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Eighteen years old and fizzing with optimism, Solimar Castro-Valdez embarks on a perilous journey across the Mexican border. Weeks later, she arrives in Berkeley, California, dazed by first love found then lost, and pregnant. This was not the plan. Undocumented and unmoored, Soli discovers that her son, Ignacio, can become her touchstone, and motherhood her identity in a world where she’s otherwise invisible.

Kavya Reddy has created a beautiful life in Berkeley, but then she can’t get pregnant and that beautiful life seems suddenly empty. When Soli is placed in immigrant detention and Ignacio comes under Kavya’s care, Kavya finally gets to be the singing, story-telling kind of mother she dreamed of being. But she builds her love on a fault line, her heart wrapped around someone else’s child.

“Nacho” to Soli, and “Iggy” to Kavya, the boy is steeped in love, but his destiny and that of his two mothers teeters between two worlds as Soli fights to get back to him. Lucky Boy is a moving and revelatory ode to the ever-changing borders of love.

Sekaran delves fearlessly...Brilliantly agonizing.


Sekaran makes no easy judgments. She does the hard work of a thorough fiction writer and presents flawed characters aching with humanity...Lucky Boy pulses with vitality, pumped with the life breath of human sin and love.


Topical and timely, but thankfully neither pedantic nor preachy, Sekaran's book invites the reader to engage empathetically with thorny geopolitical issues that feel organic and fully inhabited by her finely rendered characters. 


[H]umanizes current discussions of immigration, privilege, and what it means to be an American. ...Sekaran evokes compassion for all the principals involved in the story... highly recommended and would be a strong choice for book clubs. 

- LIBRARY JOURNAL (starred review)

Library Journal Top 10 Books of 2017

Women's National Book Association Best Books of 2017

Amazon Editors' Pick 2017

Barnes & Noble Best Book of 2017

Winner, Housatonic Book Award

Booklist Great Group Reads of 2017

San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of 2017

NPR  Best Book of 2017

Sekaran is a master of drawing detailed, richly layered characters and relationships; here are the subtly nuanced lines of love and expectation between parents and children; here, too are moments of great depth and insight. A superbly crafted and engrossing novel.  
KIRKUS REVIEWS (starred review)


The Samosa Rebellion

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Before his grandmother moved from India to the island of Mariposa, Muki Krishnan’s life was good. But now? He has to share his bedroom with Paati, his grandmother, who snores like a bulldozer and wakes him up at dawn to do yoga.

Paati’s arrival coincides with even bigger changes in Mariposa. The president divides citizens into Butterflies—families who have lived in Mariposa for three generations—and Moths, who, like Muki’s family, are more recent immigrants. The changes are small at first. But then Muki and his friends find a camp being built to imprison Moths before sending them away. Soon after, his Paati is captured and taken there.

While devising Paati’s escape, Muki discovers that a secret rebellion is underway, and as he digs deeper, he realizes that rescuing Paati will be the fight of his life. (For ages 8-13)

The Samosa Rebellion is an extraordinary, thoroughly engrossing read. Warm and charming in its exploration of family and friendship, it’s also sharp and clear-eyed in its depiction of a country’s frightening slide toward an anti-immigrant nationalism.  — Trenton Lee Stewart, New York Times bestselling author of The Mysterious Benedict Society series 

Sekaran explains systemic racism and the dangers of demagoguery in clear and age-appropriate ways with evocative prose. Breathtakingly memorable.  — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Sekaran’s world-building is compelling and distinctive, never overtaken by the story’s clear message about intolerance. The character names (the president answers to ‘Bambi’; Tinley’s dad is ‘Doggy’) bring a touch of the ridiculous to the book’s otherwise sober exploration of prejudice and authoritarianism; and Muki’s vivid enthusiasm makes him a compelling protagonist.  — Horn Book Magazine


An effective novel-length parable that tracks how microaggressions mask, and then escalate into, political policy and how the fortunes of legal residents can turn on a dime... A useful reading prompt for classroom discussion.  — Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

The Samosa Rebellion is a fascinating journey which seamlessly makes inventive parallels to our current issues of immigration, racism, classism, and xenophobia. A thought-provoking, fast-paced, and heartfelt adventure!”  — Veera Hiranandani, Newbery Honor–winning author of The Night Diary

