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September 15, 2015

Badass Ladies You Should Know: Preeti Chhibber

Kate Hart


Preeti Chhibber head shot


Preeti Chhibber came across my radar with her awesome cross-stitch projects (as I, too, am a fan of the snarky stitch), but I quickly learned that she has an impressive careeran admirable voice for books and diversity, and that she's a total badass. So badass, in fact, that she's giving away two books by other badass ladies at the end of this post!






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Kate: Describe your career(s) and/or current projects. What path(s) and passions led you there?

Preeti: My day-to-day life/job is in publishing. I've always been that nerdy kid asking for books for holidays and birthdays. To this day I don't leave the house without something to read (this has been made infinitely easier thanks to iBooks). When I got to college, (after a brief and terrible stint as a pre-med student) I eventually realized that working on books was something that a person could actually do as a career. I know. It's completely wild. Now, after almost ten years of working the industry, I work as the YA book buyer for Scholastic Reading Clubs and I can honestly say that it's a dream job. I get to read great books and recommend them to teachers and their students. It's kind of unreal.

In addition, I contribute to book blogging sites like BookRiot and Panels.Net. I'm not kidding when I say I books are my life. I work in books all day, and then when I finish that, I talk about books on the internet. The writing and podcasting came from literally talking about books for free all the time. Eventually, thanks to some friendly recommendations, I was able to pitch pieces to Riot, and that's where I found my people. Book Nerds united!


"No, where are you FROM?" cross stitch by Preeti Chhibber
Kate: Do you have any creative outlets? How do they influence/affect your main work (if at all)?

Preeti: About a year ago a friend turned me onto cross stitching. I am not an artistic person in the sense that I am very bad at drawing and painting and sculpting and free-hand embroidery and pretty much anything you need instinctive talent to do. However! Cross stitch is amazing. It's easy to follow and create patterns, and now I can actually start creating fan art for the books and comics and media I love.

It's also a great outlet for my beliefs. I started a series of cross stitches called the Micro-aggression Cross Stitch series. A micro-aggression is an unintended form of racism or discrimination. Every time someone asked me "No, but where are you from?" implying that I clearly could not be fully American because of the color of my skin, or has commended me on my English speaking ability even though it's essentially my first language… that's a micro-aggression. I was able to use my frustration and put into a piece of art and hopefully spark a dialogue between someone who gets the joke and someone who doesn't.


Kate: What's your biggest challenge?

Preeti: Time management! Seriously. Time management. I want to do everything (and also read everything and see everything) but instead of managing my time well, I just don't get enough sleep.


Preeti at a Bookrageous party
Kate: Tell us about a time that you bounced back from failure.

Preeti: Early on in my career, I applied to be an editorial assistant for a major publishing house. I had to do a test reading of a manuscript and provide the editor with notes, and I was positive that I'd killed it. … But I had not, in fact, killed it. I didn't get the position. For a while, I figured this meant I was not supposed to be working in books, but then something clicked. There are a million different ways you can be involved in getting the right books into the hands that need them. It wasn't that I needed to find a new line of work; it was that I just needed to figure out what I fit. Then I spent the next few years doing that.


Kate: Tell us something that makes you proud.

Preeti: I'm proud of the fact that I genuinely love what I do and that I've succeeded in the goal that I set for myself as a kid. And I'm proud that I'm in a position where I can affect change, I can support authors and stories that need to be told.



Kate: Did you have any defining moments that galvanized your understanding of and/or commitment to feminism? How does it inform/inspire your work?

Preeti: I'm not sure if there was a specific moment, but I grew up with an immigrant mother who went through a terrible divorce and then had to figure out how to raise her children in a country she was experiencing right alongside us. She had to be twice as strong, and it taught me a lot about how aware we need to be of our roles and how we represent ourselves. I work in an industry that, despite having more women than men, tends to have more men at higher positions than women. In addition, I work in an industry that is overwhelmingly white. Both are things that influence my decision to fight for more visibility and representation of minority women in publishing.


Kate: Who are some badass ladies we should know, and why?

PreetiG. Willow Wilson writes the ridiculously, amazingly, fantastically popular Ms. Marvel and hits on so many themes of identity and difference and isolation and acceptance. She turned a Pakistani-American Muslim girl from Jersey City into the Spider-Man of our generation. It’s amazing.

Christine Heppermann came out with an incredible poetry collection last year called Poisoned Apples. It is the kind of book I wish I’d had as a teen, and it’s the kind of book I’m happy that I have now. She uses fairytale tropes to really get to the heart of what it’s like to be a teenaged girl (and honestly, a woman) in our society. It’s brutal and honest. I love it.

Franchesca Ramsay: This former independent Youtube star is hosting MTV’s series Decoded which is all about race and racism in America. She has consistently and coherently (and often hilariously) spoken about micro-aggressions, stereotyping, and a multitude of other issues minorities face every day. 



Preeti Chhibber with a "strong female character" tote bagKate: What are the best ways to support other women

Preeti: Be conscious of your actions. It's easy to default to doing what we want or what we like, which is absolutely okay. But sometimes it takes a few extra steps to support women.
It means elevating their voices, it means recognizing that sometimes their story is more important than your own. We should be there for one another.


Kate: What is your advice to aspiring badasses?

Preeti: Be passionate about what you do. I don't just mean your day job, but what you choose to do with your time. Love it and live it, and you'll find ways to change it, to improve upon it for the better. Don't ever settle.



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Preeti Chhibber is currently the Senior Editorial Manager for the Teens & BookBeat Scholastic Reading Clubs in New York, NY. She earned her B.A. in English at the University of Florida and her M.S. in Publishing at New York University. Hailing from West Palm Beach, Fl, she is a contributing writer for Book Riot and Panels.Net as well as a co-host on the Bookrageous and Oh, Comics! podcasts. You can keep up with Preeti @runwithskizzers and on her Tumblr.

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