R.I.P., Karla Kuskin (1932-2009)
August '09 Carnival of Children's Literature

Neesha Meminger on Kids' Books by South Asian Authors

"50 Multicultural Books Every Child Should Read" is one of many pages at the National Education Association's web site. Neesha Meminger, who wrote the YA novel Shine, Coconut Moon, recently noticed that though the list  features works by some of her favorite authors of color, it contains no books by South Asian writers. (Meminger was born in India, grew up in Canada, and now lives in New York.)

She wrote a blog post on the subject, and later updated it with the happy news that the Cooperative Children's Book Center, which originally compiled "50 Multicultural Books...," plans to expand the roster this fall. 75 Multicultural Books Every Child Should Read? Let's hope so! 

I asked Neesha Meminger for her ideas on some South Asian additions that the CCBC could include. (Not that I have any affiliation whatsoever with the organization—I'm just a busybody who loves a good list.) She kindly sent me a list of some of her favorite South Asian children's books and authors:

  • Bindi Babes (the whole series), by Narindar Dhami (a UK author). YA/MG*
  • Born Confused, by Tanuja Desai Hidier. YA
  • Chachaji's Cup, by Uma Krishnaswami. Picture Book
  • Maya Running, by Anjali Banerjee. MG
  • The Not-So-Star-Spangled Life of Sunita Sen, by Mitali Perkins. YA 
  • Ask Me No Questions, by Marina Budhos. YA
  • Junglee Girl, by Ginu Kamani
  • And a new release, Skunk Girl, by Sheba Karim. YA

She also cited several Canadian authors of South Asian descent who have written fiction with teen or YA protagonists: Shani Mootoo, Shyam Selvedurai, Nila Gupta, and Farzana Doctor, "to name just a few off the top of my head."

More resources from the Meminger files include

I've enjoyed reading the author's own Shine, Coconut Moon (Margaret K. McElderry Books/Simon & Schuster, 2009) this week. Shortly after 9/11, 17-year-old Samar's long-estranged uncle shows up on her doorstep. What does he want? she wonders. This winning coming-of-age novel touches on such subjects as identity, friendship, and prejudice. The review journal Kirkus called it a Sikh version of Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret." 

* "MG" refers to middle grade, or ages 8-12. "YA," to young adult, or 12 and older.

Comments

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Can I add a few to Neesha's most excellent list?

MG and YA
Keeping Corner by Kashmira Sheth
Looking for Bapu by Anjali Banerjee
Rickshaw Girl by by Mitali Perkins, Illustrated by Jamie Hogan
Swimming in the Monsoon Sea by Shyam Selvadurai
Young Uncle Comes to Town by Vandana Singh, Illustrated by B.M. Kamath

Picture Books
Bringing Asha Home by Uma Krishnaswami, Illustrated by Jamel Akib
Mama's Saris by Pooja Makhijani, Illustrated by Elena Gomez (Hey, I think it's a good book!)
Monsoon by Uma Krishnaswami, Illustrated by Jamel Akib
Tiger on a Tree by Anushka Ravishankar, Illustrated by Pulak Biswas

Pooja! Howdy. Thanks for chiming in. We'll have to let the CCBC know about the suggestions here. Mama's Saris is a wonderful book!

Ooh! Great list! I'm excited by how many I've read -- and how many are new to me. And may I point out that Ginu was a professor of mine at grad school? She's a hoot.

Tanita! Glad you stopped by. I've found out about some new titles, too. I'm looking forward to seeing what the CCBC comes up with.

The Road to Mumbai by Ruth Jeyaveeran remains one of my favorites--it takes images like snake charmers, camels, extravaganzas of weddings, and so on, and weaves them into a child's imaginary journey in a loving, wonderful way.

The Road to Mumbai sounds so good. I will look for it!

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