If you haven’t heard about Shoilee Banerjee, you are truly missing out. Born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts, she published her debut novel Something at just nineteen. The young adult book largely focuses on the theme of mental health in the South Asian American community.
Banerjee found out from a very young age that writing was something that she enjoyed and that she knew how to do it right. Her first novel was a tale about a dragon and her experiences, and even though she enjoyed creating stories, she knew she could improve. So, she set about turning her passion–creative writing–into something impactful.
She realized the power of words at that moment and went on to win many national writing competitions. And ever since, Banerjee has used creative writing to bolster her mental health activism. Her goal is to destigmatize mental illness through fiction.
But why did she decide to focus on that specific topic? The answer is simple: at age fourteen, when she reached high school, she saw many of her closest friends and classmates struggle with mental illness. Banerjee witnessed how these illnesses were brushed aside by teachers, parents, and even students, as if they weren’t real.
Even though she wasn’t (yet) a mental health professional, she decided she needed to find a way to spread the word about this problem; that is when Something was born. It was the right time to write a novel about a topic that she was really passionate about.
So Banerjee started to create a world of characters that South Asian teens could relate to and her words ended up as this inspiring novel. Before she had even graduated from college, her work was brought to life by Leaf Publishing, a publishing house that supports voices of color.
Shoilee currently studies Public Health at college in Massachusetts and continues to advocate for those who have a hard time finding their own voice and for those who have already found theirs. The University of Massachusetts is currently recognized for its Mental Health Department, where Banerjee studies under people who will help her explore this topic more deeply.
Right now, Banerjee is also an infectious disease researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital–the same hospital where she was born. By pairing her creative side with her interest in medicine, she continues to fight for those with mental illnesses, regardless of whether they’re mild or debilitating.
Banerjee has strived to raise awareness for marginalized groups and has worked with politicians such as congressman Jim McGovern, presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard, and Prime Minister Modi of India. She’s also met with stars like Uma Thurman and Shawn Mendes and hopes to continue collaborations to spread information about and resources for mental health.
Though she knows she isn’t (yet) a doctor, therapist, or healthcare professional, she wants to advocate for the cause the way she knows best: through her words. This May, her debut YA novel, Something, releases.