Sharp, incisive, and layered, The Samosa Rebellion is a deftly written, lovingly realized novel that is at once a page-turner and a call to action. Sekaran’s characters are warm and passionate and impossible not to root for, and their story is urgent and nuanced and relentlessly readable. — Corey Ann Haydu, acclaimed author of One Jar of Magic

A strong commentary on the anti-immigrant sentiment prevalent in our own country. — Booklist (starred review)

Shanthi Sekaran.jpeg

Shanthi Sekaran is a novelist and television writer. Her most recent adult novel, Lucky Boy, was named an Indie Next Great Read, an Amazon Editor's Pick and a Best Book of 2017 by NPR, Barnes & Noble, Library Journal and the San Francisco Chronicle. Her essays have appeared in The New York Times, Huffington Post, The Rumpus and Salon. 


In 2021, her middle grade debut, The Samosa Rebellion, won the Northern California Book Award and was named an Amazon Editor's Pick for readers aged 9-13.


Her second middle grade novel, Boomi's Boombox, came out in Spring 2023. She recently wrapped up her work on the acclaimed NBC medical drama, "New Amsterdam". She lives in Berkeley, California with her family and a cat named Frog.

Why I write novels for kids

I’ve spent most of my writing life writing for adults, but in 2008, when I had my first child, my life changed, and so did my reading habits. As most parents know, when you have kids, you end up reading a lot of kid lit. For me, this was a wonderful thing. I rediscovered the beauty and brilliance of writers I grew up reading (Roald Dahl, Beverly Cleary, Arnold Lobel, Tomie DePaola, Zilpha Keatley Snyder). I also discovered authors writing the books I wish I’d had as a kid (Sayantani Dasgupta, Mitali Perkins, Jacqueline Woodson, RJ Palacio, Jerry Craft, Rebecca Stead and so many others!)


In the fall of 2019, I found myself writing a new book, one for adults. The problem was, I was stuck. I’d somehow forgotten how to just sit down and write a story. The adult book I was working on was mired in heavy concept, layers of meaning, but no real story. I still love writing literary fiction, and will always return to it. But I needed to try something new. So, I put my adult novel away. 


I returned to my earliest love: children’s literature. I thought about the books I’d spent my childhood summer days with, sun-warmed and half-asleep in my house’s reading nook. I thought about the books that make my kids laugh and think and ask questions. There’s a clarity of purpose in children’s literature that sometimes goes missing in adult books: Kids want good stories. They want interesting characters. They want stuff to happen.


I decided, as an experiment, to return to the basics of storytelling and try writing a book for kids. I decided I’d give myself three months to try it out, see if I liked it. As it turns out, I LOVED IT. Slowly, on my days off from teaching, on weekends and late nights, my middle grade book started to grow.


As I wrote, I learned that writing a middle grade novel was anything but “basic”. What started as a simple story of a boy and his grandmother took on a life of its own. It grew larger and more adventurous than I ever could have predicted. After a year of writing and thinking and learning about butterflies and moths, The Samosa Rebellion was finished. Writing it was maybe the most fun I’ve ever had. It was so fun that a year later, I wrote Boomi's Boombox!


I can’t wait for you to read them.


April 29, 2023: Bagels with Writers @Page Street

Bay Area Book Festival Prologue Event

297 Page Street, San Francisco

April 29, 2023: Linden Tree Books

Independent Bookstore Day

265 State Street
Los Altos, CA 94022

May 7, 2023: Bay Area Book Festival

3 pm @ the Young Readers' Stage

Moderating You Are Here: Stories of Asian American Identity

Berkeley, CA


5 pm @ Mrs. Dalloway's Books

To guarantee a spot, register here for the event.

2904 College Ave. 

Berkeley, CA 94705

Click here to pre-order your copy from Mrs. Dalloway's!


LIT STARTS: Writing Dialogue


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For speaking engagements and event appearances, please email:

For press and rights queries, please contact Levine Greenberg Literary Agency, Inc.  Agent: Lindsay Edgecombe, 307 Seventh Avenue, Suite 2407, New York, NY 10001

Tel: 212.337.0934 | Fax: 212.337.0948 |

To schedule an interview with Shanthi Sekaran or request a review copy, please contact

Samantha Ruth Brown at

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