Ellen Hu ’24
In 2015, Scripps alumna Rena Patel ’19 had a revelation as she sat in Toll while listening to The Fratellis’ “Me and the Devil.” “It feels like a song where you can do a catwalk and strut it,” she said. “I was like, ‘this needs to be a story.’”
To Patel, the song told the story of “a man who had nothing to lose and everything to gain.” With this in mind, she wondered what would motivate a person to even consider making a deal with the devil.
What emerged from this thought was the basis of her new book, Here We Stand, expected to be released in December. The story, set in New York City, follows hidden Mafia informer Alex Scholari as he meets reporter Aryana Parekh and then dies. In death, he realizes his motivation for living.
Yet, as an eighteen-year-old new college student, Patel knew that she wasn’t mature enough to write Here We Stand. She wanted to tell the story of grown characters and at the time she felt like she didn’t know enough about the world, and herself, to do the book justice.
Over the next four years, Patel’s experiences at Scripps impacted the way she wanted her story told and brought attention to questions she wanted to address. One of those topics was the concept that “women can only be one thing.”
Patel noted that there’s often a disconnect between the way men view women’s motivations and the way women are actually motivated.
“I made a conscious effort to make sure that the motivations of my women characters were multifaceted and were things that they wanted and not things that depended on someone else,” Patel said.
These efforts are staged through her character Aryana, a reporter for the New York Times who is investigating a story that none of her co-workers believe is real. While at Scripps, Patel acted as the Editor-in-Chief of The Scripps Voice and this experience impacted the way she wanted to portray Aryana.
“A lot of inspiration for her character and her job did come from my time at The Voice,” Patel said. “It was really fun to go back into that and relive what investigative journalism is like.”
Aryana was one of Patel’s favorite characters to write because she got the chance to tap back into the journalism world and her heritage.
“Arya shares a very similar background to me because sometimes writing what you know is the best option,” Patel said.
“There are so many different cultures that encompass the identity of South-Asian that I don’t think I could do any other identity but something similar to my own and do it justice in the way that it deserves,” Patel said.
Her identity as the daughter of South-Asian immigrants has also brought her to address perception in Here We Stand: both how people project themselves when with different people as well as how others unpack others’ projections.
“You’re constantly scrutinized so you put on a certain perception,” Patel said regarding her experiences growing up. “You are conscious of what person you are portraying to other people when you’re in certain places.”
“If you’re constantly aware of that and constantly doing that, you’re shifting the way you want people to view you,” Patel added. “Are you ever letting anyone see who you are?” Patel believes that all of the characters in her book do this. As a result, she hopes that readers walk away asking if they truly know the people they love.
It wasn’t until her senior year that Patel felt she could start writing the book. “The journey from being a little baby freshman to being a senior and doing a thesis, you will learn so much about yourself,” Patel said.
Early renditions of the book were drafted in her Advanced Fiction Writing workshop with Assistant Professor of English Leila Mansouri. At the time, Patel remembers the story was still in development and described the process as piecing together a puzzle.
After pitching her idea to hybrid publishing company New Degree Press, they agreed to publish her book if it was well-written and submitted on-time. As a result, Patel began putting everything together at the beginning of 2020.
Patel, now a student at Loyola Law School, says that the book is currently in its last stages before publishing. She expects it to come in December where it will be available to purchase on Amazon and Indiepop.
Image Source: IndieGoGo