Conversations with members of the Harvard and Radcliffe Class of 1992.
Hosted by Will Bachman.

Episode: 4

Rajani Larocca,  Doctor and Newbery Honor-winning Author

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Show notes

Rajani was born in Bangalore, India before her family immigrated to the U.S. She 

attended Harvard College and Harvard Medical School and has been working as a primary care physician since 2001. A voracious reader as a child, books inspired her to pursue medicine and eventually turn to write stories of her own. She is now a celebrated and prize-winning children’s author. You can learn more about Rajani and her books at


Key points include:

  • 08:44: How her journey as an author began and where her ideas come from
  • 14:54: Rajani’s writing process
  • 23:02: How being a writer has changed how she moves through the world 
  • 30:25: Questions that help people tell their story

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Rajani Larocca


Will Bachman  00:01

Hello, and welcome back to the 92 report conversations with the Harvard and Radcliffe class of 1992. I’m your host will Bachman and I’m here today and what a thrill it is to be here today with Ragini Larocca Ragini. Welcome to the show.


Rajani Larocca  00:19

Will, I’m excited to be here.


Will Bachman  00:21

So Ragini won the John Newbery honor this week for her book, red, white and hole, one of her first interviews after that announcement. It’s been an NPR, Washington Post Ragini congratulations. That is amazing. Honor.


Rajani Larocca  00:39

Thank you so much. I, I’m still kind of stunned.


Will Bachman  00:44

So we’ll get into all of this, but just sort of the quick snapshot. You are a graduate of Harvard Medical School as well. Right and, and you’re a physician, but you’re also a celebrated and prize winning children’s author, with a whole set of books that you’ve written, Midsummer’s mayhem, seven golden rings, red, white, and whole bracelets for Venus brothers, much ado about baseball, where three oceans meet my little golden book about come out Kamala Harris, and the secret code inside you. Tell me a little bit about getting the call or finding out this week? How did you find out that you had, you know, book been selected as a John Newbery Honor winning book?


Rajani Larocca  01:35

Oh, my goodness, it is such a wild thing. So you know, what I will say is that, so the Newbery Award is the oldest Children’s Book Award in the world. It’s celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. And the interesting thing about it is that it is like the committee is made up of librarians that are all members of the American Library Association. And the selections are completely opaque. So unlike other awards, where you find out about nominations, or there’s a long list or anything like that, there’s nothing like that. So basically, nobody knows what’s going to happen until it happens. And what was really cool is that in the lead up to this, you know, this book of mine won a couple of other wonderful awards. So it won the 2021 New England book award that is from New England booksellers, which is amazing. And, and then like, last week, it one wins called the Walter Dean Myers Award, which is a pretty it’s about, I think, seven years old, a new award by an organization organization called We Need Diverse Books, celebrating diverse voices. So that came out of nowhere. And that’s it’s such an honor, and I’ll be going to an award ceremony in March in Washington, DC, which is so exciting. But then, you know, there was kind of buzz like, I guess you could say, on blogs on library blogs, and, you know, schools about this book, and the Newbery, and it was so gratifying and so exciting to see. But on the other hand, I also knew that nobody that was blogging about this had anything to do with the actual Newberg committee, obviously, that’s against the rules. So all you could do is kind of hope and wonder, and you know, try not to hope too much. But then Sunday night, I got a call from a Chicago area number. And I answered it, and the person said, Hi, this is so and so from the American Library Association. And I was like, Oh, my God, are you kidding me? It was crazy. And he said, Oh, wait, there’s an entire committee that would love to give you some really good news. So can you can we just call you back for a different number? And I was like, Sure. So the best part of this whole situation is that, you know, this is like such, like COVID time interaction, where they called me and it was a conference call, and it automatically muted me when I came on. So I’m sitting there going, hello, wow. There’s a recording that thing to unmute press. And every time the recording said, press, somebody talked on their end and said, Oh, she must be muted. And so it took like three tries for me to figure out what I needed to press was, so I was like, Oh, my goodness. This is, of course, the way it happens. But then it was just really lovely. They told me that my red, white and whole had won a Newbery Honor, which is such a just an unbelievable thrill. And then I sobbed, and I just told them how much this book meant to me. And I thank them, and they said, you know, they just said wonderful things. And then the whole committee, unmuted and just congratulated me. And that was it. And they told me that my publisher knew like a couple of days ahead of time. So then, you know, I talked to my editor, I talked to my agent he didn’t know only my publisher knew and they had to keep a secret for me. And then some other that the head of my imprint called me it was just completely lovely and just unbelievable. And then Monday, I didn’t have to keep it a secret for long. They told me that it was not public until the awards, you know, the announcements on Monday. So I just had to sleep, why didn’t really sleep? I didn’t sleep. And then I woke up the next morning, and we watched the cast the webcast. And it was so exciting. It was just unbelievable.


