Saturday, March 19, 2011

Book List: South Asian KidLIt

In honor of Holi, the festive Hindu holiday during which day to day restraints are suspended - and people throw colors and colored waters on one another, I thought I'd do a book list of great Desi (South Asian Diasporic) Kidlit.

Now I make this list fully recognizing that Holi is not a holiday that all South Asians or South Asian diasporic people celebrate, so I make this list with a secular heart - to celebrate Spring, great literature, and a community of writers I have been so honored to meet and read.

I'm listing here only MG and YA novels - there are many, many wonderful picture books out there of course - and I hope readers will list some in the comments! Even among MG and YA, I'm sure I'll forget someone (or many someone's) so please, please, add to the list!

Happy Holi, and Happy Reading!

 1. Mitali Perkins: Bamboo People

I had the honor of interviewing Mitali Perkins for Stories are Good Medicine last year. Bamboo People, a story of two boy soldiers in Burma,  has received many awards including being chosen as an ALA/YALSA Top 10 2011 Novel for Young Adults. Mitali is the author of several other MG and YA novels including Monsoon Summer, Secret Keeper, and Rikshaw Girl.

2. Neesha Meminger: Shine, Coconut Moon
It was an honor to celebrate Neesha Meminger's work on this blogShine, Coconut Moon, a story about growing up Sikh in post 9-11 America, made the Smithsonian's Notable Books for Children List, and was followed by the more recent Jazz in Love.

3. Marina Budhos: Tell Us We're Home 

The story of three teen girls who are the daughters of maids, nannies and housekeepers in a suburban American town, the novel illuminates issues of race, class, immigration, and sexual awakening. Marina is also the author of several other books including the nonfiction Sugar Changed the World: A Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom and Science ( co-written with her husband, Marc Aronson), which was shortlisted for the LA Times Book Prize in the YA category. (Marina's interview on this blog here)   

4. Sheba Karim: Skunk Girl
High School, dating, hair politics -- Sheba Karim addresses the, well, hairy world of a young Pakistani American teen with wit and a fantastically sassy voice. Two of Sheba's other stories have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and she is currently in New Delhi on a Fullbright Scholarship writing her next book. Her interview on Stories are Good Medicine here.

5. Sarwat Chadda: Dark Goddess 

The follow up to his novel Devil's Kiss (which I talked about on this blog here), Dark Goddess   continues the story of Billi San Greal, half-Pakistani, demon-butt-kicking, modern teen girl Knight Templar. Yowza. Need I say more?

6. Rakesh Satyal: Blue Boy

The first novel for this editor at Harper Collins, who is also on the planning committee for the PEN World Voices Festival, Blue Boy tells the story of Kiran Sharma, a son of immigrants growing up in Cincinnati, Ohio who is having trouble getting the knack of social acceptance either among his classmates or his Indian America friends. That is, until he realizes that perhaps he's a god...  This much lauded book is on my "next to be read" pile beside my bed and I can't wait to start it!

What South Asian diasporic kidlit novel/novelist did I forget? Is your favorite here?


  1. I added BLUE BOY to my wish list.

    I'm familiar with the rest. I own a few, and I read SHINE.

    Have a great weekend.

  2. Thanks Medeia for the RT and the visit! I can't wait to read "Bestest. Ramadan. Ever." Just the title alone is fantastic! I'd be interested if you'd read Skunk Girl...

  3. Wonderful list, Sayantani - and fantastic idea!

    I would add Mahtab Narsimhan, Sarah Jamila Stevenson, Swati Avasthi, Uma Krishnaswami, Anjali Banerjee, Tanuja Desai Hidier, and Vivek Shraya. There are more on the SAWNET forum here, in alphabetical order and by age range:

    And Happy Holi! :D

  4. Hooray! Neesha - LOVE that there's a sawnet list of kidlit authors. thanks for sharing!!! (and for RTing, and for writing and just, well, being cool :)

  5. Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier

    The publisher, PUSH, publishes MA/YA books written by young (or only slightly older) YA (early to mid-twenties). Their collection includes a couple of memoirs written in verse, books that focus on drug usage, teen pregnancy, self-injury, and fitting in, dating, etc.

    Patricia McCormick, who wrote Sold, was one of their early writers. Her novel Cut was the only novel on self-injury I could find when I was looking for books on the subject.

  6. This is a great list! I loved Skunk Girl and Blue Boy. Can't wait to read the others!

  7. Thanks for your visits and comments Satia and Anjali! Oh, I can't believe that I forgot about "Born Confused", Satia! Thanks for reminding me!

    Anjali - glad you like the list! Please add what I've forgotten!

    Already, I'm realizing Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's Conch Bearer series isn't on this list!

  8. Ooo -- I'm going to seek out Devil's Kiss and Blue Boy for my reading pile! They sound great!

    Happy Holi! and Happy Spring!

  9. I think everyone has mentioned books that I had on my mind as well. There is also of course, Salman Rushdie's Haroun and the Sea of Stories, one of my favorites, actually. He has a follow-up novel, Luka and the Fire of Life, but I have not read that one yet.

    Thanks for the list! I will bookmark it!

  10. Sheela - I didn't list yours!!! I can't believe it!!! (*head down in humiliation*) and Haroun is one of my all time FAVORITE books - I guess I never think of it as kidlit but you're right it is. OK, Desi kidlit blog part 2 coming up later today!! thanks for the comments, all!

  11. Oh, no worries! My book isn't even out yet!

    I think it's interesting that most people don't think of Haroun (myself included) when they think of south asian children's books, maybe because he is so well-known as an adult writer. Also, Haroun is quite old, something I read about 20 years ago, so it might just not be on our collective radars anymore.

  12. NEW Children's book on Holi

    It's Time for Holi!

    Perfect book for young children to develop an understanding of the celebration, colors, and the spring season. The boy in the story is so excited for Holi that he starts celebrating early!

  13. As far as picture books go, "A Lion's Mane" is a great teaching tool about the Sikh dastaar (turban). It's all about how wearing a turban and being different is "normal" too.

  14. thanks Amita and Jasleen for pointing out more great resources!

  15. Don't know if you're still updating this list, but I'd be honored if you'd add my novels (CLIMBING THE STAIRS; ISLAND'S END; and A TIME TO DANCE - all of which were released to multiple starred reviews and have since won several awards and honors). Thanks much!