From the Desk of a Teen Psychiatrist/Author: A Different YA Novel Format

I wrote JAYA AND RASA: A LOVE STORY as if both Jaya and Rasa were my patients (they are amalgams of a number of real teen patients).

1st part of book: how their past negative experiences contributed to how they learned to think, feel, and act in order to survive.

2nd part of book: they meet and their relationship blooms into the first positive intimate relationship for them both.

Ending: the book ends with a mutual corrective emotional experience (a CEE is one way a traumatized person can learn both intellectually and emotionally how positive relationships work and therefore begin to contemplate how to live “happily ever after”).




Posted on 15 August, 2017 by Crystal

Please welcome Sonia Patel to Rich in Color today. Her newest book, Jaya and Rasa: A Love Story, will be available next month. We really enjoyed Rani Patel in Full Effect, her debut last year, and are looking forward to this new release.


Keep it real or you might die. Sound extreme? Let me explain this short but profound sentence I often use to help struggling teens in my child and adolescent psychiatry practice. I’ll start by breaking it down into two parts.

Keep it real = Determine your true thoughts and feelings in the moment and speak up for yourself in all honesty.
Or you might die = If you stay quiet and believe the negative automatic thoughts, feelings, and risky impulses that your mind is tricking you with then you might be more likely to go through with the risky impulses (suicide attempts, accidental excessive drug/alcohol use, unprotected sex, etc.) because there doesn’t seem to be any other way out of the intolerable swirl of chaos in your mind.

Obvious? Not to everyone, especially not to vulnerable teens. These are the pained teens—from all walks of life—I have the honor of treating. These are the teens who have a genetic predisposition to an emotional illness (such as depression or anxiety), have lived through trauma, or have dysfunctional family systems—or all three. These teens are more likely to remain silent about the unwanted, false, automatic negative thoughts, feelings, and impulses that plague them. For different reasons, these teens aren’t taught to speak up about, tolerate, or cope with all the negativity. This silent suffering becomes their invisible “teacher” and they learn to act out on their self-destructive impulses. Soon the only way they know how to minimize emotional distress is to act out with dangerous behaviors. It may become hardwired into their brains.

I value meaningful talk therapy as the foundation of my psychiatric treatment to teens. It is my goal to educate them on positive ways to maneuver through life. Over the course of weeks, months, or years we work together to discover how they can become self-aware, how they can say exactly what’s on their mind in any given situation, and how they can ride out the extremes of their negative thoughts, feelings, and impulses.

How they can keep it real so they don’t die.

I strive to be their keep it real coach. There is no better reward than to watch these teens learn to find their voices and be assertive. They become keep it real experts.

I also aim to be a keep it real author. I want to bring this powerful message to as many teens as I can. That is why I write YA novels the way I do—boiled down and raw.

In my office, teens who confide in me don’t speak in perfect prose when they share their innermost thoughts, feelings, impulses, and secrets. They might stumble on their words. They might not be able to find the right words. They might get straight to the point. They might ramble. They might swear. They might cry. They might scream. They might do a combination of all of that. So why would I write their stories in a pretty, elegant way? This is not to say these teens are not intelligent. They are. Some of them read at college level, take A.P. classes, and study hard. They know many big, fancy, SAT words. Those that don’t pursue academics to their full potential are still smart. But what I’ve found is that in the privacy of my office most teens prefer to talk in an informal manner rather than with refined formality. They choose to speak with their broken hearts.

It is with all this in mind that I wrote Rani Patel In Full Effect and the forthcoming Jaya and Rasa: A Love Story. I am excited for the world to meet Jaya and Rasa. They are blends of real patients I’ve had the privilege of treating (I must confess that there are also bits and pieces of me in Jaya!).

The way I write how Jaya experiences things in his life—such as private school, wealth, elitism, modern day Native Hawaiian oppression, lack of acceptance of his gender by his Gujarati Indian parents, bullying by his classmates, depression, self-blame for his parents’ fights, low self-worth, and the unconscious recreation of his parents’ relationships with Rasa—is how many of my patients describe their similar experiences.

The way I write how Rasa maintains a happy front while likening herself to a strong black widow spider is part of her response to trauma. It’s how she’s managed to survive her challenging circumstances. She’s learned to equate her body and sex as power and control over men who are actually abusing her. Under her black widow exterior is a vulnerable girl who hasn’t been given the chance to develop her self-worth or identity apart from being an object for others. She hasn’t had the luxury of a safe life in which her basic needs are met.

