Padma's Books

The list of blog posts below is updated when I have time or when something new and exciting happens. Here, you will find a post containing excerpts from reviews of my work, ideas on how to use CLIMBING THE STAIRS in the classroom, a list of awards the novel has received and so on. For more information on me and my work as well as media and teacher resources, please visit my main website: I am incredibly busy and do not post on a daily basis.

Monday, May 14, 2012


Delighted to report ISLAND'S END is A winner of this year's PATERSON PRIZE for young people. The novel also recd a Julia Ward Howe BOSTON AUTHORS CLUB young readers honor book (finalist) award - and several other honors for which I'm so grateful - an ALA Best Book of the Year, an ALA/Amelia Bloomer List selectcion, a CCBC Best Book of the Year, a BOOKLIST Editor's Choice Best Book for Young Adults, and first honor to arrive and of course thus so treasured - a KIRKUS Best Book of the Year!!!!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Delighted to finally post the following good news about my second novel, ISLAND'S END, which was released in August, 2011 (I've had a hectic and hard time these past months, hence the delay in posting this information). ISLAND'S END  received *starred*reviews in KIRKUS, BOOKLIST, SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL and PUBLISHER'S WEEKLY. It's also been included on the following best book of the year lists: ALA's Amelia Bloomer; ALA and YALSA's Best Books for Young Adults; CCBC; KIRKUS, and BOOKLIST Editor's Choice, best books of the year. My publisher, Penguin, created a lovely YouTube video about ISLAND'S END featuring photographs I took from my time on the islands ( ), as well as a free downloadable discussion guide for the novel. I created a free downloadable powerpoint file which has several reader response journal ideas, discusssion questions etc. related to ISLAND'S END - available through my website: 
Here below are quotes from the starred reviews:
* "consistently engrosses...refreshingly hopeful and beautifully written"
 - Starred review KIRKUS
* "a lovely novel...offering an enticing blend of mystic tradition and imaginative speculation"
- Starred review PW
* "Vividly written and expertly paced ...a moving story that will stay with readers long after the end"
- Starred review SLJ
* "succeeds intricate yet wholly accessible story"
-Starred review BOOKLIST

Friday, October 23, 2009


I have been extremely fortunate to cooperate with my wonderful colleagues at the University of Rhode Island to put together some excellent resources for teachers who wish to use CLIMBING THE STAIRS in the school classroom.
A handout I presented recently at the RI Educational Media Association is given below. More resources are present at my main website

Climbing the Stairs:

Teaching nonviolence through literature


Kathryn Lee Johnson, EdS
School of Education, University of Rhode Island

Diane Kern, PhD
School of Education, University of Rhode Island

Bethany Lisi, MEd
Reading & Writing Tutor, New York City

Padma Venkatraman, PhD

Climbing the Stairs (published by G. P. Putnam's Sons, Penguin) is the winner of the 2009 Julia Ward Howe Award and has received several other honors and awards, including ALA/YALSA Best Book for Young Adults, Booklist Editor's Choice Best Book of the Year, NYPL Book for the Teen Age, CCBC choice, Bank Street College of Education Best Book, NCSS/CBC Notable SS Trade Book, Capitol Choice, PA School Library Association Top 40, CLN Top 25 07-08, ALA/Amelia Bloomer Book, Starred Reviews in Booklist, PW and VOYA, Shortlisted for RARI, UT and ME state awards, Booksense Notable, Booklinks Best New Book, and PW Flying Start.

BACKGROUND OF THE NOVEL - A STATEMENT BY Dr. Padma Venkatraman: When I started writing Climbing the Stairs, I was head of a school in the United Kingdom. I saw students faced with different kinds of violence, overt and subtle – name calling, bullying, and caste-like cliques. At that time, I decided to become an American citizen and was thinking deeply of the issues facing our nation. We were at war with Iraq then, and we still are. As I grappled with the question of whether a person should ever act violently, and when and if and why a nation should engage in a war, my mind flew back to a different era, a different circumstance, a different culture, and a family – my own - that had debated the same two questions, many years ago in India, 1941. Climbing the Stairs is loosely based on my family's history and inspired by the timeless question of the role of nonviolence in our lives and its impact on today's society.

