Akhil Sharma has won the International DUBLIN Literary Award for his novel Family Life. I spoke to him about writing the novel (it took twelve years). "So much of what being a writer is is learning to manage your head," he says, commenting on the discipline needed to show up at your desk every day. "All writers write badly most of the time. Philip Roth has said that the first 180 pages of any book that he writes are rubbish." Does Sharma think that Family Life is an immigrant novel? "It's occurring within a specific community, but everything occurs within a specific community. Sons and Lovers is occurring within a specific community. That community for Lawrence matters for the book -- it matters for the opportunity the characters have. It matters for the choices they make. In the end, the more specific a community, the more universal these experiences tend to be."
That said, Sharma acknowledges that living in the United States presents opportunities he probably wouldn't have if his family had remained in India. "I'm a writer because economically it's possible to be a writer in America. It's not possible to be a writer in most places in the world. I can make a little bit of money writing fiction, I can make a little bit of money writing journalism, I can make a little bit of money teaching."
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