Neither Jaya nor Rasa have been taught or encouraged to become self-aware or speak their minds concerning their true thoughts, feelings, and impulses. So they’ve both stayed in their heads trying to survive their respective hardships. Their patterns of negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors  become more and more ingrained as the years pass. That is, until they meet each other. The intense love that develops between them forces them to confront the flaws in their internalized ways of functioning in the world. They realize that they have to keep it real or they might die.

Check me out online!


Instagram & Twitter: soniapatel808

Facebook: SoniaPatelAuthor

Immigrant Stories

Leave your immigrant story expectations at the door

cuz these Indian women didn’t get invited

to the typical immigrant problem candy store.

We got left outside, indicted

with being women. Silenced. Abused.

Not afforded the luxury of a functioning family or hard work turning into wealth and status

but escaping the unspeakable misfortune of many in the motherland who are sometimes reproved.

My mother and I are on this middle stratus.

And these kinds of Gujju stories need authentic representation

in YA fiction

not just pretty depictions

based on Western diction.

This is my jurisdiction.


If you’ve been through it

You know how hard it is to outwit

Your mind when it fucks with you

Those negative thoughts break through

The wall of positivity you’ve worked so hard

To build brick by brick & you feel barred

From the “it’s easy to just get over it” room

And banished to the dungeon of doom and gloom

Shackled to worst case scenarios instead of reason

Hearing their attempts at support as treason

Unable to feel love like “normal” people as a means of defense

Because your brain is wired to expect false pretense

And it tells your body you deserve the offense

So if I sound paranoid or show you my intense emotion

Don’t judge. I’m not trying to be difficult. There’s an explosion

Of the past in my head and sometimes it still breaks me.

My Will is Hungry

My will is hungry

And though I was born in this privileged country

I’ve only just become free

Of deep rooted patriarchy

And you can’t see

How it wired my brain to be

How it held me down

Made me drown

In a sea of self-hate

My poor decisions shackling me like ankle weights

But I’ve escaped this repressive state

This is why I’m driven

To help youth as their emotional physician

Through office sessions of verbal supervision

And diverse writing some consider sedition

And dismiss cuz they don’t take the time to understand

Instead making judgmental comments offhand

So bring it haters

Cuz I can’t stop, won’t stop, now or later.

Diversity In Diversity Flag Waver

Some of ya’ll diversity appetite is resolute—

In America you want what’s cute

Like some Bollywood movie

That just might be the drug of the suffering Indian masses you see

And though most of ya’ll got empathy

for the unfortunate reality

Of diversity overseas

I’m here to cause unease

In the fifty states cuz I got flava

Bold, spicy, in yo face diversity-in-diversity flag waver

Givin’ ya’ll a verbal taste of the raw & real

Of diverse teens living ordeals

That ain’t yo’ mainstream mass market plain jane

Work that sells big and I ain’t constrained

So like Lady Sovereign said love me or hate me

But this I can guarantee

I’m gonna bring it with all my heart—my diversity-in-diversity decree.

What I See, Hear on the Couch

We face each other

on the black couch, me and someone's son or daughter.

His life, his developing identity, his plight

Her life, her developing identity, her plight









is what I'm trying to write

to bring to light

to bring to life

what I see, hear of him, her.

A story that isn't the well-crafted novel that many prefer.



Hip hop saved my life, yo.

I think and speak it in my rap flow,

Rhyming my way out of past misogynistic hurts & abuse.

Rebelling, growing, knowing, and healing the mental bruise.

Jumping, krumping, popping, locking my way out of despair.

Wearing it on my body- my fresh to def hip hop fashion savoir faire

That transcends into what society sometimes likes to keep secret .

And it’s more than an escape from my Gujarati Indian culturally sanctioned female role and meekness.

My hip hop threads show the different directions

I take on the gender spectrum

Cuz I’m fluid

And I always knew it.

But not so far back, there was no LGBTQIA to define

What I was inside.

NOT simply one singular gender American society and Gujarati culture assigned

Me at birth and shoved down my throat

All those years choking me in female quotes and norms.

