Press Publications recently interviewed Shoreview resident Preeti Mathur about the publication of her first book, “From Seven Rivers to Ten Thousand Lakes.”
Q. Tell us a little about
A. My husband, Anoop, and I have lived in Shoreview since 1981. Our adult children, daughter Shruti and son Sujan, both graduated from Mounds View schools. Anoop and I grew up in Hyderabad, India. Both of us got our graduate degrees from the University of Minnesota.
Although I came with a master’s degree in Journalism from India, I had to repeat it here because in 1979, they did not have the means of verifying the program to grant me the credits. Similarly, when I graduated and again, because of the times, I just could not get a job as a journalist. I then fell into technical writing and have been working as an independent consultant doing technical documentation and training for many major corporations.
I call myself a “serial volunteer” because of my penchant for volunteering for many worthy organizations and causes such as our kids’ schools, Boy Scouts, the nursing home where my father lived, and our neighborhood. I have been on the board of Literacy Minnesota (formerly Minnesota Literacy Council) and the India Association of Minnesota, and was the founding member of the School of India for Languages and Culture (SILC).
Q. Is “From Seven Rivers to Ten Thousand Lakes” the first book you’ve written?
A. Yes; even though I have authored and edited over 60 technical manuals and developed several technical training programs, this is my first book of this kind.
Q. What inspired you to write this book?
A. I was invited and formally commissioned by the Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS) to write this book.
The idea for the book came about due to the efforts of a couple of visionary leaders in the Indian community and the India Association of Minnesota. Back in the 1990s,
they approached MNHS with the idea of doing an oral history project for the growing Indian community. Between 1993 and 2013, nine projects were completed documenting the experiences of various individuals and organizations from the Indian community. That was the first start in documenting the presence of Indian Americans in Minnesota.
Then in 2016, a traveling exhibit from the Smithsonian called “Beyond Bollywood” was brought to the Minnesota History Center. My husband and I were part of an advisory committee that was formed to help the curators localize the exhibit to include Minnesotan Indians. The curators of this exhibit asked me to write a 3,000-word article on Indian Americans in Minnesota for their website, called Mnopedia. The article, “From the Ganges to the Land of 10,000 Lakes” was published in 2017.
On the heels of the “Beyond Bollywood” exhibit came the idea for a book on Indian Americans that was missing from the Minnesota Historical Society Press’ series, called “People of Minnesota.” India Association of Minnesota, with funding from the Dr. Dash Foundation, approached MNHS to produce a book that would be similar to other books but would be coffee-table size and in color! The book,
the first of its kind, would serve as
a primer on Indian Americans and be a resource, especially to schools
It was then I was asked by the director of publications of MNHS if I would write this book. I remember thinking that it would be an easy and quick job and I would simply expand on the article I had written earlier. Was I ever wrong! The book took more than a year to write, and I had to take time off from my job to complete it.
Q. Provide a brief overview and main purpose of writing “From Seven Rivers to Ten Thousand Lakes.”
The book provides an overview of the Indian people. It describes the three waves and the conditions that spurred their immigration to Minnesota; the experiences of settling in the state and establishing a community here; the professional, political and economic contributions of Indian Americans in Minnesota, including both permanent and visiting residents; and the pursuit and celebration of cultural and religious traditions in this, their adopted home.
The book contains statistics and research data and also many photographs, personal stories and vignettes that are informative even for a casual reader.
The book was written with
• To communicate and thus promote an understanding of this large immigrant group. The intention is that it will hopefully bring down the walls and divisions that seem to have been created these days about people or views that are different from your own.
• To make people aware of the many contributions that Indians have made to Minnesota. While the book is certainly not a comprehensive Who’s Who of the Indian community, it gives examples of many of the contributions made by members of this community.
• To help second-generation and newly arrived Indian Americans learn the history of this community.
A. What do you hope readers will gain from the book?
With over 50,000 people of Indian origin now in Minnesota, I am hoping that after reading my book, people can have meaningful conversations and discussions with colleagues, clients and neighbors of Indian-American origin. I sincerely believe, “communication is the beginning of understanding.”
Q. Who are your favorite authors?
A. I am an “equal-opportunity” reader. I love to read a wide variety of books and authors. Often, I have several books on my nightstand and alternate between them.
For escapist fare, I enjoy mysteries, especially the cozy ones with a strong woman protagonist.
Q. Where can Press readers find
A. The book is available on Amazon; all metropolitan libraries, including the Shoreview library; and at the MNHS book store and its website at https://shop.mnhs.org/products/seven-rivers-ten-thousand-lakes.
Q. Do you have any plans for future works?
A. Currently, I do not have any plans in the works. I am hoping to retire from technical writing and return to my journalistic roots. I also would like to pursue my dreams of writing for children and perhaps complete stories of my life which I have started writing (through Storyworth.com, a gift our children gave us). I hope to make these short narratives into a memoir, not so much for publication but more for my grandkids and posterity.
Q: Anything else you would like to add?
A: India is a very diverse country, and the Indian American community here reflects this diversity. Due to this, it was very difficult to generalize and describe various facts about the Indian community. Each time I documented something, I could think of many exceptions or differences to what I had described. In the end, I tried to cover as many aspects and facts as I could to give a bird’s-eye view of this diverse community.
Secondly, although I was able to draw a lot of the content for the book from my own experience of living in this community as well as from archival research, I could not have done it all without the help of many members of both the Indian community, particularly the people I’d interviewed, as well as the staff of Minnesota Historical Society, especially my editor, Shannon Pennefeather.
— Compiled by Noelle Olson