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March 10, 2020

By Sofia P. '26 and Mollie Glasser '06

On February 26, the 6th Graders at Fieldston Middle School gathered in the Student Commons to hear from Neela Vaswani, co-author of “Same Sun Here.” 

For the past three years, 6th Grade English classes have studied this epistolary novel, which Vaswani co-wrote with Silas House. The novel is set in 2008 and features letters written between a twelve-year-old girl, Meena, living on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, and a twelve-year-old boy, River, living in Kentucky. Though the two seem to live in vastly different versions of America, they quickly connect over their shared love of okra, the challenges of having fathers who work far from home, and their close relationships with their grandmothers. 

Vaswani opened her presentation by reading from the text in the voice she imagined for her character, Meena. Upon concluding her reading, Vaswani opened the floor to questions from students who were eager to inquire about her inspiration behind the book. Students wondered about which elements of the novel came directly from Vaswani’s own life, whether or not the characters were based on real people, and how she and House approached the process of co-writing a novel in letters.

Following her presentation to the entire 6th Grade, students in 6th, 7th, and 8th Grade were invited to join Vaswani in the Tate Library for a more intimate literary lunch. Over pizza and baked goods, about 20 students engaged in further discussion of the text. Within minutes, students had their books open, referencing annotations and inquiring about the writer’s process and craft. 

Sofia P. ’26, who attended Vaswani’s presentation and joined the author for lunch, had the following to say about the event:

“Same Sun Here” was a very eye-opening read. Personally, I saw this as an amazing opportunity to learn about the book, the author, the inspiration behind these wonderful characters, and the writing process in general.

In addition to speaking to the whole 6th Grade, Vaswani also had lunch with a smaller group of students, including some 7th and 8th Graders. The lunch was very fun. We talked and asked many questions about the book, the process of writing the book, and writing in general. She even asked the students some questions. At the end, some of us got our books signed by Vaswani and went on our way, feeling excited and inspired to write.”