Rupi Kaur takes the Proust questionnaire
Rupi Kaur's debut book of poetry, milk and honey, was originally self-published when she was 22. It's a very personal collection, full of heartbreak, trauma and recovery, and it struck a deep chord with young women in particular. The rest is history: The book was picked up by an American publisher when it took off on social media, and today there are estimated to be a million copies in circulation.
Rupi Kaur answers The Next Chapter's version of the Proust questionnaire. This interview originally aired on January 9, 2017.
Name your favourite writers.
I love Roald Dahl, Sharon Olds, Nizar Qabbani, who is a poet, and Junot Díaz.
Tell me about your favourite character in fiction.
My favourite character in fiction was probably either James from James and the Giant Peach or Ender from Ender's Game. They were just ordinary people who were living under various amounts of struggle. Just to follow their journeys and see them break out of that and live extraordinary lives — I think that gave me a lot of hope as a kid.
Who is your favourite painter?
I have always been a fan of Salvador Dalí, but Amrita Sher-Gil, who was an Indian-Hungarian painter, is another favourite. She was painting Indian women, and growing up here, I'd never seen anyone paint Indian women, so that was really incredible to see a painting of someone who looks like you. I think that has a lot of impact on you. And then Salvador Dalí's work is just like a maze. It's incredible — you can look at the same painting a hundred times and see something new every single time.
What is your favourite occupation?
I would give anything to sing like Beyoncé or Adele. I've said many times to my friends that if I could sing like them, I would give up poetry and writing.
What is your favourite journey?
I've been thinking a lot about the journey of my parents — just seeing the sacrifices they've made to allow me to do what I do. How much of a difference their sacrifices have made through the generations. I was born in India, and we came from a poor family and lived in a rural village. My dad came over to Canada as a refugee, and years later we were able to join him.
Who are your favourite heroes in real life?
I'm currently fangirling a lot over the Amal Clooneys of the world.
What is your favourite place in Canada, and why?
I like B.C. because it's so beautiful. But I think Toronto's the greatest place because every corner of the world is here. I can go to all these cool places around the world, but when we land at YYZ, I'm like, "Yes!" It's flat, it's concrete, I'm okay with this, my people are here. And driving into the city, even if it's crazy on the Gardiner Expressway, I'm happy when I'm back.
Rupi Kaur's comments have been edited and condensed.