Balaji, Murali 1979-

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Balaji, Murali 1979-

PERSONAL:

Born 1979, in Mumbai, Maharashtra, India. Education: University of Minnesota, B.A., 2000; Pennsylvania State University, Ph.D., 2009.

ADDRESSES:

Home—State College, PA. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Writer, journalist, educator. Pioneer Press, St. Paul, MN, journalist, 2000-02; News Journal, Wilmington, DE, former journalist; Temple University, former instructor; Pennsylvania State University, lecturer and doctoral fellow. Maruthi Consulting Inc., founder.

MEMBER:

Asian American Journalists Association (president, Philadelphia chapter, 2005).

AWARDS, HONORS:

Outstanding Educator Award, Goldey-Beacom College; Chapter President of the Year, Asian-American Journalists Association, 2005.

WRITINGS:

House of Tinder (self-published novel), iUniverse, 2003.

The Professor and the Pupil: The Politics of W.E.B. Du Bois and Paul Robeson, Nation Books/Perseus (New York, NY), 2007.

(Editor, with Ajay Nair) Desi Rap: Hip-Hop and South Asian America, Lexington Books (Lanham, MD), 2008.

Contributor to periodicals and magazines.

SIDELIGHTS:

Murali Balaji is an Indian-born American writer, journalist, and educator, and the author of both fiction and nonfiction books. Writing on CulturalConnect Online, Balaji remarked on what he sees as his strengths: "As a writer, I'm very versatile in what I cover. However, I would say race and political activism are my ‘favorite’ subjects to write about." Balaji worked as a journalist in Minnesota and Delaware following college graduation, until he began teaching journalism, first at Temple University and then at Pennsylvania State University. His first work, however, was the self-published novel, House of Tinder, a fictional treatment of the Indian diaspora, set partly in Mumbai, India, where Balaji himself was born, and also in Hackensack, New Jersey, where the fictional Gopal family have immigrated. Ravi and Kalpana Gopal, along with their daughter Lavanya are part of the huge wave of immigrants from southern Asia, and now that they have a home and work in the United States, they are beginning to learn that the American Dream may not be all that it is purported to be.

In 2007, Balaji turned to nonfiction with The Professor and the Pupil: The Politics of W.E.B. Du Bois and Paul Robeson, an exploration and examination of the politics, friendship, and intersecting careers of two African American shibboleths. The title of the book comes from the fact that Robeson, the internationally famous singer and actor, was thirty-five years the junior of the intellectual Du Bois, and deferred to the older man in matters of politics and race relations. Both men were powerful figures not only on the American Left, but also in matters of race. Balaji demonstrates that this duality of concerns ultimately detracted from their message on civil rights: their Leftist declarations alienated Whites and African American leaders alike, according to Balaji. By the time of the Cold War, they had been completely marginalized from the Civil Rights movement. Both were harassed if not persecuted by the government during these years for their belief that Marxism presented the best alternative for emerging African nations, among others. A critic for Kirkus Reviews found Balaji's argument unconvincing, concluding: "More agitprop than careful analysis: precariously conceived, awkwardly argued and sloppily written." Booklist reviewer Vanessa Bush was far more positive about The Professor and the Pupil, however, calling it "a fascinating look at the political transformation of two men whose images have been considerably tamed over the years." Similarly, John David Smith, writing for North Carolina's News & Observer, found the work "splendid."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, December 1, 2007, Vanessa Bush, review of The Professor and the Pupil: The Politics of W.E.B. Du Bois and Paul Robeson, p. 9.

Kirkus Reviews, October 15, 2007, review of The Professor and the Pupil.

News & Observer (Charlotte, NC), May 11, 2008, John David Smith, review of The Professor and the Pupil.

ONLINE

Asian American Journalists Association Web site,http://www.aaja.org/ (September 2, 2008), author profile.

CulturalConnect Online,http://www.theculturalconnect.com/ (September 2, 2008), author profile.

Sigma Lambda Beta Education Forum,http://www.slbfoundation.com/ (September 2, 2008), author profile.

South Asian Journalists Association Web site,http://www.saja.org/ (September 2, 2008), author profile.

Speak Out! Web site,http://www.speakoutnow.org/ (September 15, 2008), author profile.

Villanova University Web site,http://www.villanova.edu/ (September 2, 2008), "Pennsylvania State University Lecturer Discusses Work on Race, Power and Hip-Hop Music," author profile.