Will Bachman  05:13

I guess they tell the publisher, because they probably want to start cranking out the copies of the books with that little kind of medallion on the cover, right?


Rajani Larocca  05:21

Yes. Yes, they have to prepare them so they can get the machinery going. It’s crazy.


Will Bachman  05:28

Wow. And what has been the whole kind of publicity kind of machine? And you’ve been on? I think, you mentioned that NPR and Washington Post have covered this. And


Rajani Larocca  05:40

they’ve covered it, yes. They’ve mentioned. I mean, it’s not like I did interviews with them, but they have they’ve covered it. And, you know, it’s just, like, exciting thing and a lot of social media stuff. So like, my Twitter exploded, and I posted on Facebook, and that exploded and Instagram, it’s just been it’s been nuts. And it’s been so lovely to have all these people that I know, just reach out to me and you know, congratulate me. And I think the best part of it is just hearing from people who read the book. And we’re like, you know, this is a really special book, and we’re so we’re so happy. Like, we’re we’re not that surprised or whatever. I’m always surprised. I’m forever surprised when good things happen. But it’s just been, it’s just been a slew. It’s been wild. Yeah. So it’s just gotten, you know, it’s gotten mentioned in the press a bunch of times, and then, you know, we’ll see. So I’m just thrilled that this book is going to have a long, long life, and that it’s going to get into the hands have so many children.


Will Bachman  06:31

I mean, one thing about an honor like that is that, you know, it’s forever on Wikipedia, you look up Newbery Award winners from 1962, or 2022. And your book will be listed. So it’s kind of always going to be there where people like, Oh, I’m, I want to check out the Newbery Award winners from 2008 to you know, they’re gonna get it 50 years from now. So that’s pretty cool. It’s crazy. It’s for great. Yeah. And I didn’t know that you’d won, I must say. But I started reading the book this morning. Just, it is so lovely. Its layout the, the background of the book for listeners who have not, not read it?


Rajani Larocca  07:21

Sure. So red, white and whole. And this, I think, will speak to the Harvard 92 crowd. It is set in 1983. And it is about a 13 year old girl. So we were most of us were 13 in 1983. It’s about a 13 year old girl named Ray Hoff, who is the daughter of Indian immigrants. And she feels torn between the worlds of her parents and their community and her friends at school. And like most American teenagers, she wants to like wear cool clothes, listen to awesome pop music, and go to a middle school dance. But her parents and especially her mother, think that she has better things to do. And, you know, they they’re not really excited about her kind of embracing the American side of things. But then her mother gets leukemia. And Wainhouse world is turned completely upside down. And she feels that if she could just become the perfect daughter, the daughter that her parents want her to be, she can somehow save her mother’s life.


Will Bachman  08:22

Hmm. Talk to me a bit about your journey. from college to, to this point, what you know, you went through medical school? Was this always in the back of your mind writing to this come of all of a sudden? How did how did this book happen? And where did these books come from?


