Reading for Diwali

In honor of the Festival of Lights, here are some books about the celebration of Diwali along with picture books and fiction by and about South Asian and South Asian American people. These books for young readers — all recommended at the time of their publication by The Horn Book Magazine and Guide/Reviews Database — can be a part of a child’s holiday observation or an introduction to new traditions. See also "Happy Holi!" about spring's "Festival of Colors."

Thanks always to our friends at Mango & Marigold Press (formerly Bharat Babies) and Kitaab World and Lantern Reads whose shared mission highlights children's books by and about South Asian people and cultures and whose recommendations inform our list. And to Tara Books for continuing to send us their eye-catching titles for review consideration. Follow this link for Kitaab World's "Host Your Own Diwali Story Time!" And read Ajanta Chakraborty's 2020 post "Pandemic-friendly ways to celebrate 5 Days of Diwali for EVERYONE!"

See also Uma Krishnaswami's excellent 2019 Horn Book Magazine article "Why Stop at Mirrors and Windows?: Children's Book Prisms" and her 2012 article "No Joke! Humor and Culture in Middle-Grade Books." Sayantani DasGupta explored "radical imagination" in 2021's "Imagining Our Way to the Other Side: Children's Literature and Radical Imagination" and #OwnVoices in 2019's "My Characters Don't Wear Shoes in the House." Then there's Padma Venkatraman's 2020 article "Compassion as Well as Correctness." And here's our 2017 Five Questions interview with Mitali Perkins about the wonderful (starred) You Bring the Distant Near plus Sarwat Chadda's 2020 Talks with Roger about City of the Plague God and Nidhi Chanani's 2021 Talks with Roger about Jukebox.




Alznauer, Amy The Boy Who Dreamed of Infinity: A Tale of the Genius Ramanujan
48 pp. Candlewick, 2020. ISBN 978-0-7636-9048-9

Gr. K-3 Illustrated by Daniel Miyares. This eloquently written picture-book biography gives voice to the brilliant—and self-taught—mathematician Srinivasa Iyengar Ramanujan. Born in South India in the late nineteenth century, Ramanujan was a late talker, and when he finally did speak, his unusual questions set him apart. "What is small?...And what is big?" As the boy thought long and hard about infinity, "numbers leaped and roared." However, "in school, numbers were different, stiff and straight, obeying the rules." After he flunked out of college (he ignored his non-math courses), his mother arranged a ­marriage for him, and he ­eventually found work as a clerk in Madras. Encouraged by local mathematicians and his British supervisors, he wrote letters to the top mathematicians at Cambridge University. In 1914, Ramanujan traveled to England, eager to share his mathematical insights—and to no longer feel isolated, "like the first man in the world with no one to hear me speak." Alznauer employs a handful of Tamil words to good effect, and articulately conveys the concept of infinity. She also revisits, quite poignantly, Ramanujan's spiritual anchor—his grandmother's dream of a Hindu goddess who promised to "write the thoughts of God on [his] tongue." Miyares's ink-wash illustrations play with light and dark in realistic scenes and whimsical number-filled spreads. An author's note includes further biographical details and explains that many of the thoughts and quotes are "inspired by" Ramanujan's actual words; a bibliography is also appended.


Arni, Kanchana & Wolf, Gita Beasts of India
48 pp. Tara, 2018. ISBN 978-93-83145-58-4

Gr. K-3 This small square book depicts animals of India screenprinted on textured paper. The diversity is both biological (tiger, deer, snake, etc.) and cultural, with the images coming from more than a dozen artists from different areas of India. Color choices for backgrounds complement the mostly two-color images of the animals, each given its own spread. Full art notes are appended.


Bradbury, Jennifer Rock by Rock: The Fantastical Garden of Nek Chand
48 pp. Atheneum/Dlouhy, 2021. ISBN 978-1-4814-8182-3 Ebook ISBN 978-1-4814-8183-0

Gr. K-3 Illustrated by Sam Boughton. Not a formally trained artist, Nek Chand built the famed Rock Garden in Chandigarh, India, "rock by rock," using discarded and found materials. Bradbury's text illuminates the artist's intuitive creative process as a means of easing his feelings of dislocation and homesickness after the Partition of India causes him and other Hindus to depart their ancestral villages, now considered part of the new Muslim nation of Pakistan. "That missing moved from his heart into his hands, and his hands knew what to do," writes Bradbury in the scene where Chand first finds the secluded piece of land on which he builds the garden, with its myriad sculptures, structures, and a "maze of tunnels and paths and arches and stairs." The garden serves as both a monument to the home Chand lost and a secret means of bringing joy and beauty to his new home. When others discover the garden (now grown to cover over forty acres), they are astounded, and the community rallies to save it from officials who threaten to tear it down in the name of development. Throughout, Boughton's illustrations burst with color. The art emulates Chand's use of found materials in its incorporation of newsprint and fabrics into digital collage. The illustrations make several overt references to some of Chand's actual figures, structures, and mosaics, with back-matter pages treating readers to photographs of the Rock Garden and of Chand himself. Pair with Rosenstock and Nivola's The Secret Kingdom (rev. 3/18).


Gandhi, Arun & Hegedus, Bethany Be the Change: A Grandfather Gandhi Story
48 pp. Atheneum, 2016. ISBN 978-1-4814-4265-7 Ebook ISBN 978-1-4814-4266-4

Gr. K-3 Illustrated by Evan Turk. After young Arun Gandhi tosses a pencil nub away in rebellion, he comes to understand the ways in which he can "be the change you wish to see in the world." Turk's artwork is stunning in color and composition, providing visual clarity to heady concepts. From the creators of Grandfather Gandhi, another valuable title for showing the human side of the seminal figure that is Gandhi.


