Neesha Meminger was born to be a communicator. Whether through writing one of her six books or translating language and culture for her Indian-born parents, communication has always been at the center of her life. As the Director of the Writing Center at Monroe, Neesha emphasizes the importance of communication on a daily basis.
When Neesha moved to Canada from India at the age of five, she took it upon herself to learn English and study the culture of her new country. Her family lived next door to a Sikh temple in an effort to find familiarity and a sense of community, and Neesha acted as translator to her parents as she, herself, assimilated.
During their first year there, a group of young men set the temple on fire, demonstrating to Neesha that being Sikh made her different, and that the world was not as accepting as she thought – whether she conformed to a new culture or not.
Years later, as Neesha sat with her six-week-old daughter in her arms, she watched the events of 9/11 unfold and was transported back to the crime that upset her childhood. She thought, “What kind of world will my daughter grow up in?”
And so, Neesha began what started out as a love letter to her young daughter and was later published as her first book, Shine, Coconut Moon. The book speaks of a young Indian-American teenager growing up in a post-9/11 America. Though the book is not autobiographical – the main character is much more assimilated than Neesha initially was – it exposes similar struggles of acceptance and understanding of cultural differences.
Shine, Coconut Moon was recently highlighted on VanityFair.com, though it was only the beginning for Neesha. She has written five additional books, and plans to continue writing for as long as she is able to.
Neesha’s writing expertise is not the only asset that makes her perfect for her role as the Director of the Writing Center at Monroe College. Her life experiences are just as vital in helping her to relate to her students.
“I look around, and I see the students here having the same experiences that I had growing up,” she explains. “I can really relate to them. I was able to go from not speaking the language to writing novels in the language. I learned of the power of communication very early on.”
In addition to her role as the Director, Neesha also teaches one to two classes each semester – which, she finds, is very rich and rewarding.
“I really feel like my students and I are able to have an amazing, wonderful exchange,” she says. “I’ve gotten as much out of them as I hope they have out of me.”
The number one lesson that Neesha hopes to impress upon her students is that the ability to communicate is of the utmost importance – something she tries to convey on a daily basis.
“You may be brilliant, but if you go into an interview or class presentation and you can’t express yourself, no one will know of that brilliance. Whatever your major might be, you still have convey your knowledge in some way,” she says.