Rajani Larocca  08:44

That’s such a good question. So you know, I mean, I’ve always been a book lover, I was one of those kids that couldn’t stop reading. Like, I read everything novels, and nonfiction and comic books and comic strips and cereal boxes, and like receipts, like whatever I could get my hands on. And I did a lot of creative writing in high school. And even in college, I would say. And, you know, I remember loving writing. But I also knew from a very young age that I wanted to go into medicine, I was very interested in science and people from the very beginning. And so I just remember, I had a high school teacher, I was in his creative writing class. And I said to him, you know, I love writing, but I know this is not going to be my career. I know I want to go into medicine that’s like what really drives me. And he said to me, who says you need to choose, and he brought in all these books by authors who also happen to be doctors, and it kind of planted a seed in my head. Now I will say that all the books that he brought in were white men right by my men, which is not surprising given the time that we grew up. But he made me believe that these two things could coincide coexist, that I could be a doctor and An author someday, but I put the authoring stuff to the side. I did, I took a lot of logic literature classes when I was an undergrad at Harvard. But I didn’t. I don’t think I took any creative writing classes, but I do remember Gen Ed 105. That like though it was a rubber coals class, sure. And it was basically, like, I forget what it’s called, like, the literature of what is it social, something I can’t remember. Um, and I loved it. And it was basically a lot of it was a lot of personal essay writing, as I remember. And I loved it so much the literature of social reflection. That’s it, that’s it. And it was, it was an incredible class. And I felt like, I could delve into all kinds of things like little moments in my life that I found interesting. And, and reflect on them. And so that was, I feel like just a lovely way for me to keep writing something. When I was in college, even though I was like a government major and pre med, I had a, like, I had a full plate. But so I did that. And I really enjoyed that. And I think that was probably the Harvard course that most linked to what I did later on in my life. And then I went to medical school, and like, that was full time brain packing. So I didn’t do any writing when I was in medical school. And then I was president. And that was like, also, you know, 100 plus hours a week, and being exhausted all the time. And then I had my first child, so I married Lula. Raka, who’s also one of our alums, and, and we got married in 1995. And then we had her first child in 1999. And then like, you know, young motherhood, and then we had another, we had a daughter, three years later. So, you know, young motherhood and being a doctor, like really took up all my time. So I never really returned to writing until I can see like, 2011 or so when my kids were older, and they were in school. And I was, you know, I did my practice for a long time. And I felt comfortable. And so I started just taking writing classes first online, and then in person. And then I have to say, I met people in person. And once you meet a fellow writer, and they’re like, what happens next, you keep going. It became pretty evident early on that I wanted to write for children, because when I thought back on it, the books that made the biggest impact on me in my life, were the ones I read as a kid, even though I still read tons of books, and I love them as an adult, I just think that there is there is like a special joy to being a kid and finding a book that you love and having all these experiences vicariously. And I wanted to contribute to that body of literature. And so after years, and years and years of taking classes, and going to conferences, and getting critiques and doing all of this stuff. In 2017, I signed with my literary agent in 2018, we’ve sold like five or six books, and then we kept selling more. So that is like the general story of how I came to writing. And I’m still practicing medicine, and I still love it. But I I’m a doctor, for adults, I’m an internal medicine doctor at Mass General. But I love writing for kids.


Will Bachman  13:25

I was gonna ask you what happened in 2021? Because all that list of books that I had the beginning, at least according to Amazon, 123456 of them republished in 2021. So


Rajani Larocca  13:38

yes, it’s, well, that is just the way strange publishing works. So of those 620 21 books, let me think about this. Two were sold in 2022, were sold in 2019. And two were sold in 2018. So and they all just happen to publish in 2021, which was nuts. So it wasn’t planned. But sometimes that happens, and they were always different publishers. So it’s just, you know, crazy happenstance. But as you can tell, I’m a pretty prolific writer. And And luckily, I matched with an agent who likes, you know, who’s happy to sell to a bunch of different publishers. So that’s how it happened.


Will Bachman  14:26

You mentioned that special joy when you’re a kid and you find a book that really speaks to you. Some authors say that they’re kind of think about a specific person that they might be writing to. Are you when you write Are you thinking of a specific audience, a specific person perhaps, or some kind of Avatar of who you’re writing for, or talk about that a little bit?