Gandhi, Arun & Hegedus, Bethany Grandfather Gandhi
48 pp. Atheneum, 2014. ISBN 9781-4424-2365-7 Ebook ISBN 978-1-4424-5082-0

Gr. K-3 Illustrated by Evan Turk. Mahatma Gandhi's grandson, Arun, who angers easily, feels he will never live up to the Gandhi name. Gandhi explains that he, too, feels anger but has learned to channel it for good. Unusual for its child-centered portrait of Gandhi, the graceful narrative is matched by vivid mixed-media illustrations, rendered in watercolor, paper collage, cotton fabric, yarn, gouache, pencil, tea, and tinfoil.

Heiligman, Deborah Celebrate Diwali
32 pp. National Geographic, 2006. ISBN 0-7922-5922-X LE ISBN 0-7922-5923-8

Gr. K-3 Holidays around the World series. This book uses short, simple sentences and large, colorful, well-captioned photographs to explain Diwali's customs and traditions. Written with a global perspective in mind, the text's use of the "we" voice (rather than "they") makes the information seem more authentic and respectful. Recipes and a game are provided; an essay written by a religion professor is appended. Reading list, websites. Glos.


Heydlauff, Lisa Going to School in India
98 pp. Charlesbridge 2005. ISBN 1-57091-666-7

Gr. K-3 Photographs by Nitin Upadhye. Describing schools and students in many parts of this diverse nation, this volume offers more information about contemporary India than most books for children. Details about food, transportation, geographic regions, religion, economics, and political issues are woven into the text. The trendy but overbearing collage and design elements sometimes obscure the clear, vivid photos in this unique offering. Glos., ind.


Reynolds, Jan The Lion Queens of India
32 pp. Lee & Low, 2020. ISBN 978-1-64379-051-0

Gr. K-3 Gir Wildlife Sanctuary’s first female forest ranger and original “Lion Queen,” Rashila Vadher, narrates this compelling introduction to her life’s work. The sanctuary is home to more than five hundred Asiatic lions—the only wild population left in the world—and a key part of the Lion Queens’ mission is raising awareness about the plight of this endangered species, which faced near-extinction in the early 1900s. Reynolds’s effectively organized presentation appropriately centers conservation as well. The rangers’ duties include patrolling sections of the forest to track lions (and poachers) and providing medical care when necessary. They also work with neighboring villages to educate inhabitants about lions’ importance in the forest ecosystem and the necessity of maintaining the “natural balance of the forest.” Weighing human and animal needs is a constant for the Lion Queens: “How can humans and animals both thrive, living near each other and competing for the same resources?” Vadher’s passion for her work, respect for the lions, and commitment to education come through in the conversational text and many well-chosen photos (some taken by the author); a welcoming page design helps engage readers in the narrative—which has a lot to offer a wide range of interests. In an author’s note, Reynolds talks more about Vadher’s experiences and about her own visit to the sanctuary. A bibliography is appended.


Rosenstock, Barb The Secret Kingdom: Nek Chand, a Changing India, and a Hidden World of Art
40 pp. Candlewick, 2018. ISBN 978-0-7636-7475-5

Gr. K-3 Illustrated by Claire A. Nivola. Rosenstock's moving picture-book celebration of folk artist Nek Chand (creator of the Rock Garden of Chandigarh) opens in an idyllic village in Punjab. After the Partition of India in 1947, resettled refugee Chand assuages homesickness by (illegally) clearing jungle land and building an ever-increasing number of sculptures and mosaic walls out of recycled materials. Nivola's folk-art sensibility befits the simplicity of Chand's art. Bib.


Singh, Rina 111 Trees: How One Village Celebrates the Birth of Every Girl
36 pp. Kids Can, 2020. ISBN 978-1-5253-0120-9 Ebook ISBN 978-1-5253-0584-9

Gr. K-3 Citizen Kid series. Illustrated by Marianne Ferrer. To honor his young daughter's memory, Sundar Paliwal proposes that his Indian village plants 111 trees for each baby girl born. He hopes this act will help change the deeply held belief that "a daughter was a burden..." and counter decades of environmental damage caused by mining. Changing people's minds takes effort and time, but Sundar persists and eventually sees his dream become reality. Accompanied by Ferrer's stylized illustrations in muted earth tones, Singh's approachable text conveys how one person's passion and commitment can have tremendous impact on their community. Five pages at the end of the book discuss in more detail Sundar's mission, gender inequality, the project's "extraordinary changes," and "eco-feminism."


Singh, Rina Diwali: Festival of Lights
95 pp. Orca 2016. ISBN 978-1-4598-1007-5 Ebook ISBN 978-1-4598-1008-2

Gr. 4-6 Orca Origins series. This book successfully expresses that Diwali is celebrated differently around the world. Hindu, Jain, and Sikh Diwali traditions are represented through photographs of celebrations, related legends, included recipes, and anecdotal narratives about real people. Though losing focus as it attempts to cover related topics such as Indian immigration, the book offers in-depth depictions of cultural and religious practices. Reading list, websites. Glos., ind.


Picture Books


Bajaj, Varsha The Home Builders
32 pp. Penguin/Paulsen 2019. ISBN 978-0-399-16685-3

Illustrated by Simona Mulazzani. This picture book invites children to observe nature as a variety of creatures busily create homes to live in with their babies. Bajaj's text is simple, specific, and active, reflecting the hard work of each type of creature to stay alive. Mulazzani's mixed-media illustrations use soft colors and have a generally cozy feel, yet they're clear and precise enough that viewers can spot even the smallest insects.


Bajaj, Varsha This Is Our Baby, Born Today
32 pp. Penguin/Paulsen 2016. ISBN 978-0-399-16684-6

Illustrated by Eliza Wheeler. "This is the Baby / wrinkled and gray. / This is the Baby / born today." Lilting verses celebrate the birth of an elephant, noting the welcoming herd and natural environment awaiting it. With dip pens, India ink, and watercolor, Wheeler warmly if anthropomorphically captures the affectionate creatures amid India's flora and fauna. The Indian American author adds a note about conservation and her connection with elephants.