When I read from climbing the stairs, I often follow this presentation outline to help readers make a personal connection with the nonviolence-violence theme in my novel.

I begin by asking

1. Have you ever witnessed something you disagreed with?

2. When you witnessed this, what action did you take?


3. How did appa voice his disagreement in this chapter?


4. Did Kitta and Vidya’s disagree peacefully? Discuss levels of violence and subtle (verbal) vs. physical abuse.

5. Think back to the incident you remembered at the beginning. Did you disagree nonviolently? If yes, would you like to share that – with the rest of the class? If not, can you think of a nonviolent way to act in that situation?

6. Discuss hypothetical situations in which students might find themselves and nonviolent strategies they might use to diffuse tension in those situations.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS, suggested by the author
(focus on fundamental and universal themes in Climbing the Stairs)

1. NONVIOLENCE THEME: Have you ever stood up for something you believed in? What do you think of the way Appa stood up for his beliefs in the Protest March chapter? What is your understanding of “nonviolence?” Does peace impact your daily behavior? Do you think nonviolence can work against injustice today, and what are some situations after the Indian freedom struggle in which Gandhian nonviolence principles were successfully used as a means of political protest?

2. WORLD WAR II: Did you learn anything new about World War II through reading the novel? Do you agree with Vidya’s or with Kitta’s views on war in general? How does Vidya deal with Kitta’s choice? How do you react when you disagree with your friends or family? Do you think it is necessary for a person or a nation to sometimes act violently? If so, what, in your opinion justifies violence and what degree of violence do you feel is justifiable?

3. SPIRITUAL AWAKENING: What specific principles of Hinduism does Vidya learn from Amma, Appa, and the books she reads in Thatha’s library? Give examples of Vidya’s actions that reflect some of her stated Hindu beliefs reflected by Hindu scriptures quoted in the novel. How do the Indian traditions observed in Thatha’s house differ from the true ideals of Hindu philosophy cited in the text by Vidya? In what ways does the novel demonstrate the distance between the spiritual and philosophical underpinnings of the Hindu religion and some of the banal customs followed by Indian society? Is there any distance between the philosophy of your religion and its observance?

4. SOCIAL JUSTICE-EQUALITY What role does Vidya’s meeting with the Gypsy woman play in the story? In what way is the house in Madras a prison and in what way is it a safe place? Is the society in which you live completely egalitarian? If not, what do you think is the underlying cause of inequality? What are some ways to overcome stereotypes and prejudices? Is there a caste- like system in your school, family or community? Do you and those around you always treat everyone the same way? Have you ever indulged in bullying, name-calling or joined an exclusive group?

5. DIFFERENTLY ABLED PERSONS Do you know anyone who is differently abled, and if so, how has knowing them changed your behavior? What purpose does Appa’s mental disability and his extended family’s treatment of him have in the story? How would the novel be different if he had died (given that Vidya’s family would have had to move to Thatha’s household and that Appa’s demise would not have changed the major incidents that fuel the plot after the beating)? Why do you think Periappa and Periamma treat Appa so badly? How does this practice conflict with their stated belief in non-violence? Have you observed people choosing to ignore traditions that do not further their agendas? How does one’s treatment of those who are less empowered reflect on one’s character?

6. LANGUAGE: List some of the themes in the novel. How does the title “Climbing the Stairs” work as a metaphor to fit these different themes? Pay particular attention to abstract meanings the title acquires that do not involve Vidya directly. In the first chapter, Vidya and Kitta discuss the swastika symbol – which has a very different significance in India (especially in 1941) as compared to the Western world today (in the post-World War II era). What role do symbols play in our everyday lives, if any? How are the symbols used in your culture and language different or similar to other world languages and cultures? What symbols and metaphors does the author use in this novel? How does the metaphorical image of climbing a staircase into the unknown work to fit the various themes (such as social justice, national independence, coming-of-age, nonviolence, spiritual awakening) in the novel?

7. RACISM: The British are an important presence in Vidya's world as both oppressors of the Indian people and as fighters against the Nazis. How are the British characterized at the beginning of the novel? How does this change by the end? How do Vidya’s various personal encounters with kind British officers contribute to this characterization? What books does Vidya read in the library that help her understand the similarities between Indian and Western cultures? How does the idea of universal experiences challenge the foundations of British racism and Colonial rule? What are some other ways in which the novel provides counter examples to a one-sided view of the British and White racism?
Where does World War II era Japan fit into this discussion of racism?