Rajani Larocca  14:54

Well, so I have to say ultimately I ended up writing about things that I care about or I’m interested in. So perhaps you could say that I write the books that I wish that I had when I was a kid. I loved, like so many books. I love so many books when I was a kid. But, you know, growing up as an Indian immigrant in the United States, I never in the United States read any stories about anybody who was like me. And similarly, when I would go to India, we went every few years to visit my extended family. In India. I never read any stories about people who are exactly like me either. And it was not until I was an adult, that I finally read, I read Jhumpa Lahiri is I read her Interpreter of Maladies, the short stories, but then I read the namesake and I was like, Oh, my goodness, okay, here it is. This is this is the experience that I had. And it was World opening, right, it was mind blowing. And so I write a lot of things. I write a variety of books, so I write novels, you know. So I generally, all of my novels so far have been middle grade, so kind of ages eight to 13. And I write picture books and picture books range from the very little as kids like three to five year olds, all the way up to like, you know, I’ve seen I’ve got a picture book with some pretty sophisticated math in it, and you can use it in middle school easily. So, I write for a variety of age ranges, I write nonfiction as well as fiction. And I write in prose, and I wrote read and poetry, so read by then holes in poetry, but all of them are about things that I care about. And in my fiction, especially, almost all my characters, my main characters certainly are Indian American. And I, I just love that because, you know, stories with Indian American kids don’t just have to be about their, their particular culture, or the immigrant experience or anything like that. My debut novel, Midsummer’s mayhem is a mash up of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and competitive baking. It’s about a, it’s about an Indian American girl who likes to bake. So I just love that I can put characters like me into all kinds of stories. Because, you know, as I tell kids, when I see them for school visits, none of us is just one thing. And we shouldn’t feel hemmed in, by anything, we should feel free to express all different parts of our personalities.


Will Bachman  17:26

What sort of response have you got from kids from maybe Indian American kids who perhaps haven’t encountered a character like them before in in a book?


Rajani Larocca  17:40

It’s been incredible. I think what’s really, so I mean, I feel like I’ve gotten wonderful responses from all kinds of kids from all kinds of backgrounds, who may or may not share, you know, my particular background, but the Indian American kids in particular are like, Oh, my goodness, I totally, I totally get what you’re talking about. Or, you know, I read so in, when I talk to kids, I sometimes talk about Amar Chitra Katha is, which are these Indian comics that depicts kids from like, Indian mythology and history and literature. And they were like, universal when I was a kid, we all read them, they were so wonderful. They know that comic books are so appealing. And I mentioned that when I talk to kids at school visits, and so many of the Indian Indian American kids are like, Oh, I read them, too. What’s your favorite one, this is my favorite one. It’s like so interesting. And then I just love connecting with kids about how, you know, even though the stories are made up their fiction, that a lot of the emotions are true emotions, red, Whedon whole in particular, is based a lot upon how I felt when I was a kid. And all those circumstances are a little different for the character in the story. And kids tell me that all the time, they tell me, I feel like I have to be one person in one place and another person in in a different place. And like, how do you? How do you reconcile those two things? How do you how do you keep going, and one of the really wonderful things about being an adult writing for children is that you can talk to kids about situations like this and be like, you know, the most wonderful thing I’ve discovered as I’ve grown up is that we create the places where we belong, that we create the communities that we want, have people who will support us and love us for who we are. And that’s one of the most powerful messages we can have for kids.


Will Bachman  19:32

How do you get into the mindset of getting the the language at the sort of the right level for a given age range? Do you have to really work at that or is it more when you’re just focused on the story comes naturally to you know, so that the vocabulary is not too basic but not too advanced? And you know, is that is that difficult to kind of get How’d you get in that in that mode that you’re writing for, you know, a six to eight, you know, sixth grade kind of reader?