Dairman, Tara Desert Girl, Monsoon Boy
32 pp. Putnam, 2020. ISBN 978-0-525-51806-8 EBook ISBN 978-0-525-51807-5

Illustrated by Archana Sreenivasan. In this beautifully rendered study of contrasts and commonalities, Dairman imagines a girl and boy from two different biomes in India. Split pages portray the girl going about her day collecting firewood with her family, embroidering patterns with her grandmother, and eating family meals under the desert sky (the back matter indicates that the community is the Rabari nomadic tribe). The yellows of the girl’s dusty surroundings contrast with the lush greens and blues of the boy’s village environment. As heavy monsoon clouds threaten to burst, he attends to his day—going to school, herding goats with his grandfather, and splashing in muddy puddles. As the weather brings about sandstorms (for the girl) and floods (for the boy), both families are forced to move to higher ground—where the children finally meet. Intersecting panels highlight their parallel stories, while the spare rhyming text complements the arresting visuals. This book not only examines climate change through the eyes of communities whose lives and livelihoods depend on the weather, but also provides a starting point for conversations on gendered roles as well as about migration as a form of survival—and how our lives are interconnected. The back matter notes Sreenivasan’s research, including community members’ input into making the book.


Divakaruni, Chitra Banerjee Grandma and the Great Gourd: A Bengali Folktale
32 pp. Roaring Brook/Porter 2013. ISBN 978-1-59643-378-6

Illustrated by Susy Pilgrim Waters. Along the way to her daughter's house, Grandma talks three animals out of eating her by convincing them to wait for her return trip. Divakaruni's retelling of a Bengali folktale evokes the oral tradition by frequent use of pattern and onomatopoeia. Waters's mixed-media collages are perhaps too pretty, but they give a sense of depth through layering and textures.


Engle, Margarita , Karanjit, Amish & Karanjit, Nicole A Dog Named Haku: A Holiday Story from Nepal

32 pp. Millbrook, 2018. ISBN 978-1-5124-3205-3 Ebook ISBN 978-1-5415-2469-9

Illustrated by Ruth Jeyaveeran. In Kathmandu during the Festival of Lights—called Swanti, Tihar, or Deepawali in Nepal (Diwali in India)—two brothers look for a kukur (stray dog) to honor during the celebration. Coauthor Amish Karanjit, Engle's son-in-law, lived through the 2015 earthquakes in Nepal, when rescue dogs played an important role in finding survivors. The interesting holiday story is illustrated with cultural specificity. Suggested activities are appended. Reading list. Glos.


Ghosh, Labanya The Mountains of Mumbai

40 pp. Karadi Tales, 2020 ISBN 978-81-9365-429-3

Illustrated by Pallavi Jain. Doma misses the mountains of Ladakh, a region in Kashmir administered by India, bordering Tibet and Pakistan. Known for its remoteness, jagged mountains, rocky outcrops, and unique culture as a former Buddhist kingdom, it's nothing like the cosmopolitan city of Mumbai--or is it? Her friend Veda believes that Mumbai can give Doma the feeling of Ladakh's mountains, albeit in a different way. "Do mountains have to be exactly like the ones in Ladakh? Big, brown triangles?" Veda asks as the girls make their way through the city. They walk through bustling outdoor markets and streets, while bright-hued illustrations show more expansive views of the city that zoom out far enough to emphasize color and geography: the iconic Bandra-Worli bridge has large, mountain-like, ­triangular-shaped cables, while aerial street views flatten ­proportions, turning buildings into color-saturated blocks. Veda leads Doma into a high-rise building, up many flights of a swirling spiral staircase, shown from both a top-down perspective and a ­disorienting double-page corkscrew. Doma concedes that being on top of a "mountain in Mumbai" brings a similar feeling to being in Ladakh. While the cultural and geographic specificity of Ladakh is what makes the book unique, readers come away from it challenged to view objects and locations in new ways that foster connections, despite differences.


Gopal, Jyoti Rajan American Desi
40 pp. Little, 2022. ISBN 978-0-316-70530-1

Illustrated by Supriya Kelkar. A young American desi (someone of South Asian descent living elsewhere) compares the disparate parts of her own cultural makeup. "Pavadais in bright gold colors / Jersey shirts and faded jeans / Swapping, changing, feeling seen... / Which is the color of me?" While the child's voice is initially curious, there's never any hint of self-consciousness, and the tone becomes proud and grateful. The gently rhyming text uses a dynamic refrain ("Finding the sounds of me," "Blending the flavors of me," etc.) to empower cultural identities of all kinds; Kelkar's rich collages, a potpourri of paper, fabric, and other media, are wonderfully suited to this celebration of "blending, merging, taking wing..."


Javaherbin, Mina Elephant in the Dark: Based on a Poem by Rumi
40 pp. Scholastic 2015. ISBN 978-0-545-63670-4

Illustrated by Eugene Yelchin. When merchant Ahmad brings a mysterious creature to his village, curious villagers climb through a window in his barn, each touching just a part of the creature and leaping to conclusions about what it might be. Yelchin's paintings balance the characteristic Persian style of repetitive patterns with lots of open space. The book should provide opportunities for discussions about perception.


Khiani, Darshana How to Wear a Sari

32 pp. Houghton/Versify, 2021. ISBN 978-1-328-63520-4 Ebook ISBN 978-0-358-53188-3

Illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff. A direct-address text demands the reader's attention with the query: "Are you tired of being treated like a little kid?" Who isn't! A brown-skinned South Asian "little kid" in pigtails believes that all she needs to do to be taken seriously is to dress herself in a "colorful, twinkly, silky sari." The offstage narrator walks the girl through the steps of folding and pleating it and putting it on, but nothing goes (or looks) as it should. The petticoat and pleats aren't quite right; a hole appears in the fabric. Instead of obsessing over those faults, the girl loads each of her appendages with bangle bracelets and dons sparkly high-heeled sandals, all borrowed from her unsuspecting mother. As the narrator exhorts her to "go show...your glamorous grown-up look" to her family, the girl starts to teeter on her high heels. A page-turn reveals her careening into an extended family gathering; food, drink, and sandals fly through the air. Illustrations employ a colorful palette that pays homage to richly hued sari fabrics, contrasting a sari's elegance with the girl's clumsy earnestness. Her understanding family takes her youthful missteps with a healthy dose of humor, assuring readers that maybe being a "little kid' isn't so bad after all.