But I resisted and fled

The female pigeonhole they spread

On me like butter on warm toast.

I naturally turned to Queen Latifah, Salt-N-Pepa, Tupac, Public Enemy to let me be me first and foremost,

A king and queen

In one body rocking these jeans flowing between

Male and female gender, fully expressin’

Myself in the safety of hip hop’s openness to the pliable identity I was professin’.

While many girls crushed on Paris and LL Cool J

I related to them- their masculine swag and sway.

But unlike those male rappers my flirtation

Had a different incarnation.

My feminine side loves dem hot boys- Missy Elliot.

My masculine side- it’s those androgenous girls that bring on the sweat.

So if you see me walking down the street in my pearls

Don’t assume I’m just a girl.

It’s complicated, yo.

And you best believe that part of me is a hip hop Romeo.

Haters Gonna Hate, But It Ain't No Thang Cuz My Skin's Gettin' Thicker...

In my work as a child & adolescent psychiatrist, it is not uncommon for families to present with a lack of understanding of the nature of their child or teen's suffering and vulnerability. They love their child or teen and want to help him or her feel better but they might be stuck in patterns of enabling, blame, intolerance, or judgement. And those patterns often get placed on me while I’m leading them in family therapy. I don't expect everyone to like me or like the recommendations I make. But only by pointing out deeply ingrained dysfunctional patterns despite the tension in the room can I hope to foster true healing for the patient and the family. So, I take a deep breath, thicken my skin and keep trying to facilitate open-mindedness to change.

And I've discovered that it is the same way with my adventure in writing YA fiction. Sometimes people are stuck in valuing writing only if it's done in a style they've been conditioned to admire and respect. I don't expect everyone to like what I write. But only by pointing out that there can be deeply ingrained bias in what is expected from authors can I hope to make noteworthy contributions to diversity in the YA fiction world. Only by pointing out my encounters with lack of understanding, intolerance, and judgement of Rani (the sixteen-year-old protagonist in Rani Patel In Full Effect) can I hope to press the importance of differences in voice, perspective, and experience. Rani’s a brown girl growing up on a tiny island in the middle of the Pacific. Her voice is angry and unconfident. Her perspective is narrow based on loss of connection with her mother and her Gujarati culture, but she’s found some protection in her deep connection with hip hop culture. She’s also a survivor of chronic covert and overt incest. I’ve provided psychiatric treatment to teens who think, feel, talk, or act similarly to Rani. To say Rani’s dumb, naive, one dimensional, asking for it, or doesn’t speak intelligently is to minimize the biologic effects of trauma. And that, from my point of view, not only shows a lack of understanding of trauma, but also reveals intolerance, judgment, and lack of empathy. To write her story with big flowery, fancy words and sentences would perhaps be more like the experience of a white girl in suburbia, or a brown girl with the privilege of family stability not afforded to Rani.

As Rani would say, haters gonna hate. And meanwhile, I’ll take a deep breath, thicken my skin, and keep writing.



If I was a surgeon

would the brown skin covering my womanly curves and grin

make your subconscious mistrust

me and deem my words as unjust


because I’m recommending something you think is weird?

If I had a penis and a beard

would my advice regarding difficult family dynamics be revered

instead of smeared?


If I was a God-fearing Christian

would my aim at following the Hippocratic oath be seen with suspicion?


If my evidence based, well intentioned medical recommendations fit your comfort level

would you still think I’m some renegade medical daredevil?


If I let you keep putting me and my proven medical guidance down

do you think I should stick around

simply because as a physician I shouldn’t ever feel knocked down?


Deny if you must but the truth is

this brown woman psychiatrist who provides unpopular but medically proven therapeutic assists

is sometimes dissed and dismissed


because my care goes beyond simply being content with what the family wants

and tries to give more than a bandaid fix like a false front.


And tries to tackle the hard stuff

but my efforts are sometimes met with rebuff.

Because let’s face it, family psychological issues resulting in a youth scapegoat aren’t prioritized

as highly as topics discussed by surgeons or other medical allies.


At the end of the day, to some people, I’m nothing more than a brown woman

who couldn’t possibly have a worthy plan like a man.

