New KTCO: Rowan Hisayo Buchanan

This week on Keep the Channel Open, I'm talking with writer Rowan Hisayo Buchanan. Rowan’s second novel, Starling Days, is a beautiful story about the complex love between the book’s two protagonists, Mina and Oscar, and their respective challenges in the wake of Mina’s suicide attempt. Starling Days explores family and love in many forms, and how people both connect and separate. In our conversation, Rowan and I discussed the depiction of mental illness in her book, how she approached writing the multifaceted relationships between the book’s characters, and why it was important to her to include multiracial characters. Then in the second segment, we talked about faith and how we make and find meaning.

Here are some links where you can listen to the episode:

You can also listen to the full episode and find show notes and a transcript at the episode page on the KTCO website.

Starling Days is now available in paperback, and you can purchase a copy wherever books are sold. I highly encourage you to pick up a copy from an independent bookseller like Pages of Hackney in London, Greenlight Bookstore in New York, The Book Catapult in San Diego, or your local bookstore.

A few pieces that I found helpful in putting both our conversation and the book in context:

  • The first piece of Rowan's writing that I'd ever encountered was her essay "The Woman Scared of Her Own Kimono." The idea of being a stranger to your own ancestral culture is one that we discussed in our conversation, and one that's very relevant to the character of Oscar in Starling Days
  • In addition to being a writer, Rowan is also an illustrator. Her comic "An Agnostic's Longing" has a quiet, elegiac beauty to it, and I think it provides a good companion for some of what we discussed around faith and language.
  • Right around the time of the US publication of Starling Days, Rowan published an essay with LitHub called "How To Write a Novel When Everyone You Love Might Be Losing It." In it, she writes about negotiating wellness and sickness, and how even though fiction draws from real-life experience, it's not the same as autobiography.