A Conversation With Nina Raman

On Monday evening, July 26, after I spent my day picnicking with my family eating biryani and gulab jamun, Nina Raman was just getting off work at her remote internship with NBCUniversal. And although we had wildly different days, Raman and I bonded over our love of writing. 

Raman, 20, may be a rising senior in university taking business and technology courses in Philadelphia, but she also happens to have an affinity for storytelling and the arts. She’s done everything from acting to songwriting to journalism. She’s particularly interested in writing for television and could see herself working in film in the future. Nevertheless, Raman’s love for storytelling all started with her love of books.

“I was always a big reader, ever since I was able to read,” Raman says. “I was so obsessed that I ended up telling people a lot about what I read…retelling those stories became one of my favorite things…People would tell me that I was always really good at capturing all of those details and how animated I was when talking about stories. That’s when I first realized I was a great storyteller.”  

From discovering her old writing journals from elementary school where every entry mentioned her wanting to be an author to her third-grade teacher bringing up how her writing was advanced for her age in a parent-teacher conference (shoutout to Mrs. Devlan!) to her dad telling her that he used to journal and get paid to write stories back in India, Raman felt like storytelling was something she was destined to do.

Now, Raman is the published author of her debut novel, Everything You Wanted, which was released back in April. The young adult mystery, a story which has been described as “Booksmart meets Knives Out,” follows two teenagers, Wren and Rohit, who are about to go to college but spend their whole time in high school focusing on studying. They decide to break out of their shells and do things they wouldn’t normally do, but when someone ends up dead the next morning, two straight-A students have to figure out how things took a turn for the worst by becoming vigilantes to solve this murder. 

Raman drew inspiration from her own experience in high school, especially when it came to her main characters’ internal conflicts. 

“One of the biggest themes in my book is the battle of perfection,” Raman says. “Sometimes we’re always trying to be the best, but then sometimes the best isn’t enough, or sometimes you feel like you can never be the best. It’s always this game of tug of war. I used to care so much about that, and even though Wren and Rohit are academically smarter than I am, I took inspiration from parts of my life where I wanted so badly to be perfect at something, like getting a B on an English essay when I’m supposed to be good at writing and using that in my book. But writing those feelings down helped a lot, and it made me realize the sooner you’re comfortable in your own skin, the closer you are to the best version of your life.”

As someone who identifies as South Indian American, Raman really wanted to include representation that authentically showcased members of that community. Rohit, one of her main characters, is South Indian, and Raman took a lot of her own experiences and frustrations and interwove them with his character. 

“I originally didn’t write [Rohit] as a South Indian character,” Raman admits. “But when I revisited, I was like, ‘He has to be Indian.’ There’s a story that I need to tell here that I think so many other Indian kids are going to be able to relate to. I don’t see a ton of books where there are Indian characters, let alone South Indian characters. A lot of times in the media, if someone is Indian, they’re probably North Indian, which is a very different culture. There’s also a lot of colorism, and North Indians tend to be lighter-skinned. South Indians [tend to be] very traditional and also dark-skinned. So I needed to make sure to include that in my book.”

Writing Everything You Wanted was a challenge in itself since she was fighting against a lot of the expectations that were in place for her as a South Asian woman. 

“Artists are some of the most strong and courageous people out there,” Raman says. “But it can be hard for [South Asian] writers whose community may degrade their passion because it isn’t seen as anything besides a hobby…But I’m lucky that I have a lot of people in my life who do support my book, and that in itself makes a dent in how the overall [South Asian] community feels about writing as a career…The publishing industry, too, is hard to break into as a [woman of color], and it always needs more work…You just need to find people who will cheer you every step of the way.”

Raman is hoping to publish more books in the future and recently started the first book in a series, although she is looking to publish a hardcover edition of Everything You Wanted soon. She has also written a sitcom pilot and is hoping to pitch it soon, so her writing career is only beginning, and everyone should be excited to see where her talents will take her.

“You always have to be your #1 cheerleader,” Raman says. “You have to believe in yourself 110 percent. If you don’t believe in your work, no one else will…Find that support system, and you can only grow from there.”

You can find Nina Raman on Instagram and TikTok to get updates on her writing. You can purchase a copy of Everything You Wanted now on Barnes and Noble and Amazon

Nina Raman studied at Temple University, pursuing her degree in Management Information Systems with the goal of working in entertainment. From a young age, Nina loved the art of storytelling and being able to provide others with connections they may not have in their daily lives. She believes a story’s characters are our friends, family, teachers, and lovers. Raman is always thinking of who the world may need next. She plans to keep writing for the page and one day for the big screen.

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