Self-worth Shortfalls

I don’t preach because I know it all

I aim to teach about self-worth shortfalls

Because I know the ache of self-hate

When progenitors break

That which is taboo

So I keep rhyming to pull myself through

And maybe help someone eschew

Years of resulting poor judgement calls

And self-esteem pitfalls



This past week, numerous teen girl patients, more than the usual number, have informed me that they’ve been triggered into hating how they look and who they are when they compare themselves to their peers who post bikini & thong bikini photos of butts and boobs. Many of these posted photos have been of female bodies without faces.

These types of photos also show up on my social media feed.

When my patients bring up these issues with me, I try to help them find empowerment in themselves as intelligent, creative, thoughtful human beings, and not as simply bodies.

And after a couple of photos I saw today, I couldn’t shut myself up. So...this rhyme is for my daughter, my teen girl patients, for all teen boys and girls, for teens struggling with gender identity issues, and for anyone who has a daughter/sister/mother/spouse/girlfriend.


I don’t think it’s feminist

To exist

For the pleasure of misogynists

And the pain of girls who enlist

Bikini clad Instagram photos as self-worth building assists

And I’m pissed

Cuz I partake in social media to express

And seek inspiration to progress

In building intellectual success

But more and more people oppress

With photos of girls’ ass and boobs, no face

And now it seems commonplace

For the female form to be presented as an object that needs to conform

To one deforming norm

Ass and boobs sans face have been transformed

Into a woman’s identity

Instead of what’s above the neck, a free

Thinking person with a brain that can carry on weighty

Discussions and is full of thoughts and feelings that remain

Suppressed because patriarchy deems

Her ideas a needless scheme

Cuz porn & social media have brainwashed guys to the extreme

that girls are supposed to only give ‘em wet dreams and make ‘em cream

And girls when you post your ass & boobs cuz you buy into the pipe dream

Of building self-esteem

By gaining hundreds of likes

You’re reinforcing that there’s only one way to be ladylike

And that’s by using your round parts

To please men

And this is America & you have the right to post body shots again & again

But please listen

More than pissed, I’m worried

Worried for my daughter, my teen patients, and all girls caught in the flurry

Of body as power

Think of it this way before you deflower

Your ability to self empower

When you’re busy posting body snapshots

You’re taking part in the societal plot

To keep women trapped as sexual mascots

Instead of using all your brain energy

To focus on getting a degree or being a presidential nominee

When you post boobs and ass

You’re visually assaulting girls into staying second class

You’re telling your mother, sister, daughter, girlfriend, they’re nothin’ more than crass

You’re tellin’ ‘em they’re nothin’ more than a piece of ass.


Don't Cock Block Barack

Took a photo of a Barack Obama mural while driving and this rhyme immediately flowed in my mind...


America’s got its problems

But there are many of us tryin’ to solve ‘em

Immigrants, children of immigrants

Descendents of slaves all represent

Segments of the country that impart

Smart, fresh starts and for my part

I’m strivin’ to help girls take to heart

Their self-worth cuz I wanna see

Women be a greater part of leading

This country, not just breeding

Meanwhile let me exercise my freedom of speech

Ya see, men have two heads that preach

And sometimes the bottom one overreaches

Like Trump and his tiny

One that gets all whiny

Over false accusations regarding Obama

Creating unnecessary hoopla

Over big brained Barack

Tiny Trump trying to cock block Barack

Instead of using his limited capacity upper head

To think of legit ways to get this country ahead

Barack did a good job being the helmsman

For America's game plan

Now I don't know about you

But I'm ready for a woman coup

#barackobama #trump #feminism#girlpower #rapgirl #rap #streetart#urbanart


Science does testify

That to cry

Is to mollify

Strong emotion

And any impassioned feeling commotion

When you cry natural pain killers are released

And social support is increased

Studies show tears can mend

And I’m here to contend

That those who can’t defend

Or accurately say what they intend

Might wanna embrace

What they view as liquid disgrace

And I’m puttin’ in my two cents

To encourage my girls on the fence

About sheddin’ tears that cryin’ is a first line of defense

Against oppression and misogynistic aggression

Listen up cuz school’s in session

If you’ve been raised in a family or societal system

Where it’s been custom

For women to be silent

While the men are emotionally, physically, or sexually violent

Then let me address and assess

If your planned words are something you can’t express

And if you’re playing chess in yo' head while your vocal cords suppress

The truth you want to profess

Without the strength of your voice

You don’t have a choice

In remaining subjugated

And this might leave you devastated

And emotionally mutilated

With self-hatred

That’s where crying comes in to set a liquidy, lacrimal boundary

The first step to get you out of yo' familial or societal woman-hating quandary

Crying can profoundly

Assist you when you don’t yet have the language to say

“Hey! Back off and stop relegating me to this state of emotional decay!”