Krishnaswami, Uma Out of the Way! Out of the Way!
32 pp. Groundwood 2012. ISBN 978-1-55498-130-4

Illustrated by Uma Krishnaswamy. This look at urban development manages to stay cheery and upbeat as an Indian village grows into a city. Traffic of all kinds, animals, and people keep moving on the road past a small tree that grows through the decades and retains its importance as a meeting place. Traditional and contemporary imagery is artfully combined in black line drawings and swaths of bright colors.


Makhijani, Pooja Mama's Saris
32 pp. Little 2007. ISBN 978-0-316-01105-1

Illustrated by Elena Gomez. Readers can empathize with the Indian narrator, who longs to celebrate her seventh birthday by discarding her everyday Western clothes and, for the first time, wearing a sari just like Mama. Though the figures in the illustrations look stiff, the rich patterns and colors of the saris are eye-catching. A Hindi glossary and a note about saris (and playing "dress up") are included.


Nainy, Mamta A Sari for Ammi
32 pp. Amazon Crossing Kids, 2021. ISBN 978-1-54203-507-1

Illustrated by Sandhya Prabhat. The narrator and her sister marvel at the beautiful saris that Ammi (mother) and Abba (father) make to sell at the haat (market); an intricate and laborious art form, one sari can take months to complete. The girls decide that Ammi deserves to keep one for herself—and when their piggybank savings don't cover the cost, they raise the rest themselves. A sweet family story about appreciation, sacrifice, and generational traditions is woven into an overview of this centuries-old regional artisanship in Northern India. The bright digital illustrations do justice to the rich colors and patterns of sari-weaving. More about "The Saris of Kaithoon" and a glossary are appended.


Nayar, Nandini What Should I Make?
24 pp. Tricycle 2009. ISBN 978-1-58246-294-3

Illustrated by Proiti Roy. While preparing chapatis (Indian flat bread) with his mother, a young boy plays with the dough: a long rope becomes a snake; a patted-down ball, a mouse. But how will he prevent the animals from actually coming alive? Mom has the solution: "Roll it up, quick, quick!" Warm-toned illustrations keep attention centered squarely on mother and son. A recipe is included.


Perkins, Mitali Home Is in Between

40 pp. Farrar, 2021. ISBN 978-0-374-30367-9 Ebook ISBN 978-0-374-38944-4

Illustrated by Lavanya Naidu. Shanti says goodbye to the village that is her home, a place of "warm monsoon rains" and "green palm trees" and extended family; she arrives in a town of "cold rain and orange and yellow leaves." There is a new language, new currency, new manners, new holidays. It's a challenge, but the young girl begins to learn a new way of life while still actively preserving the one she knew by continuing traditions at home with her parents. On some spreads, Shanti runs back and forth "remembering the village. Learning the town. Again and again. In Between." Eventually, she gets tired of the constant push and pull ("Where was she from? Village? Town?") and decides to make her home right there, in between cultures ("She was good at making anywhere feel like home"). Shanti's enthusiasm for both her home village and her new town offers a refreshing view of multiculturalism as a source of a rich life. Perkins's prose is rhythmic and controlled, with just enough detail to immerse readers in Shanti's experience and follow her satisfying journey. Naidu's cartoonlike illustrations, in a warm color palette, are energetic and full of emotional expression, adding layers to the story and making Shanti an endearing and memorable character.


Rao, Sandhya My Mother's Sari
24 pp. North-South 2006. ISBN 0-7358-2101-1

Illustrated by Nina Sabnani. Indian children playfully interact with the colorful textiles used for traditional women's clothing, imaginatively comparing the fabrics to a train, river, rope, and hiding place. The warm feeling between mother and child is here presented through highly textured illustrations, which combine acrylic drawings with photographs of sari fabrics. The endpapers present diagrams and instructions for properly wrapping a sari.


Sehgal, Kabir & Sehgal, Surishtha Mother Goose Goes to India
32 pp. Simon/Beach Lane, 2022. ISBN 978-1-5344-3960-3 Ebook ISBN 978-1-5344-3961-0

Illustrated by Wazza Pink. In the same vein as the authors' A Bucket of Blessings (retelling an Indian myth) and The Wheels on the Tuk Tuk, the mother-son coauthors recast Mother Goose classics for an audience of culturally South Asian tots. "Jai Be Nimble," "Humpty Dumpty," "Pat-a-Naan," and more: each nursery rhyme maintains the original's characteristic rhythm while subbing-in one or more Hindi words (defined with pronunciation below). In parallel with the Sehgals' English-Hindi mashups, the digital illustrations include both familiar Mother Goose imagery and South Asian cultural details, such as traditional clothing and lotus design motifs.


Sehgal, Kabir and Sehgal, Surishtha The Wheels on the Tuk Tuk
40 pp. Simon/Beach Lane 2015. ISBN 978-1-4814-4831-4 Ebook ISBN 978-1-4814-4832-1

Illustrated by Jess Golden. In an amusing adaptation of the children's song, young readers ride in an Indian tuk tuk (also known as an auto rickshaw) and encounter a smattering of the subcontinent's sights including the traditional "namaste-ji" greeting, the holy cows that wander freely, and a Diwali celebration. The author's note and glossary explain these elements simply. Festive watercolor, pastel, and colored-pencil illustrations enhance the ride.


Sheth, Kashmira Monsoon Afternoon
32 pp. Peachtree 2008. ISBN 978-1-56145-455-6

Illustrated by Yoshiko Jaeggi. During monsoon season in India, a boy and his dadaji (grandfather) spend a day sailing paper boats in a washtub, taking a walk, and swinging on a banyan tree. This paean to the pleasures of intergenerational companionship has universal appeal. Illustrations in soft colors display the warm-hearted sentiment of the text. An author's note gives more information about monsoon season.