8. CHARACTERIZATION How does the author create dimensionality in the characters? For instance, how is Appa’s character deepened by his action of sending the family servants away when his brother visits (at the beginning of the novel), instead of showing upfront how he runs his household? What does Appa gain from hiding his beliefs and in what ways does this indirectly support maintaining the caste system? Have you ever suppressed your beliefs in the face of social or familial pressure?

9. Why do you think the author chose to leave the novel open-ended? If you had the chance to write a sequel to the story how would you have it continue? Would you try to answer the debate on violence versus nonviolence or would you leave this open-ended as the author did?

For more discussion questions, virtual lesson plans, and other resources, please visit the author’s website:
(schools/libraries; teachers/librarians tab)

High school student teacher responses and lessons are posted at Dr. Diane Kern’s Wiki site:

Six Principles of Nonviolence: The Kingian Philosophy

1. Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people.

Nonviolence is an active resistance against what is wrong. It requires the courage to stand up for what is right and just, sometimes in the face of strong social pressure to “just go along,” and the courage to resist impulsive “lashing out.”

2. The Beloved Community is the framework for the future.

The goal is not to humiliate others, but to win them over to a new, shared view. At the end, you want to be able to join forces. Pursuing justice and truth together brings the “beloved community” closer, where everyone lives together in peace.

3. Attack forces of evil, not persons doing evil.

The goal is to solve problems, not to attack people. People who seem evil are also victims of the conditions that make up the problem. Attacking them personally can lead to more problems.

4. Accept suffering without retaliation for the sake of the cause.

Nonviolent people are willing to “put themselves on the line” in order to stop the cycle of violence and create better conditions. Remember that there is already a lot of suffering going on. Let suffering be for a worthwhile purpose, but never inflict it on others.

5. Avoid internal violence of the spirit as well as external physical violence.

Physical violence starts with attitudes and feelings of anger, hatred, and resentment. The person who has those feelings is hurt first and most by them. Feelings are contagious, and also affect many people who are not the “target” of the moment.

6. The universe is on the side of justice.

Justice inspires people, and injustice does not. Dr. King said, “The arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” The outcome of the struggle will be justice. It may not be today or tomorrow, but eventually faith and justice will prevail.

Example of Student Response
Climbing the Stairs Connection Guide Sheet
The purpose of this activity is to develop ideas about teaching nonviolence to teenagers by using young adult literature.

1. In small groups, select a scene from Climbing the Stairs that connects to the one nonviolence principles you have been assigned.
2. Think about the book and what it might mean in connection to the theme of nonviolence and how you might teach it to children.
3. Complete the Book Connection Guide Sheet using the following specific guidelines.


Principle of Nonviolence:


Summary of scene:

How does this scene connect to the Principle of Nonviolence?

What nonviolent character traits does the character from the above question exhibit?

Other activities or guided questions you might use with your students:

1. Discuss an alternative that readers might have been hoping for, such as: “Appa pulled the officer down off his horse, thrown him to the ground, and kicked him to save the woman and himself.” Why did he not do this? What message does Appa’s sacrifice send to Vidya, and the reader? In what ways does this scene show Appa’s strength? What impact do his actions have on others at the march? When is it appropriate to challenge the beliefs of a society? What are the most effective ways to take a stand against an injustice?

2. Together with students, find six different scenes in CLIMBING THE STAIRS to demonstrate each of the six principles of nonviolence. Direct students to write in their reader response journals about an everyday situation (either one they have faced or a hypothetical situation in which they might find themselves) in which they could use one of the nonviolence principles.

3. Choose one Principle of Nonviolence and write an essay defend how the principle is displayed through the actions of one character in CLIMBING THE STAIRS, citing three pieces of evidence from the text.

4. Create a poster centered around the quote “Appa could have pulled the officer down off his horse, thrown him on the ground, and kicked him. But he did not.” (Place the quote at the center and paste student responses to this quote around it to create a large poster that could be hung on the classroom wall). AND/OR use this quote to spark a Socratic seminar.