Remember girls your crying is the signal that something is astray

So pay attention to your tears

And figure out what you really need to make clear

That you want to say no

That you’re not a dumb ho

That you’re angry

That will not put up with his hanky panky

That you feel misunderstood, judged

And that you’re sick of your rep being smudged

So to all my girls, don’t excuse or refuse

Your tears. They’re your cue

That you’ve got to verbally spew

Your defiance

So if you see me cryin’, don’t worry- it’s science

And my reminder that I’m not asserting

That which is hurting.



Ride or Die Ba & the Swadhist Khawanu Crew

Yo yo yo

My Gujju cousins in da house

Know how to bounce

When the vaagar gets sizzlin'

Cuz pretty soon if you ain't distancing

Yo'self you gonna be douse-d

In dat aroma permeating through da house

Jeera, methi, rai, thul, hing

Are gonna spread their seed wings

And sting

Ya & leave ya wit curry cologne around da clock 

But even though we mock

The prep we slink around and stalk

The finished cuisine like hungry hawks

Circling the daal, bhatt, rotli, and shaak

Trying not to push our dada

Out of the way tryin' to get the dhebra

Dokla, undhiu, and patra

Come on Gujju peeps don't front or disagree

Wit' me

As I'm spittin' my culinary decree

Cuz ya know you a devotee

Of that papad, khichidi, and kadhi

Samosa, puri, and bakhri

And your ride or die ba

Be layin' out dem jelebi and ladwa

While you let go

Of all yo' manners and go commando

Over that haandawo

So that's where you'll find me and my crew

Cuz ya know we've gots to get dat bataka-nu-rasa-vara-shaak-stew

With laasuniu marchu!  

#gujju #gujjufood #indianrapgirl #rapgirl #gujjurap #gujjurapgirl #patel 


There’s nothing anyone can do to ease the indescribable grief of the friends and families of the Pulse hate crime victims.  I think most of us want to express feelings of love, sympathy, and attempts at empathy to them. I will try to do this by relentlessly pursuing the completion of my current YA novel, The Calamitous Love of Jaya & Rasamy small bid at continuing the discussion on the truths about the horrific consequences of lack of gun control and lack of tolerance and acceptance for the LGBTQA+ community.



Why Patel?

I bet you know a Patel.  Patels are everywhere.  Literally.   The Patel diaspora from India is such that there are over 500,000 of them living in countries outside of India (1).  In the United States alone, there are over 145,066 Patels and according to the 2000 U.S. census, the surname ranks 174th on the list of most common surnames in the country (2). And they’re not all related.  

 Most Patels are from the Indian state of Gujarat.  Their is some debate over the exact origin of the Patel surname, but it’s likely the term Patel first referred to village leaders and/or a caste of landowners or farmers in Gujarat.  Nowadays, Patels are involved in many types of professional occupations ranging from doctors to lawyers to engineers, though they are most often associated with small business trades, particularly motels and franchises.

Patels immigrate to America for the many of the same reasons as people from other countries.   

For economic opportunities.  For educational opportunities for their children.  For a better life.  My parents were no exception- they immigrated in the early 70’s seeking the American dream.  

If you know a Patel,  it’s probable that you know someone who is hardworking, independent, bent on accumulating wealth, and driven to help their children find educational success.  Whether it’s the Patel motel owner.  The Patel husband and wife 7-11 owners whose tireless dedication to the business allows their two children the opportunities to become Dr. Patel and a Patel engineer.  Steve Zwick gives an interesting account of Patels on Devon Avenue in Chicago, highlighting their roots in Gujarat and their reasons for immigration to the United States (3).  These stories abound, and I’ve been witness to my fair share growing up as a first person on both sides of my family to be born in America.  Stories about the financial triumphs of friends of my parents. Stories of amazing academic achievement of the children of immediate and extended family members.  Stories of the prosperity of unrelated Patels that spread in family gossip like the colored powder on Holi.  

