If she hadn’t come to Windsor to study law, her new novel “wouldn’t exist,” says Reema Patel (JD 2011).
Such Big Dreams, which will be released May 10 by McClelland & Stewart, draws on experiences she had during internships in Mumbai, one funded by the Canadian International Development Agency before she started law school, and a second during her legal studies.
“Fellowship money I received from the University of Windsor sent me on my human rights internship,” she recalls. “I wouldn’t have that perspective on the right to housing, on the work being done in human rights law, if it weren’t for that.”
Such Big Dreams tells the story of Rakhi, a former Mumbai street child working a soul-sucking administrative job at Justice for All, a struggling human rights law office where she is constantly underestimated and undervalued. Everything changes for her when she befriends new foreign intern Alex, the family friend of a fading Bollywood star looking to regain relevance by aligning herself with a social cause.
“I think the story is one a lot of us can relate to,” says Patel. “It tells of a very human experience.”
She started writing what became her debut novel when she enrolled in a creative writing program while articling in government in her hometown of Toronto.
“I felt there had to be more to life than this,” she says. “I needed a creative outlet.”
At first, she did not intend to pursue publication, but eventually came to think “maybe someone else would like to read this.”
And while like any author, she hopes her work finds readers, she has no immediate plans to give up her legal career. She works for the City of Toronto after stints in ombuds work and policy development for the provincial and municipal governments.
“I hope that my example shows pursuing education in one discipline doesn’t necessarily mean you should feel bound to a traditional career path,” says Patel. “Windsor Law especially supports students who want more out of their careers than making more money for corporations.”
She will join a panel discussion in advance of the Festival of Literary Diversity with fellow authors Tsering Yangzom Lama and Sonya Singh in conversation with Ann Y.K. Choi on Thursday, April 28. The online event is free and begins at 8 p.m. Register to attend.