scheduled for release in August 2021. It’s called Steeped in Stories: Timeless Children’s Stories to Refresh our Tired Souls.
Who is your hero of fiction? Aragorn, Faramir, Frodo, and Sam.
Which historical figure do you most identify with? Mother Teresa.
What is your motto? “I’m beloved, like you.”
MITALI PERKINS has written many books for young readers, including Between Us and Abuela (Winner of the Américas Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature), Forward Me Back To You (SLJ and Kirkus Best YA Books of the year), You Bring the Distant Near (nominated for a National Book Award), and Rickshaw Girl (adapted into a film by Sleeperwave Productions), all of which explore crossing different kinds of borders. Mitali’s fiction explores poverty, immigration, child soldiers, microcredit, and human trafficking, thanks to living overseas for many years and studying Political Science at Stanford and Public Policy at U.C. Berkeley. Her goal is to make readers laugh or cry, preferably both, as long as their hearts are widening. She lives and writes in the East Bay. Learn more about Mitali on her website and follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
Great interview, Mitali. Shows your sparky, innovative personality! You’re a gift to the literary world!