Patels often pay a price when they permanently move away from Gujarat.  The price could be working two jobs with no days to rest.  The price could be difficulty with adjusting to the American culture and language.  It could be discrimination.  The list is long, and not unique to Patel immigrants.  

But, there is something missing from the Patel immigrant story.  Something that casts a long, dark shadow.  Something that I fear many Patels, including myself, haven’t been able to name.  Something we don’t handle because we are so thankful to live in the land of opportunity.  It’s something that crept into the suitcases of our parents as they boarded the Air India flight from Mumbai to London to New York City.  Something that was easily caged or hidden in the cultural confines of Gujarat, where the close knit homogenous social network allowed for good of the whole and the good of the individual.  But, once out of this cultural safety net, the something started it’s slow sabotage.   And some Patels suffered.  Like fish out of water.

I’m sure many Patel immigrants escaped unscathed, and achieved the American dream shielding themselves from the explosive mixture of old and new.  But this wasn’t the experience for a number of the Patels I’ve known.  For although they may have secured some financial stability and perhaps even amassed great wealth, their most intimate relationships broke.   Couples.  Parents and children.  Adult siblings.   From the outside, no one could see the damage, because there might not have been divorce or CPS involvement.  No actual splitting of families.

But I’ve seen the collateral damage.  The problem is that Patels don’t talk about it.  Even as they whisper about rumors in the Patel community or chitchat over chai no one speaks of the long term emotional ramifications of malfunctioning interpersonal relationships in families.  Maybe in Gujarat, the endless social supports from other Patels provided enough cushion to prevent or diminish these negative emotional outcomes, but in the States, I’m sure it’s a different story.  Balancing adjustment to a new culture while trying to hold onto the old culture creates interpersonal relationship strains and situations unheard of in Gujarat. Some Patels weren’t ready.  And perhaps tending to the emotional needs of a spouse or child wasn’t as much of a priority as making it in America.  It’s the breakdown of the interpersonal relationships in some Patel families that I think has profoundly affected the succeeding generations.  Me included.  So much so that I chose the medical speciality of psychiatry, with a focus on children and adolescents, despite being told by several Patels that a psychiatrist is “not a real doctor.”  

One thing I know for sure from my years of helping children, teens, and adults in individual, couples, and family psychotherapy is that the healing process absolutely requires talking truthfully about the elephant in the room.  And that elephant in the room is often some sort of malfunctioning interpersonal relationship issue.  

Since my experience as a Patel was that no one speaks about interpersonal relationship issues, I often wonder how emotionally hurt Patels find healing.  I don’t think they go to psychiatrists.  Plus, there isn’t much out there in fiction or nonfiction about Patel interpersonal relationship issues, particularly in the young adult genre.  Either way, I want to shed light on these interpersonal issues that affect Patels just as much as they affect the families from every culture and nation, immigrant or not.

That’s why I chose the name Rani Patel for the main character in the young adult novel, Rani Patel in Full Effect.  Rani Patel, her parents, and their experiences are based on a subtle alchemy of Patel individuals and families I’ve known and some of the non-Patel teen and family patients I’ve treated.  Rani Desai, Rani Shah, or Rani Amin would not have had the same impact.  

You probably know a Patel.  It is my hope that Rani Patel in Full Effect challenges you to think beyond the Patel stereotypes and truly see their humanity in their family relationship complexities. There might be more than you could’ve imagined going on behind the closed doors of the Patel that you know.

1.Global Gujaratis: Now in 129 Nations. The Economic Times. July 4, 2015.

2.Global Gujaratis: Now in 129 Nations. The Economic Times. July 4, 2015.

3.Zwick, Steve.  Who Are All These Patels? Chicago Reader.  February 10, 2000.




My Visual Protest

Welcome to my office, the teen psychiatrist is in

And I'm demonstratin'

One way to begin 

Building self-worth for my girls who've taken it on the chin

I ain’t trying to be in Vogue

I’m a fashion rogue

And my mission is to empower

Girls with my glower

Cuz I’ve got power

Without silicone breasts or nose

You won’t find me in a sexy pose

I’m not trying to make guys pop

I keep posting protest photos to make girls stop

Thinking of themselves as pieces of art

That need plastic parts

And wear sex

I’m vexed

And here’s my visual shut down and accusation

To social media and society's misogynistic expectations