A Q&A with The Way You Make Me Feel Author Nina Sharma

By Rachel Tran | March 19 2024 | NewsFrom the Author

Q: What is your fondest memory of the library?

A: My fondest memory of the library is going to New Jersey’s Woodbridge Public Library—the main library. I loved everything about it. I loved the look of the building—a massive 70s-era modernist building. I loved that bridge that arcs over the entrance. If you went under it, you went to the children’s section. If you crossed over it, you were on the adult floors—which is where my two older sisters went, so of course I wanted to tag along. It all felt so epic—the enormous set of card catalogs, the circulation desk that always felt bigger than me, the extensive stacks. It felt formidable and yet I wanted in and I’m so grateful for all the librarians who never treated me like a tag-along kid sister but said “come in, we take you seriously.” I am grateful especially to the librarians who, when the time came, helped me with my school term papers, mentoring me through my digging and hunting and vetting of sources. One of my sharpest memories is a librarian helping me learn to use the microfilm machine. When I think about my love of researched-based writing it all comes back to that moment—learning how to set the film into the machine, locking it in place, zooming to the piece of the archive you were looking for, lingering at the pages before and after. It was my first experience of realizing research has to be a tactile thing, something you do with both your mind and body.

Q: Libraries are beloved for their sense of community. Do you remember a time when your library worked to bring the community together?

A: The existence of this building was an act of community building! From first opening its doors in the 1800s as Barron Library, currently, the Woodbridge Library System serves over 100,000 individuals across four locations. Thank you Woodbridge Library for taking me under your massive wing, thank you for doing the same for so many readers and writers. The library has always been dedicated to bringing community together and to plug something current, with the support of grant funding from the County, in June of last year Woodbridge Library did an exhibit, which is now virtual: Black Americans in Woodbridge History: From Unseen to Seen. They worked with an amazing local artist, S. Scott, who was able to create mixed-media pieces that visually represented the research the library did on historical Black lives in the Township. Shout out to Librarian Julie for all this information!

Q: Did the library play a role in any part of your process while writing The Way You Make Me Feel?

A: I relied on the library of my workplace—Barnard and Columbia Library for my research. I especially am grateful to call Barnard librarian Vani Natarajan a friend. My advice to all writers, to anyone really, is make an appointment with a librarian. So much comes through in a conversation that you might not otherwise realize you had in you—you name research key terms and ideas together which become your search terms as you hunt. When working on researched-based nonfiction, I often hit the point in my writing where I ask myself “how much can this story hold,” meeting with them helped me not only discover my archive but also make it equally expansive and specific.

Q: What’s one takeaway you hope readers will learn from The Way You Make Me Feel?

A: Coming into my body of research for The Way You Make Me Feel was incredible. It was as much of the romance of this book as the love story. Engaging with the research, finding my sources and conversation partners, made the book feel more and more me. It was an act of self expression in a profound way. I hope what readers take away from The Way You Make Me Feel is that thinking critically about allyship and solidarity can be the greatest love story of your life.

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The Way You Make Me Feel
Love in Black and Brown
A hilarious and moving memoir in essays about love and allyship, told through one Asian and Black interracial relationship