5. Set the theme for a discussion on nonviolence by downloading and playing the YouTube Video of rapper Common singing “A Dream”. Teaching nonviolence is important in the high school setting and vital to the global environment. Help your students identify how different artists (Common, rapper, YouTube, music vs. Venkatraman, author, CLIMBING THE STAIRS, novel) interpret Mahatma Gandhi’s and Dr. King’s dreams of nonviolence.

6. Vocabulary activity. Brainstorm words that describe nonviolent or violent actions taken by characters in CLIMBING THE STAIRS and words that describe their character traits. Help students explore connections between these behaviors and subtle forms of violence they may indulge in such as name-calling or bullying, to heighten their awareness of violence and make text-to-self connections.

Character Traits Associated with Nonviolence:

Attentive, Aware, Bighearted, Brave, Calm, Caring, Cheerful, Clever, Concerned
Conscientious, Controlled, Cooperative, Courageous, Committed, Compassionate, Considerate, Curious, Daring, Dedicated, Determined, Devoted, Eager, Empathetic, Encouraging, Endurance, Exuberant, Fair, Faithful, Forgiving, Friendly, Generous, Gentle, Giving, Grateful, Helpful, Honest, Hopeful, Hospitable, Humane, Humble,
Humorous, Imaginative, Independent, Industrious, Integrity, Interest, Intelligent, Kind, Logical, Loving, Loyal, Optimistic, Patient, Peaceful, Pensive, Persevering
Persistent, Pleasant, Polite, Positive, Rational, Reliable, Respectful, Responsible,
Responsive, Reverent, Risk-taker, Self-confident, Scrupulous, Selfless, Sensitive,
Sincere, Skillful, Smart, Sociable, Strong, Sympathetic, Supportive, Talented, Tenacious, Thankful, Thoughtful, Tolerant, Trusting, Trustworthy, Understanding, Useful, Valiant, Versatile, Vigilant, Warm hearted, Wise

Cross-curricular connections:
Theater arts: CLIMBING THE STAIRS readers theater play (Weekly Reader, January 2010 issue; or contact Padma Venkatraman and visit for tableau and other acting suggestions)
History: CLIMBING THE STAIRS lends itself to connections with the American Civil Rights movement (explore the MLK Jr. Mahatma Gandhi connection)
The novel also provides a unique (non-European) perspective on World War II by discussing the contributions of the British colonies including the world’s largest all-volunteer WWII force
Music: invite Padma Venkatraman to sing “We Shall Overcome” in Hindi with your students, Common rapper “A Dream” music video Indian classical music
Fine Art: Draw Kolams and Krishna footsteps on the classroom floor
Mathematics: Invite Padma Venkatraman to speak about ancient Indian mathematics.



Excerpts of reviews from Institutional Review Journals
• …Venkatraman makes a memorable debut with this lushly evoked novel set in India during World War II…More than a feisty Cinderella story …this novel vivifies a unique era and culture as it movingly expresses how love and hope can blossom even under the most dismal of circumstances…
o Starred review, Publishers Weekly
• …In her first novel, Venkatraman paints an intricate and convincing backdrop of a conservative Brahmin home in a time of change…
o Starred review, Carolyn Phelan, Booklist
• …Climbing the Stairs is the coming-of-age story of a young feminist who witnesses both violence and peaceful resistance in India during the WWII era…Venkatraman achieved her goal of interweaving threads of Indian culture, diverse religious beliefs, feminism, war and peace into a compelling story…”
o Lynda Brill Comerford, Publishers Weekly, “Flying Start”
• …In an author’s note, Venkatraman comments on several elements of the novel, including Gandhi’s nonviolent revolution, Indian volunteers in the British Army during World War II, and her family history…
o Booklinks, Best New Books for the Classroom
• …Opening with the festival of Krishna Jayanthi, Venkatraman so skillfully weaves Hindu words, traditions, and religious festivals into her story that readers understand the vocabulaty and appreciate the beliefs…Vidya achieves the psychological distance to ponder cultural and religious similarities and differences by way of her philosophically minded appa and her Jewish best friend…With a delightfully strong female protagonist who struggles between tradition and the values she holds dear, this novel will capture the imaginations of many readers…
o Cynthia Winfield, VOYA, 5 Q 4P S
• British-occupied India during World War II is the setting for this impressive debut novel.... Thought-provoking and deeply moving.
o Booksense, Notable
• …A welcome addition to the small but growing body of historical fiction about growing up female in India…This novel excels in its detailed depiction of a Brahmin girlhood and family life during a time of intense social and political change…
o Kirkus
• …a poignant look at a young woman’s vigilance to break from expectations and create her own destiny amid a country’s struggle for independence…
o Rita Soltan, School Library Journal
• With Climbing the Stairs, Venkatraman fills an important place in YA historical fiction… The book is well researched, politically balanced, and based on real experiences. Climbing the Stairs is a valuable book because of the way it engenders cultural understanding. It is a primer in Indian culture with its history, religion, and traditions."
o Sandra Udall Crandall, Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy

Excerpts of reviews from Newspapers and Magazines
• Climbing the Stairs… is a passionate story…In the novel, books serve as a saving grace…The central theme of the novel, violence and nonviolence, will appeal to an international audience…
o Michelle Reale, India Currents
• After reading this fine, often heart-breaking novel, I noticed that it’s for “young adults”. Well, I’m a 'youngish adult,' and I loved it.
o Sam Coale, The Providence Journal
• “Sam Coale is a Wheaton professor, a frequent reviewer and constant reader – but a 'youngish adult'? Well, in spirit, certainly.
o Editor, Arts Section, The Providence Sunday Journal
• …Padma Venkatraman’s debut novel works on many levels. Marketed for young adults, it’s a story complex and rich enough to hold an adult’s attention. Its setting in colonial India during the early days of World War II brings to mind our current occupation of Iraq. And the heroine’s struggles for freedom can be taken at face value, as a young girl’s coming of age, or as a deeper exploration of oppression…The story becomes one of emancipation – a young girl’s growing self awareness, her struggle to be treated as an individual with dignity, her yearning for education. This parallels the Indians’ determination to shake off the yoke of colonialism, and the wider struggle to stop Hitler from exterminating the Jews. The thread connecting these themes is the Hindu religion’s commitment to nonviolence, and the inevitable conflicts that result. All of this is woven simply but artfully together. The beauty of Venkatraman’s prose is that it can be read on all these levels. A young adult can understand the story and the issues it raises, while adults will appreciate the subtle intersecting of plot and theme.…This novel is an important story about the human struggle for freedom and dignity that can be enjoyed by readers of all ages…
o Grace magazine
• …A bestseller may be born in Westerly on Thursday…
o Marshall Williams, The Westerly Sun, Front Page article
• …Climbing the Stairs is already climbing the charts and its official publishing date isn’t until May… In a letter that accompanied a special galley mailing of the novel, Douglas Whiteman, executive vice president of Penguin, called the book “ a beautifully written story of love, loss and the power of one’s beliefs” and a “truly special book” which is “fascinating and heart-breaking, but redeeming at the same time.”…”
o Jan Wenzel, Quad Angles
• …Young Adult novels are difficult to review for several reasons…the genre “Young Adult literature” is in itself a tricky label because it assumes that the book will be predominant read by just one particular narrow cultural subset…Thankfully, Padma Venkatraman has put a few of these issues to rest, or at least rendered them temporarily irrelevant…one of the most successful aspects of the novel is…open-ended…allows her thematic questions to resonate more fully and widely…Venkatraman should encounter success, I suspect, since her first foray into fiction is an enjoyable addition to the genre – whichever genre you choose to put it into, that is.”
o Evan P. Schneider, Newport Mercury
• The book explores many themes – a young girl’s coming of age; feminism, colonialism;
and the Hindu tenets of nonviolence. Venkatraman did not intentionally write an allegory
of the war in Iraq, but she recognized that the book can be read that way…Marketed by G. P. Putnam’s Sons as a young adult novel…[i]n its language and subtlety, it reads like an adult novel…Readers who ignore such labels will find a rich, complex story…”
o Betty Cotter, The South County Independent
• It is not everyday that someone who’s made a professional career out of field science becomes a book author…But…Despite pursuing a career in decidedly left-brain oriented disciplines, Venkatraman says fiction writing has always been her passion…Climbing the Stairs has already received several positive reviews, snagging a Book Sense “notable pick” …as well as …starred reviews from Booklist magazine and Publishers Weekly. It has also been nominated for Reading Across Rhode Island, a state-sponsored project that promotes reading…
o India New England, 2008 Woman of the Year Finalist Supplement

