Nikhil Out Loud by Maulik Pancholy

Hello, Maulik Pancholy! Welcome back to Watch. Connect. Read.! I’m OVERJOYED you’re here today to celebrate your forthcoming middle-grade novel, Nikhil Out Loud.  I love the wonderful energy of Nabi H. Ali’s cover illustration and David DeWitt’s cover design! You cannot help but cheer for Nikhil! 

Maulik Pancholy: Hi, Mr. Schu! And thank you so much for having me back! It’s always an honor to get to chat with you, and I can hardly believe that this time, it’s for my second novel! I’m so excited for this one to get into the world, and I’m grateful for your support.

It makes me very happy to hear your response to the beautiful cover that Nabi and David have created for Nikhil Out Loud. I find it stunning! I can’t believe how much movement and three-dimensionality it has. Nabi has so elegantly captured a range of emotions in Nikhil’s eyes and in his stance—which perfectly communicates his eagerness and hesitation in finding his place in the world. I love the bold colors, and it feels like the cover leaps off the page—all of which is just right for this book! I am a big fan of Nabi’s work—as well as his outspokenness as a queer, South Asian artist—and I am truly humbled by all the sophistication and joy he brought to this cover. I love, love, love it so much.

I love, love, love it so much, too! 

Scenario: You’re invited to booktalk Nikhil Out Loud to 7th-grade teachers. What do you share with them?

Maulik Pancholy: Nikhil Out Loud is about Nikhil Shah, a thirteen-year-old, gay, Indian-American boy, who plays the lead voice of Raj Reddy on the hit animated series Raj Reddy in Outer Space. Nikhil loves nothing more than being in the sound booth and disappearing into extraterrestrial worlds, where his character gets to save the galaxy—episode after episode—in twenty-two minutes and three commercial breaks. But real life isn’t so simple! And when Nikhil and his mom move to Ohio to help take care of his sick grandfather, he discovers that sometimes you have to find the power in using your own voice to stand up for the things you know are right.

It’s a story about the courage it takes to speak up, and the friends and family who help you along the way.

Please finish the following sentence starters:

Raj Reddy in Outer Space is a TV show I’d love to see in real life! Some of my favorite acting jobs have been getting to voice Baljeet on Phineas and Ferb and playing one of the first lead Indian American characters on a network cartoon on Sanjay and Craig. But a show about an Indian American, intergalactic kid detective who saves the universe? Come on! I’m all in! It was fun to imagine the outer space worlds Nikhil’s character gets to travel to and to flesh out a few of the supporting characters as well.

Story is…I feel like I should be asking you this question! I can’t wait for your book, The Gift of Story, to come out this May, and I’m honored you feature some of my words in it. To me, every interaction we have is an opportunity to tell our stories. I’m fascinated by the choices we make around how we present ourselves to others and what we choose to say. And I’ve come to learn that the more open I am, the more meaningful my interactions tend to be. It’s why I try to dig as deep as I can when I’m writing. Because I hope that a young reader will open up to something in themselves by seeing a vulnerable, honest character on the page. To me, that’s the power of story.

The Best At It was my debut novel! Nothing has felt more meaningful than getting to visit middle schoolers and hear their reactions to this book. I love seeing their eyes light up when they talk about Rahul, Bhai, Chelsea and the Auntie Squad. We’re currently developing it for television with HBO Max, so fingers crossed you’ll be seeing all these characters come to life in your living room sometime soon!

Thank you, Maulik! Congratulations! I hope to see you in NYC one day soon! 

Maulik Pancholy is an award-winning actor whose career has spanned hit television shows (Only Murders in the Building and 30 Rock), animated favorites (Phineas and Ferb, Sanjay and Craig, and Mira, Royal Detective), the Broadway stage, and films. He served on President Barack Obama’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and he is the cofounder of the antibullying campaign Act To Change. Maulik lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his husband, Ryan, and their dog, Arlo. His debut novel, The Best at It, was a Stonewall Honor Award winner.

Look for Nikhil Out Loud on October 11, 2022.


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