I am an Indian mom raising two little “American” girls in the U.S. I love reading to my children and it has helped me rediscover my love for books written for children. Growing up in the 80s, I, like most middle-class Indians, read books by British authors such as Enid Blyton and Richmal Crompton.
While I credit those books with developing my imagination – after all, what did a child in south India really know of English boarding schools – they have, in some ways, let me down. I remember dreaming about scones and crumpets as a little girl and came to the U.S. with an appetite for them, only to discover that, for my taste, they paled in comparison to samosa and masala dosa! That’s what made me realize that for all my love for the English language and western literature, I still needed books that resonate with my personal experiences. Surely, my 5- year- old daughter, growing up in America but with Indian roots, feels the same.
So I had my parents bring the Indian children’s books I grew up reading – Amar Chitra Kathas. Yet some of these stories seem too advanced for a 5- year- old, with several characters and complex themes of good and evil.
Then I did some research and was amazed to find the hundreds of age-appropriate books that have been published over the last 20 years. It appears that Indian children’s literary landscape has undergone quite a change and those of us who have grown up and moved away from that world are quite out of touch. There are picture books that have wonderful illustrations that reflect all of India’s diversity and they are available in several languages that can truly be appreciated by bi-lingual parents.
While the neighborhood I live in is pretty diverse, the books that she reads are sorely lacking in representing the world around her. I want my daughter to read books that are filled with pictures of children with black hair, their “ammas” in a sari and bindi, speaking a mix of English and Tamil (her mother tongue, which she is still to fully embrace). Hopefully, reading these books would ensure that her own culture will not feel alien to her as she grows up in the U.S. And I know this sense of identity is what millions of Indians settled in the U.S. also want for their kids.
This blog is dedicated to discovering new books for Indian children that have global appeal but are rooted in authentic Indian storytelling. The market for Indian children’s books is still evolving and it cannot truly compete with books from the west unless we parents appreciate what these books have to offer and start demanding more of them.