Monday, March 30, 2009


Climbing the Stairs won the Julia Ward Howe Boston Authors Club Young Readers Award!
The award will be presented on May 7th at the Boston Public Library!
The honors CLIMBING THE STAIRS has thus far received include:
• Winner, Boston Authors Club Young Readers Julia Ward Howe award
• Pennsylvania School Library Association Top Forty (or so) YA reading list
• Bank Street College of Education Best Book
• New York Public Library Best Book for the Teen Age
• Capitol Choice
• Booklist Editor’s Choice for the Best Books of the year
• Booklinks Best New Books for the Classroom Selection
• ALA/YALSA Best Books for young adults
• Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choice
• National Council of Social Studies/ Childrens Book Council Notable Social Studies Trade Book
• Children’s Literature Network Top 25 Books of the past two years
• ALA/Amelia Bloomer Book
• Publishers Weekly Flying Start
• Shortlisted for Reading Across Rhode Island
• Shortlisted for Maine State Awards
• Shortlisted for Utah State Awards
• Starred review, Booklist
• Starred review, Publishers Weekly
• Starred review, VOYA (5Q 4P)
• Excellent reviews in Kirkus and School Library Journal
• Booksense Notable, 2008

Monday, October 13, 2008


I'm going on a mini-tour this week! Here is the information:
Thursday Oct 16th 10:30 a.m. at Politics and Prose, Washington DC
5015 Connecticut Avenue NW; ph: 202 364 1919
Friday, Oct 17th 2:00 p.m. at VIMS, Gloucester Point, VA 23062
1208 Greate Road; ph: 804 684 7000
Friday, Oct 17th 5:30 p.m. at The College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA
Washington 201 (old campus); for more information contact 757 221 2457
Saturday, Oct 18th 5:00 p.m. at Big Blue Marble Books, Philadelphia, PA
551, Carpenter Lane; ph: 215 844 1870
Sunday, Oct 19th 2:00 p.m. at Books of Wonder, New York City
18, West 18th Street; ph: 212 989 3270
The book will be on sale at all the events, which are free and open to the public.


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Blog Book Tour


I'll be stopping at other blogs to speak about Climbing the Stairs - trying to cover a slightly different theme that relates to the novel each day for the next two weeks. Here's the schedule!

  1. Thursday, May 22nd. Overview of the book and the different themes in the book, questions/issues of current and historical relevance raised in CLIMBING THE STAIRS, and information about writing and publishing at
  2. Friday, May 23rd. Exploring issues of faith, culture and colonization in CLIMBING THE STAIRS; Gandhi and Martin Luther King at Olugbemisola Perkovich’s blog (author of Eight Grade Superzero, coming in 2009).
  3. Saturday, May 24th. Travel, living in different Indian cities and different countries, how this has influenced my writing at
  4. Sunday, May 25th. Being a writing mom, finding time to write, parenthood and writing at
  5. Monday, May 26th. Where were the British colonies during WWII? A few funky facts I unearthed while doing background research for CLIMBING THE STAIRS at author Laura Purdie Salas’s blog.
  6. Tuesday, May 27th. CLIMBING THE STAIRS. The process of writing the novel, weaving together the different threads.
  7. Wednesday, May 28th. Oceanography, research and CLIMBING THE STAIRS. Making my schizophrenia work to my advantage. My (at least two) personalities. What it’s like to spend your 21st birthday on a research vessel at author Greg Fishbone’s blog.
  8. Thursday, May 29th. What exactly is that dot on the forehead all about? Arranged marriages, Women in India in the 1940’s, Indian marriages today, gender equality issues in CLIMBING THE STAIRS, anything else you ever wanted to know about India at author Carrie Jones’s blog.
  9. Friday, May 30th. The grand finale. Moving to America, Becoming an American, Multicultural writing at author Mitali Perkins’s blog.