Sheth, Kashmira Sona and the Wedding Game
32 pp. Peachtree 2015. ISBN 978-1-56145-735-9

Illustrated by Yoshiko Jaeggi. During her sister's wedding, a child in an East Indian American family participates in many cultural practices that are new to her. One such tradition involves a little mischief and humor: hiding the groom's shoes. Soft watercolor paintings, some of which are framed in a recurring golden pattern, portray lush, gilded saris and a loving, happy family. An author's note provides cultural background.


Dadaji’s PaintbrushDadaji’s Paintbrush
by Rashmi Sirdeshpande ; illus. by Ruchi Mhasane
Primary     Levine Querido    32 pp.     g
8/22     978-1-64614-172-2     $18.99

In a small village in India, a boy and his grandfather (dadaji) enjoy growing and selling fruits in the local market together, as well as reading, and making paper boats for the village children to sail down the street during the monsoon rains. Above all else, they love to paint together, and the grandfather often invites the village children to join them. When the grandfather passes away, the boy locks up all of the artwork and painting supplies; they are too painful a reminder of what he has lost. The soft, smudgy pastel illustrations capture the boy’s sense of loss by changing from warm colors to muted, dull tones. As time passes and the boy processes his grief, bursts of light and color start to creep back in. When a little girl asks the boy to teach her how to paint, it rekindles his joy and he unearths long-put-away objects, such as his grandfather’s best paintbrush. This book honors the complicated feelings of grief while offering hope and solace. The boy comes to the conclusion that the best way to honor his grandfather is by embracing, not forgetting, the things they loved to do together. Sharing his love of painting with others is how the boy knows that “his grandfather will always be with him.”


Srinivasan, Divya What I Am
40 pp. Viking, 2021. ISBN 978-0-59320-401-6 Ebook ISBN 978-0-59320-403-0

After a child with brown skin is asked a mystifying question—"What are you?"—the spare text and childlike illustrations cleverly posit the many (often opposing) whats she is. "I am dark. I am pale" appears over three small (differently melanized) hands reaching into a huddle-circle; the opposite page shows one set of bare tan-lined feet: "In summer I am many colors." The girl is also, for example, a "scaredy-cat" (mid-thunderstorm) then "brave" (catching bugs), and "not mischievous / (most of the time)." A note from the Indian American author explains the dehumanizing nature of the question and expands on the themes of dialectical self-images and identities.


Umrigar, Thrity Sugar in Milk

48 pp. Running, 2020. ISBN 978-0-7624-9519-1 Ebook ISBN 978-0-7624-9521-4

Illustrated by Khoa Le. Loneliness engulfs a young girl in her new life in America, where a roomful of toys and a loving aunt and uncle do little to dispel her homesickness. One day, her aunt tells her a folktale about Persians forced from their homeland seeking ­refuge in India. The Indian king, hesitant to host foreigners, pours a glass of milk and fills it to the brim to indicate that his kingdom is full. Disappointment ripples through the weary travelers. But their clever leader adds a spoonful of sugar to the glass and mixes it without spilling a drop, silently conveying the message that "just like sugar in milk, we will sweeten your lives with our presence." Having won over the king, the travelers, known as Parsis, are welcomed to their new home. The tale her aunt tells shifts the young girl's perspective, and she begins to open herself to her "new and magical homeland." This story of new beginnings, lushly illustrated, celebrates the threads of kindness and ­humanity that bind us together. ­Umrigar's text gracefully alternates between the contemporary U.S. of the girl's story and the ancient world of the folktale, incorporating both pathos and humor; Le's art, with its intricate mosaics and brilliant jewel tones, evokes setting and emotion. A border with dynamic swirls of vines as well as a contrasting typeface sets off the story-within-a-story with clarity. Images of the prophet ­Zoroastra and the deity Ahuramazda suggest that the girl's family, like the author, are Parsis.


Wolf, Gita The Enduring Ark
20 pp. Tara 2013. ISBN 978-93-80340-18-0

Illustrated by Joydeb Chitrakar. An accordion-style pictorial narration of the Flood unfolds to a nine-foot spread of Noah and his wife gathering creatures; the reverse side follows the Ark to its landing. Wolf's well-phrased account — an Indian version of the story common to many cultures — is generally straightforward, a fine complement to Chitrakar's striking art in the Bengal Patua style of scroll painting.


Wolf, Gita Gobble You Up!
40 pp. Tara 2013. ISBN 978-81-923171-4-4

Illustrated by Sunita. After gulping down animal after animal, greedy Jackal bursts (he survives, as do his victims). It's a surefire tale made splendid by gorgeous illustrations and bookmaking. Meticulously, the art is silkscreened onto sturdy kraft paper and hand bound. The tactile effect of the flat silkscreen on the faintly mottled paper is a treat — a true work of art.



Younger Fiction


Sheth, Kashmira The No-Dogs-Allowed Rule
117 pp. Whitman 2012. ISBN 978-0-8075-5694-8

Illustrated by Carl Pearce. East-Indian-American third-grader Ishan wants a dog but first must convince his mother to rescind the no-dogs-allowed rule. From making her parathas bread to pretending he is a dog, Ishan tries everything, with comically disastrous results. However, when their neighbor collapses, Ishan proves his dependability by calling 911 and caring for his dog. Ishan's relatable longings and efforts are accompanied by expressive black-and-white illustrations.


Singh, Vandana Younguncle Comes to Town
154 pp. Viking 2006. ISBN 0-670-06051-8

Illustrated by B. M. Kamath. Younguncle, renowned for adventuring, promises to brighten up the monsoon season when he visits his nephew and nieces. Singh's lively and often hilarious text is written with vocabulary normally reserved for older readers; for full comedic effect, it might best be read aloud. A few spot illustrations help readers picture the contemporary northern Indian setting and the fast-moving events.



