Rao, Saira 1974(?)-

views updated

Rao, Saira 1974(?)-


Born c. 1974, in Richmond, VA; married. Education: University of Virginia, associate's degree, 1996; attended Georgetown University Law School; New York University School of Law, J.D., 2002.


Home—New York, NY. E-mail—[email protected].


Writer, novelist, attorney, television producer, and journalist. WUSA-TV, Washington, DC, television journalist and producer; WSVN-TV, Miami, FL, television journalist and producer. Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton (law firm), legal associate. Served as a law clerk in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, Philadelphia, PA.


Chambermaid, Grove (New York, NY), 2007.


Novelist Saira Rao is a former television news producer and journalist who worked at stations in the Washington, DC, and Miami, Florida, markets. A graduate of the New York University School of Law, she has also worked as a law associate in a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, law firm. Upon graduation, Rao secured a coveted federal clerkship with Judge Dolores Sloviter in the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia. Describing her clerkship in an interview with Peter Lattman on the Wall Street Journal Online Law Web logs, Rao stated: "There were good parts to my clerkship. There were bad parts to my clerkship. Was it the best experience I've ever had in my life? No, but it wasn't the worst thing I ever experienced in my life either." Rao's experiences, however, formed the background for her first work of fiction. In her debut novel, Chambermaid, Rao draws upon her experiences as a federal law clerk to tell the story of protagonist Sheila Raj, a newly minted attorney whose experiences as a Third Circuit law clerk have at least some basis in Rao's own tenure in Philadelphia. Rao notes that the novel, in some ways, was intended to break what she saw as a "code of silence" surrounding the law clerk position. "When I was applying for clerkships, it was very hard to get real information about people's experiences. No one tells the truth about it," she told Lattman. None of the previous clerks criticized or even honestly evaluated the judges they worked for, Rao believes. From reading the clerks' reviews of the judges, Rao remarked to Lattman: "You'd get the impression that every judge is a mix of Mother Theresa and Einstein. And who wouldn't be willing to move to Wichita to clerk for someone like that?"

In the novel, Sheila takes up a position with a judge who is far from being a beatific genius. Third Circuit Judge Helen Friedman more closely resembles a sadist and psychopath who delights in tormenting her underlings, exposing their weaknesses, ridiculing their shortcomings, and subjecting them to her volatile, violent temper while maintaining a tyrannically arrogant hold on her own authority. Yet for all of her flaws, Friedman is a respected jurist who had championed many important liberal causes, prompting Sheila to endure the stress and abuse out of respect for Friedman's accomplishments. Worse, her personal life becomes almost nonexistent, until the prospect of romance with former Friedman clerk Matthew suggests a brighter future. When Judge Friedman becomes involved in a controversial death penalty appeal, it is up to Sheila to rescue the case, and earn Judge Friedman's grudging respect, with a cache of well-placed information against Friedman's rival judge. Rao's "characters are fun to read, the interactions are witty, sarcastic and often plain outrageous. She paints a picture of the American Judicial System that only insiders get to see, and for good reason," commented reviewer Vinnie Sorce in the Daily Courier. "Rao's wit shines in her debut," commented a Publishers Weekly contributor.



Daily Courier (Prescott, AZ), September 22, 2007, Vinnie Sorce, "Too Many Books, Too Little Time " review of Chambermaid.

Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2007, review of Chambermaid.

Legal Times, August 27, 2007, Elizabeth Engdahl, review of Chambermaid.

Los Angeles Times, July 28, 2007, Jonathan Shapiro, "Chick Lit Meets Legal Thriller," review of Chambermaid.

Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Paula Reed Ward, August 19, 2007, review of Chambermaid, p. 43.

Publishers Weekly, May 7, 2007, review of Chambermaid, p. 43.


Saira Rao Home Page,http://www.sairarao.com (January 28, 2008).

Saira Rao MySpace Page,http://www.myspace.com/ sairarao (January 28, 2008).

University of Virginia Magazine,http://www.uvamagazine.org/ (January 28, 2008), Sarah Estes Graham, "A Booked Summer: On Tour with First-Time Novelist Saira Rao," profile of Saira Rao.

Wall Street Journal Online Law Web logs,http://blogs.wsj.com/law/ (June 4, 2007), Peter Lattman, "Law Blog Q & A: Saira Rao."