Climbing the stairs - REVIEWS


From Institutional Review Journals

… an intricate and convincing backdrop of a conservative Brahmin home in a time of change… In an author’s note, Venkatraman comments on several elements of the novel, including Ghandhi’s nonviolent revolution, Indian volunteers in the British Army during World War II, and her family history…The striking cover art, which suggests Vidya’s isolation as well as the unusual setting, will draw readers to this vividly told story…


…Venkatraman makes a memorable debut with this lushly evoked novel set in India during WWII…More than a feisty Cinderella story (and yes, Vidya does find a prince), this novel vivifies a unique era and culture as it movingly expresses how love and hope can blossom even under the most dismal of circumstances…

STARRED REVIEW, Publishers Weekly

…Opening with the festival of Krishna Jayanthi, Venkatraman so skillfully weaves Hindu words, traditions, and religious festivals into her story that readers understand the vocabulary and appreciate the beliefs…Vidya achieves the psychic distance to ponder cultural and religious similarities and differences by way of her philosophically minded appa and her Jewish best friend. Mention of the indigo famine, of racism…and of “Ahimsa”, the tradition of nonviolence, bring Indian history to life on the page. With a delightfully strong female protagonist who struggles between tradition and the values she holds dear, this novel will capture the imaginations of many readers…

VOYA, 5 Q, 4 P review (“for all intents and purposes, this rating is the same as a STAR” says my editor)

…The novel excels in its detailed depiction of a Brahmin girlhood and family life during a time of intense social and political change…


…This is a poignant look at a young woman’s vigilance to break from expectations and create her own destiny amid a country’s struggle for independence…

School Library Journal

…After reading this fine, often heart-breaking novel, I noticed that it’s for “young adults.” Well, I’m a “youngish adult” and I loved it…

Sam Coale, The Providence Journal

…Readers who ignore such labels will find a rich, complex story…The book explores many themes – a young girl’s coming of age; feminism, colonialism; and the Hindu tenets of nonviolence…

Betty Cotter, The South County Independent

…A bestseller may be born in Westerly on Thursday…

Marshall Williams, The Westerly Sun

…an outstanding debut novel…

Dr. Susan Stan, Professor of English, Central Michigan University

…I couldn't put it down…It was so wonderful, well written, and I marveled at how you navigated the historical and political context, commenting and using it as a backdrop without letting it overwhelm the story…So many threads beautifully woven together…I like it that you never make the easy choices (or your character doesn't), and the way she needs to navigate her pride…The ending was so satisfying, as well, the way she learns and grows…

Kelly Easton, Author, Hiroshima Dreams

Anonymous reader reviews:

…I couldn’t put the book down once I started reading it…

…I thoroughly enjoyed the book…an exciting read…an exceptional job…

… I read Climbing the Stairs with fascination…a valuable novel…

…Your book is an outstanding one. Congratulations!…

…a fascinating and appealing story…

…Venkatraman portrays the highly individualized Vidya in a way that the reader can immediately connect to her…The plot is thrilling and I found myself having a hard time putting the book down… This is one of the best historical fiction novels I have read. ..The balance between plot and history makes it so enjoyable...I would most definitely recommend this book to any reader, especially one who loves historical fiction…

…I started your book over the weekend and could not put it down until I finished every page! I was very taken with Vidya--she was very three-dimensionally drawn--and really hated to see the story end…Maybe you can write a sequel!.. I love that you mixed in so much of the historical context, but also I got to learn more about Hinduism and the Indian culture and festivals…Many congratulations on an impressive work!...I just loved the book and will purchase copies for friends…

Links to online news and reviews:


Sunday, February 24, 2008

Climbing the Stairs - Author Events

Book reading/signing events scheduled for CLIMBING THE STAIRS
Thursday May 1 The Other Tiger Bookstore, Westerly, RI, 3:00-5:00
Tuesday May 6 University of Rhode Island, Multicultural Center, 12:00-2:00
Saturday May 17 Barrington Books, Barrington, RI, 2:00 p.m.
Sunday May 18 Front Steet Books, Scituate, MA, 2:00 p.m.
Saturday May 31 Books on the Square, Providence, RI, 2:00 p.m.
Saturday Jun 14 Wellesley Booksmith, Wellesley, MA, 2:00 p.m.
Saturday Jun 28 Bank Square Books, Mystic, CT, 3:00 p.m.
There will be Indian Music, Indian Food, and Indian Art and Craft activities at most of the above events.