Rajani Larocca  20:09

So I don’t, I don’t think it’s all the things that I’ve struggled with. That’s not one of the things. I think, I think you, you, you hit it when you said, the story kind of leads you along. I think that, me, I think that a lot of time you writers have a place where their voice naturally falls. And for me, I think middle grade is the natural place where my voice falls when I’m writing fiction. So it’s not that challenging for me. I think also, as I write, I tend to focus on what emotion is going on in the character’s head. And if you can focus on what it is like to be an 11 year old or a 12 year old or a 13 year old, dealing with a particular situation, then the voice is going to come through. And I think that stories, also, like when the story forms in my head, it also gives me a hint as to the form it should take. So my the first two novels that I wrote, Midsummer’s mayhem, in Much Ado about baseball are both in prose. And they’re relatively plot heavy, they have a lot of kind of mystery aspects to them and kind of puzzles and things like that. They’re they’re a little bits of poetry, kind of like puzzle kind of poetry in both of them. But there are definitely pros and redwood and whole came to me as a metaphor. And the metaphor is of blood. And that is what the title refers to red blood cells, white blood cells and whole blood. And that’s one of the kind of themes in the book, what blood means in terms of biology, and family and community. And when I thought of the idea, I was like, I think this needs to be written in poetry. And I was like, I don’t know if I can do that. Like, can I write an entire free verse novel? And so then I studied every kind of novel, every children’s novel written in verse that I could, and and then I just tried it, and it worked out.


Will Bachman  22:04

It worked out pretty well. One aspect I’d like to explore in these episodes, is this idea of diplomacy on Professor Nell or, which is, I can’t speak the French very well, but it’s sort of how your professional training shapes the way you think and perceive the world. How has your sort of just view on the world or your instincts? Or what you know what, what comes to mind as you go through to day to day? How has that changed as you became a professional writer of the last sort of decade? Plus, does it when you’re in social situations, or just walking through the streets does? Do you find yourself thinking differently about things like capturing snippets of conversation or catching hold of the, you know, the frame of someone’s face? You know, saying, Oh, I can use that? Or how does it change the way you think and move for the world?


Rajani Larocca  23:02

Ooh, this is such an interesting question. So I will say that I think my years in medicine have been excellent training for writing. I think that, you know, in medicine, we are. I mean, if we, if we do what we’re supposed to do, we’re supposed to listen to people, and we’re supposed to meet them where they are. And of course, we’re supposed to have use all of our observation skills, right to try and figure out what is going on. And, you know, unfortunately, we have to, like write them up in the most dry way just to communicate information and don’t really tell an entire story. But part of what we do is telling is understand somebody’s story, and translate it into a way that is meaningful in a science, you know, in a scientific way. And then we also have to like talk about our thought process is part of our deliberations, we have to put that in our note the document, why we’re doing what we’re doing, what we think is going on and what else it might be. And, and at the at its heart. Medicine is really about a love of people. I mean, at least that’s what it is for me, I, I care about people, I’m always fascinated about them. And I see them at their best. And at their worst. I see like them, I see them being incredibly brave, I see them making terrible mistakes, I see them, you know, at the lows, and I see them at their highs. And I think that that is an incredible honor. And I’ve had I’ve been privileged to be a part of all of my patients. But all of that stuff goes into writing. And nowadays, you know, like, when I first started writing, I was worried about not having enough ideas. And then as I got more into it, I realized I have so many ideas that I like I don’t think I would have time in my life to write all the things I want to write. But so I you know, the ideas come from everywhere. And, you know, when I’m walking my dog, or like when my daughter or my son says something to me or like, when I have a conversation with my husband, or just a funny thought appears in my head, all of these things are fodder for stories. And sometimes I will just go and take notes, or I’ll just dictate into my phone and say, this is an idea. And so I just feel like you walk through the world, and all the stories are out there, and you just have to put your hands out and capture them. And some of them snag, snag on your fingers or on your news, and, and you put them down somewhere, and you try and just keep them there and let them kind of do what they’re going to do. And then every once in a while, I’ll look over my list of ideas, and something will come together, and I’ll throw it together and make a little, you know, sentence or a paragraph about it. And there are times when I just have to write something right away, oftentimes, with picture books, I will get the inspiration for a story, and I’ll just be like, That’s it, I have to write it. And luckily, with the picture book, you know, most of them are under 500 words, nowadays, you can do that you can just sit down in a few minutes and just write a terrible draft of something so that it doesn’t go away, and then you can, you know, work with it and struggle with it a little bit and make it into shape and into what you want it to be. But that that is um, that’s I think how I’ve changed is that I feel like my kind of love for people and all their, you know, glory and their idiosyncrasies, is now translating to these types of characters showing up on the page.