Intermediate Fiction


Ahmed, Samira Amira & Hamza: The War to Save the Worlds
368 pp. Little, 2021. ISBN 978-0-316-54046-9 Ebook ISBN 978-0-316-54049-0

Twelve-year-old Amira and her younger brother Hamza, Muslim Indian American siblings in Chicago, are the heroes of this suspenseful, action-packed adventure filled with jinn, ghuls, devs, and other supernatural creatures from Islamic folklore. When the children disturb an ancient artifact in a museum exhibit, two jinn appear, informing them that they are "chosen ones" needed for a serious mission. They must save Earth and Qaf (the jinn homeland) from Ifrit, a "terrible and cruel dev" intent on destroying both worlds. This is a refreshingly different take on the kids-must-save-the-world story in that Amira and Hamza are the most anxious, reluctant, and nerdy heroes ever. Constant clashes between the bickering siblings provide comic relief, in contrast with the seriousness of the task at hand. Dangerous encounters with monstrous foes challenge the two to believe in themselves and work together to fulfill their mission. Fantasy-adventure fans will have a hard time putting down this fast-paced and engaging tale. Author's note and glossary not seen.


Bajaj, Varsha Abby Spencer Goes to Bollywood
250 pp. Whitman 2014. ISBN 978-0-8075-6363-2

Lifelong Texan Abby Spencer, thirteen, had no idea that her absent father is a Bollywood movie star — and none of his millions of adoring fans know he has a daughter. When she departs for Mumbai to finally meet him, Abby doesn't know what she's getting into. The mostly lighthearted plot holds few surprises, but Mumbai's beauty — and poverty — are creditably developed.


Banerjee, Anjali Looking for Bapu
167 pp. Random/Lamb 2006. ISBN 0-385-74657-1 LE ISBN 0-385-90894-6

From India, eight-year-old Anu's grandfather brought stories of gods, Indian cooking, and devotion to his grandson. When Bapu has a stroke and dies, Anu's loss and guilt (he thinks he should've run faster for help) are overwhelming; thus begins his quest to bring Bapu back. Banerjee's novel is set right after 9/11 — a fitting background for this story about surviving an unexpected, shocking loss.


Brahmachari, Sita Jasmine Skies
332 pp. Whitman 2014. ISBN 978-0-8075-3782-4

Part-Indian girl Mira Levenson travels from London to visit her mom's cousin and her daughter in Kolkata for the first time. Mira and cousin Priya are both fourteen; their mothers haven't seen each other since they were fourteen, and the girls are determined to find out why. This absorbing and satisfying sequel to Mira in the Present Tense easily stands alone.


Chanani, Nidhi Pashmina
170 pp. Roaring Brook/First Second, 2017. ISBN 978-1-62672-088-6 Paper ISBN 978-1-62672-087-9

In this debut graphic novel, a beautiful pashmina shows visions of a vibrant India to comics-loving teen Priyanka; when Pri travels to India herself, she solves the mystery of a shadowy figure and the pashmina's origins. Chanani's rounded figures give the illustrations accessibility, and colors are used to great emotional effect. Pri is a realistically complex, sometimes moody character; her varied interests and inquisitive musings showcase her depth. Glos.


Chokshi, Roshani  Aru Shah and the Song of Death
381 pp. Disney-Hyperion/Riordan  2019. ISBN 978-1-368-01384-0 Ebook ISBN 978-1-368-04585-8

Pandava series. Aru is accused of stealing the god of love's bow and arrow. She's given ten days to return them or be stripped of her Pandava (reincarnated demigod) memories and banished from the Otherworld. The story moves at a breakneck pace as Aru encounters legendary beings from Hindu mythology, who comically interact with the modern world. The importance of how you see yourself is at the heart of this entertaining second installment. Glos.

Chari, Sheela Vanished
329 pp. Hyperion 2011. ISBN 978-1-4231-3163-2

Neela has a hard time reconciling her East Indian heritage with her life in America; playing the veena, a traditional Indian stringed instrument, is one way she does so. When the veena mysteriously disappears, Neela is desperate to find it, traveling as far as India to solve the mystery. The story engagingly addresses cultural differences and musical aspirations while providing a compelling mystery.


Collodi, Carlo The Patua Pinocchio
189 pp. Tara 2015. ISBN 978-93-83145-12-6

Illustrated by Swarna Chitrakar. Translated by Carol Della Chiesa. Edited by V. Geetha. Della Chiesa's excellent 1925 translation of Collodi's 1883 classic is trimmed to about half its original length for a well-paced version of the unruly marionette's adventures. This handsome Indian edition features traditional Patua scroll paintings; stylized compositions are made eloquent by energetic slashes of black line and a rich palette. A curious cross-cultural matching of art and iconic tale.


DasGupta, Sayantani The Chaos Curse
385 pp. Scholastic, 2020. ISBN 978-1-338-35589-5 Ebook ISBN 978-1-338-35592-5

Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond series. Illustrated by Vivienne To. In the final installment of the trilogy, rumors of an alliance between evil Serpent King Sesha and the Demon Queen result in protagonist Kiran and friends, including the newly crowned Raja Neel, forming a resistance group of demons and humans to save the Kingdom Beyond Seven Oceans and Thirteen Rivers. Kiran leaves the Kingdom Beyond and travels across dimensions back to her native New Jersey, on a mission to rescue Neel's brother Prince Lal, aided by helpers: a bird, a gecko, and a gender-nonbinary tiger. But ever since Neel's coronation, Kiran has noticed something odd: reality is mixing with elements and characters from familiar tales, mashing stories from different cultures together (Pooh and Piglet appearing in a scene from a Bengali nursery rhyme, for instance). New Jersey brings further confusion: Kiran's parents have rejected their Bengali identities, and her best friend and her worst enemy have swapped places. But encounters with mythological Greek and Norse figures confirm her suspicions: she is in a different reality, and baddies have formed the Interdimensional Multivillain Anti-Chaos Committee to "destroy diversity" and collapse the multiverse into a singularity ruled by Sesha. DasGupta tackles metaphysics along with ideas of prejudice, colonization, erasure, and the importance of narrative complexity. Exploration of multiple realities also allows Kiran's development in recognizing her own biases and prejudices, in the Kingdom Beyond and in her life as a Jersey middle schooler.