Will Bachman  26:35

You mentioned that as a physician, one of the key things that you do is understand a story. What can you think of any, any times that in your training, that you that were particularly important for teaching you how to elicit that story? Were there any mentors that gave you some great question to ask or some tip about, you know, how do you get people to open up and share that share that story, maybe reveal something that they are embarrassed about, that they wouldn’t normally say or that they think is not important that you’d want to hear? Like, how do you elicit those stories from people?


Rajani Larocca  27:16

Well, you know, it’s interesting when we were training in medical school, so you know, what’s really wonderful about being a medical student, is that you have all the time in the world. Unlike practicing doctors, who were always under time, pressure, we always have to be somewhere else. There’s always somebody else waiting. And there’s like five messages, right? We were under crazy time pressure. And it’s like, unfortunate. And a lot of times that means that like when you have an experienced doctor, they ask you a question, and they barely let you answer before you ask you the next question, which is really sad. But as medical students, before any of that happens to us, when we were still kind of regular people, we were taught how to conduct the ideal interview. And the ideal interview is to ask open ended questions, and let somebody say what they want to say. And then when they’re I mean, and, you know, one of the things we were told is like, ask them a question, and then just be quiet and let them fill in the space. My goodness, if anybody talks for more than a minute, it is shocking. Most people don’t like they just need to say what they need to say, No, it doesn’t take that long. You listen to that. And then you can ask more specific questions that might help you narrow down what you think might be going on with this person. But the most important thing, there’s some, you know, other tips that that I’ve learned over the years, one, you know, one of the things is when somebody is in with weird symptoms, and you they’re clearly upset and worried. I often ask them, Can you tell me what it is you’re worried about? Because then they can they feel free to just divulge their, like worst case scenario, I think I have cancer or whatever they, you know, are most worried about. And you can either say, okay, like, you know, I understand why you feel that way. I don’t think that’s what’s going on, because XYZ but we’ll do this to make sure it’s not that or you can say, okay, like I hear where you’re coming from, let’s do all these things and figure out what is going on. And then the the other thing that we you know, that we learned in medical school, is to just repeat back to people your interpretation of what they said to make sure that you got it right. And people then feel really heard. And I still try to use these techniques, even though I don’t have that much time with people. But the best one is just to ask somebody why they’re there and just shut up and listen for a while, and then they will tell you all kinds of stuff. And then the one last thing I will tell you is that a lot of times we have to ask really personal questions. And what I do is I asked those really personal questions of everybody and then I just tell people, you know, hey, we just asked this if everyone I’m not asking you, you know, because it’s special to you like XYZ, you know, you When you’re taking a sexual history or you know, substance use any of that stuff, we just ask everybody, so it just normalizes that for people.


Will Bachman  30:07

Yeah. So, okay, so I heard two there that I love. So just Why are you here? And can you tell me what it is you’re worried about? Any other questions that you are you sort of your go to questions that you find just help open people up?


Rajani Larocca  30:25

Um, when I look when I tell them what I’ve heard from them, and I say, Can you please let me let me know if I missed anything? Like, is there is there some other important thing that you need to tell me? And then the other only other thing I have to tell you? Well, this happens all the time, is that they come in for one problem, or it’s a routine visit, whatever, you go through all your stuff. And right before they’re about to leave, they drop the thing that is really bothering them. And you’re like, okay, and then you just got to stop. You got to pause and be like, Okay, we’re gonna pay attention to this now. It’s, it’s like the lat it’s, I don’t know, maybe people feel safe, because it’s almost over. And it’s like, oh, by the way, I’ve been having chest pain. And you’re like, wait, you buried the lead there.


Will Bachman  31:12

sort of the reverse Colombo, you know, the Oh, and just one more thing. It’s exactly what you mentioned, one Genet 105. Were there any other courses at Harvard that have had a particular impact on your life? It could be professional or could be, you know, outside your major, anything that has really stuck with you and been valuable?