Gavin, Jamila Tales from India: Stories of Creation and the Cosmos
88 pp. Candlewick/Templar 2011. ISBN 978-0-7636-5564-8

Illustrated by Amanda Hall. Ten stories of Hindu gods and goddesses, kings and queens, including "How Ganesh Got His Elephant's Head" and "The Birth of Lord Krishna," are lyrically told. Highly detailed gouache paintings, inspired by eighteenth-century Indian miniatures, highlight both magical elements and earthly life. Decorative borders and golden elements enhance the attractive book, but no sources are provided. Glos.


Hiranandani, Veera The Night Diary
267 pp. Dial 2018. ISBN 978-0-7352-2851-1

Half-Hindu, half-Muslim twelve-year-old Nisha's family is forced to leave home after the Partition of India in 1947 places their city in the newly created Muslim state of Pakistan. Hiranandani flawlessly renders a world-altering historical event through the diary of a perceptive child, providing enough detail for readers who may not be familiar with the history while keeping focus on Nisha's arduous literal and emotional journeys. Glos.


Kelkar, Supriya That Thing About Bollywood
352 pp. Simon, 2021. ISBN 978-1-5344-6673-9 Ebook ISBN 978-1-5344-6675-3

Eleven-year-old Indian American Sonali keeps her emotions to herself. She maintains a stoic demeanor in order to protect her younger brother from her parents' constant arguments, and she attempts to unite the family with weekly Bollywood movie nights. When her parents announce a trial separation and her best friend grows closer to the popular girl at their Los Angeles middle school, Sonali's feelings bubble to the surface and break out as "Bollywooditis." In this alternate reality, her entire life is a Bollywood movie, and as such her emotions are on full display in disruptive musical solos she can't help singing at inopportune moments. A horrified Sonali attempts to tamp down her personal soundtrack, garish makeovers, and coordinated background dancers, to no avail. It is only when she faces up to the reality of her parents' divorce and communicates her pent-up feelings that the "filmi magic" fades. Kelkar creates sympathetic characters burdened by family secrets, cultural expectations, and bottled-up emotions. She deftly draws out the impact divorce can have on friendships, schoolwork, and a child's inner life. The heaviness of these themes is lightened by Bollywood touches, which also explore the seesaw effect of both loving and cringing at one’s culture.


Krishnaswami, Uma Book Uncle and Me
151 pp. Groundwood 2016. ISBN 978-1-55498-808-2

Illustrated by Julianna Swaney. Nine-year-old Yasmin is horrified when her friend Book Uncle, who runs a free lending library on a street corner in her neighborhood, is told he must shut it down. She enlists friends, teachers, and the media to fight the ban. Krishnaswami effortlessly evokes everyday life in this Indian import, incorporating details of India's food, transportation, commerce, and more to paint a vibrant picture of Yasmin's world.


Krishnaswami, Uma Step Up to the Plate, Maria Singh
276 pp. Lee/Tu 2017. ISBN 978-1-60060-261-0

In WWII California, Maria discovers empowerment on the softball field. Meanwhile, her Indian father and Mexican mother struggle to make ends meet as sharecroppers barred from buying the land they farm. Maria and friends from similar mixed marriages help their parents and themselves by speaking out and fighting discrimination. Krishnaswami creates a relatable heroine, and the clean, nuanced prose doesn't shy away from the political.


Perkins, Mitali Tiger Boy
140 pp. Charlesbridge 2015. ISBN 978-1-58089-660-3

Illustrated by Jamie Hogan. On India's Sunderbans islands, Neel, a boy with promise, might earn a scholarship to a boarding school in Kolkata. Neel's father joins the hunt for a valuable escaped tiger cub in order to pay for a tutor. Fast-paced action, references to the local flora and fauna, and clearly laid-out moral dilemmas come together in a satisfying way in this environmental adventure. Glos.


Poulin, Andrée Burying the Moon
112 pp. Groundwood, 2021. ISBN 978-1-77306-604-2 Ebook ISBN 978-1-77306-603-5

Illustrated by Sonali Zohra. In this powerful verse novel, Latika loves school, but she knows that when she turns twelve she will be forced to quit. The reason? Toilets. In her rural Indian village there are no toilets; women and girls must relieve themselves in fields after dark to avoid "shame." As she approaches puberty, she wants to "stop time / to stay a little girl" so she can continue her education without the complication of menstruation. When an engineer from the city installs a water pump for the village, Latika breaks the taboo and tells him about how the issue affects women's health and girls' access to education. Latika gives voice to something unspeakable and risks censure, but her bravery forces change and lasting improvement. She no longer wishes to "bury the moon" for the light it shines onto a supposedly shameful act but learns instead to view its light as friendly and useful. Emotive illustrations throughout employ deep, rich black and blue hues with bold accents in pinks and purples, accentuating the moonlight. Short poems allow for a powerful exploration of a variety of social issues, all linked to access to toilets and yoking together contradictory elements (fragile but strong; fearful but brave). An appended author's note explains that toilet access is a global problem affecting over four billion people.