Rajani Larocca  31:40

Oh, my goodness. Marjorie Garber’s Shakespeare class. Like, forget it. That was like life changing for me. Um, I did, I did the she I think she offered to and I only got I only have room in my schedule for one semester. So I got the tragedies and the romances. And wow, wow. Wow. Was it amazing. Um, so she, her lectures was just incredible. So we’ve read, we’ve heard like, everything we read, like Othello and King Lear, and a hamlet and we read, you know, a Winter’s Tale and Pericles and the Tempest. And like, like, so many plays. And, you know, first of all, like, I mean, I went to a great high school, but like, if we read a Shakespeare play in a semester, that was like a big deal, right? To read this, many of them at once. I was like, Oh, my goodness. And then it was so cool to kind of read them in order. Like, we read the tragedies, and we read the romances. And I had, I remember, we had, our section was in my house, right? I was in Cabot house. And that so the TF was one of the faculty member, one of the residents at the EPP in Kevin house. And he was like, he seems so old and wise to me, he was probably like, what, I don’t know, they 20s. And I was like, Oh, my God, but it was like maybe early 30s. I have no idea. But he was like, he seemed so old and wise. And he was like, you know, they say that in order to truly appreciate Shakespeare’s romances that you need to have lived some life, like you need to kind of be a little older. And I’ve experienced some things, because the romances are the stories of what happens after the great tragedies have occurred. And I was like, oh, and he said, but you know, we’re doing the same thing in this course, by reading all the tragedies first, and then going to the romances. So it’s like, you’ve lived through all those tragedies. And now we have to, we have to go like life has to go on afterwards. And that’s when we get to the romances. And I just, I’ve never forgotten that. And I thought that was such a really interesting piece of wisdom. And now as a person who has lived a little more life, I understand what he’s talking about. And, and I mean, and I love Shakespeare, and I’ve always loved Shakespeare and I have used Shakespeare as inspiration for two of my novels that are already out. And I will, you know, I just I, it was a complete delight that course and that, that is an example of a liberal arts education and what it can do for you, you know, it had nothing to do with going into medicine, which is what I knew I wanted to do, but it was just absolutely soul filling that class.


Will Bachman  34:17

And that that is so amazing. You know, after Harvard, you know, in what way has that become part of your life, other than incorporating a couple in books that you’ve written? Have you can have gone to more Shakespeare plays? Or is has it kind of opened up your appreciation of that, or?


Rajani Larocca  34:36

Oh, yes, I mean, I’ve been I was a fan of Shakespeare, like, all the way back to grade school, like I think we read a play. Um, uh, I read, we read a play a year from sixth grade to the end of high school, and then I took this course and then my husband and I both loved Shakespeare. So when we got married, we actually went to England, which is not usually a popular destination for honey. But we went. And we saw I did four plays in two weeks. And then we like, you know, went to plays all the time when we before we had kids. And then when the kids from one day we could like sit still, which was pretty young for our kids, we, we sent them, we went and saw plays together, we saw Shakespeare together, and so they grew up not being afraid of it.


Will Bachman  35:21

That is the thing. I did not take that course, it’s one that I really wish I had. But I kind of made up for it later, we read all the plays. And we also started our kids just very young. And it particularly with the comedies The Comedy of Errors, Much Ado, midsummer, and when kids see them, when they’re seven or eight, they don’t get so intimidated by the language because they can see it being acted out. And they just enjoy the plot. And you know, the sort of body humor and just the jokes and the slapstick. So,


Rajani Larocca  35:53

absolutely, yeah. Yes. And I think that that’s, that is the real way to experience Shakespeare from what from a young age is to see it performed. Because you realize you don’t have to understand every single word, you know exactly what’s happening.


Will Bachman  36:06

Yeah, the language is is kind of intimidating, in high school, but if you see it perform, you’re like, Okay, you know, some monologues you don’t quite get but you sort of, you know, understand the plot. Exactly. Yeah. So, we we even went to the Stratford Festival up there and on Stratford, Ontario with said Shakespeare gigs, which I highly recommend, you know, in one weekend, you can see five, six Shakespeare plays.


Rajani Larocca  36:32

Are you kidding me? I totally recommend that is that is gonna have to happen. Yeah, once this whole thing, you know, this pandemic thing is over. That’d be amazing. Yeah,


Will Bachman  36:43

we had a great time. It’s about an hour west of Toronto. And they have I think, five different theaters kind of going in parallel all summer long. April through October.


Rajani Larocca  36:54

Yeah. Fantastic. Oh, my goodness. I can’t wait.


Will Bachman  36:58

So, okay, so you’d like the march garbage Shakespeare course. Any other ones that were highlights for you that have affected you in some way?


Rajani Larocca  37:07

Oh, I mean, anatomy and physiology of vertebrates?


Will Bachman  37:13

All right. All right.


Rajani Larocca  37:14

Am I crazy? No. I mean, I mean, you know, I never I didn’t go into veterinary medicine. But I thought that was one of the coolest classes I’ve ever taken. I still, I wrote a research paper on how seals, like how they do what they do, which is crazy, which is like have a, you know, an air breathing mammal that can dive and like, stay underwater for minutes? And what does that even How does that even work? And, you know, there’s lots of boring things about like hemoglobin, you know, how their hemoglobin and myoglobin bind oxygen and all that stuff I eat out in that class, I thought it was the most fascinating, amazing thing. And I was like, I definitely want to go into medicine because this is way too interesting to


Will Bachman  37:53

  1. Are there pre med courses that have basically not been very useful at all to you later in life? We’re in where there’s some that were just absolutely critical that you totally need.


Rajani Larocca  38:06

Oh, isn’t that interesting? I mean, you know, what’s really fascinating to me, so I was like, government major, and like, basically, I just fulfilled the minimal pre med requirements. You have to take like two semesters of biology, two semesters of like physical chemistry, choose them as Oh, yeah, two semesters of organic chemistry, two semesters of physics and like, you know, the equivalent of like, first year calculus, and that’s those are the requirements then and so I and and like, you know, Adak man, I don’t know what it’s like there now. But back then you could use AP credit to kind of get out of like, like basic, beginner level close courses. So I use that to my advantage. So I got to, I shortened my, you know, chemistry requirement, and I got to take more advanced biology courses, I only took two biology courses, and they were awesome. They were just of my choosing. And, you know, whatever. I like survived physics. I don’t think it’s really, it’s not really necessary to know physics, I don’t think unless you’re going to go into like a very mechanical aspect of medicine, and organic chemistry, I just memorized everything and then just the the mind dump and said, forget about it, you know, after the MCAT I was like, I’m done. And I never used it. I mean, in medical school, you learn biochemistry, which is useful and is necessary. And you learn about anatomy and physiology. So like, you need to have a basic understanding of biology to do that. But, I mean, I hate to say this, I just feel like most of the premium stuff is just weeding. You know, that’s it. It’s just putting up barriers to people who might want to go into medicine. And if you can just pass through those barriers and pass some exams then then you go to medical school and learn the actual stuff you need to learn.


Will Bachman  39:52

What would most surprise your college age self about your journey?


Rajani Larocca  39:59

Oh, I think my college age so that I think that she would be shocked out of her mind to learn that I became a published author, and that I published children’s books, I think that would be completely shocking.


Will Bachman  40:12

A celebrated and prize winning, prize winning children’s author


Rajani Larocca  40:20

was shocking definitely would have shocked college aged me.


Will Bachman  40:24

So Ragini beyond going to the local bookstore to find your books, where would you like to point people to find out what you’re doing online what you’re writing and perhaps sign up to follow you? Where would you point people.


Rajani Larocca  40:40

So please go to my website, www dot Roger nila So it’s our AJ and I l a r o That has kind of the most complete information. And then I’m on Twitter at Virginia Lavaca. It’s just my name and on Instagram. And on my website, you can also sign up for a newsletter, I just sent one out like once a month or so kind of letting people know where I’ll be and what I’ve been doing. And, you know, as we come out of this pandemic, which I know I think we’re gonna turn the corner I’m hoping I’m going to be traveling again. So hopefully, if I’m in your area, I’ll get to see you


Will Bachman  41:21

go out to an author talk. So we will include those links in the show notes. And you can see the show notes and a full transcript of this show in all our other episodes at 92 That’s nine to Ragini thank you so much. This was so fabulous. Once again, congratulations on your honor this week.


Rajani Larocca  41:45

Thank you so much. Well, this was a ton of fun. What a great first interview after the news.