Venkatraman, Padma Born Behind Bars
272 pp. Penguin/Paulsen, 2021. ISBN 978-0-593-11247-2 Ebook ISBN 978-0-593-11248-9

Born in prison in Chennai, India, to a Hindu mother falsely accused of stealing from her employer, Kabir has known only a harsh life behind bars. Upon his ninth birthday, he is released to the outside world. He wants nothing more than to find his Appa's (father's) family in the neighboring state of Bengaluru (Bangalore). All Kabir knows of his father is that he is Muslim; Appa didn't tell anyone of his marriage to Amma; and he stopped writing to them after he left India to work in the Gulf. When Kabir befriends Rani, a Kurava (Roma) girl, they team up to find Kabir's paternal grandparents, and the pace of the plot quickens. Short chapters and paragraphs guide the story to its bittersweet conclusion for both Rani and Kabir. As in The Bridge Home (rev. 1/19), Venkatraman portrays children's experiences of poverty and other social issues; here, she explores Hindu-Muslim animosity, how the Indian caste ­system predetermines social status, and how biased institutions interact with (and ultimately fail) those of lower caste. This earnest, heartfelt adventure will transport many readers to a different setting while guiding them to draw parallels with contexts closer to home. An author's note addresses the Roma community in India, water shortages, and incarceration rates in relation to caste.


Venkatraman, Padma The Bridge Home
194 pp. Penguin/Paulsen 2019. ISBN 978-1-5247-3811-2

To escape their abusive father, eleven-year-old narrator Viji and her intellectually disabled sister Rukku run away to Chennai, the capital city of Tamil Nadu, India, where they befriend two homeless boys. Written in short chapters directly addressed to Rukku in which traumatic events are balanced with personal reflection, this bittersweet story is about breaking the cycle of abuse, reaching for your dreams, and finding home in the most unlikely places.


Weeks, Sarah and Varadarajan, Gita Save Me a Seat
232 pp. Scholastic 2016. ISBN 978-0-545-84660-8

Used to being the top student, fifth grader Ravi ("fresh off the boat" from Bangalore) is furious when he's sent to the resource room with Joe (whose auditory processing disorder makes school challenging). Determined to prove his superiority, Ravi befriends bully Dillon, while Joe hopes to get through the day without humiliation at Dillon's hands. Short chapters alternate between Joe's and Ravi's distinctive, engaging voices. Glos.


Young Adult


Ahmed, Samira Love, Hate & Other Filters
281 pp. Soho Teen 2018. ISBN 978-1-61695-847-3 Ebook ISBN 978-1-61695-848-0

High-school senior Maya, daughter of a Muslim Indian-American family in suburban Chicago, longs to find her own romantic partner and attend NYU film school, in defiance of her parents. Her family problems are also affected by increasing hate crimes against Muslims after 9/11. Maya's convincing first-person narrative touches on intercultural teen dating, school life, generational conflict, and current social issues.


Arni, Samhita Sita's Ramayana
152 pp. Groundwood 2011. ISBN 978-1-55498-145-8

Illustrated by Moyna Chitrakar. Bold lines and vivid colors draw readers through the panels of this ancient Hindu epic (even when the text gets a bit long for a graphic novel). Arni presents the story of Queen Sita's abduction by Ravana, the Demon King, and her rescue by Rama, aided by Hanuman the wise monkey. This interpretation's feminist bent is documented in an afterword.


Das, Mintie Brown Girl Ghosted
289 pp. Houghton, 2020. ISBN 978-0-358-12889-2 Ebook ISBN 978-0-358-13130-4

Sixteen-year-old Violet Choudhury is a cheerleader; the best friend of Meryl, a popular iconoclast; and a daughter who never knew her dead mother and barely sees her largely absent father. She's also one of the few people of color in Meadowdale, Illinois, and (as her mother was) a member of the Aiedeo, a group of East Indian warrior queens. When her mean-girl classmate, head cheerleader Naomi, is murdered, the Aiedeo give Violet an ultimatum—catch Naomi's killer or become a ghost. This supernatural thriller presents a main character caught in-between—between India and America, between popular and invisible, between Aiedeo and ordinary. Though the Aiedeo and their purpose could have been better explored, Das creates a credible and complex portrait of the challenges of being a teen girl. Both the supernatural and realistic components have much to say about patriarchy and its impact on young women, and while some lessons feel less than gracefully integrated, the elements about judging others too quickly ring true.


Daswani, Kavita Lovetorn
250 pp. HarperTeen 2012. ISBN 978-0-06-167311-5

Shalini has been betrothed to Vikram since the two were small children in India. When Shalini's family relocates from India to Los Angeles, they struggle to adjust to American ways — and Shalini struggles over her desire for another boy. The cultural insights Daswani offers provide a compelling and unexpected twist on romance in this humorous, heartfelt novel. Glos.


Desai, Anita The Village by the Sea
263 pp. NYRB, 2019. Paper ISBN 978-1-68137-351-5 Ebook ISBN 978-1-68137-352-2
Reissue (1982, Heinemann)

Desai's gorgeous novel pulls readers in to the world of young Lila and Hari, struggling siblings growing up in the isolated Western Indian village of Thul; both the characters and the place are on the cusp of change. In lucid prose, Desai engages the senses, describing the sigh of the ocean as the tide turns; the children's drunken father snoring in a corner; the village women wading into the sea to meet the fishing fleet and then spilling baskets full of shining, slithering fish onto the sand.


Hidier, Tanuja Desai Bombay Blues
555 pp. Scholastic/Push 2014. ISBN 978-0-545-38478-0 Ebook ISBN 978-0-545-63387-1

Although this sequel stands alone, fans of Born Confused will most appreciate this second book about East Indian American Dimple Lala, now studying photography at NYU. She, her parents, and DJ boyfriend Karsh travel to Bombay for a family wedding — or so they think. Dimple's complex, wordy, sensory-filled narration is deeply engaging for those who enjoy Hidier's distinctive style of lyrical language play.


Kanakia, Rahul Enter Title Here
343 pp. Hyperion 2016. ISBN 978-1-4847-2387-6

Adderall-popping "study-machine" Reshma Kapoor will succeed; no one — not parents, peers, or teachers — will stand in her way. Presented as an autobiographical novel penned by Reshma for her admission to Stanford, this is a densely metafictional tale told in almost frantic real-time. While ruthlessly diabolical Reshma's narration is self-aggrandizing and fascinatingly unreliable, she tells a darkly relevant story about academic fairness, achievement, and honesty.


Keshni Kashyap "Tina's Mouth"Kashyap, Keshni Tina's Mouth: An Existential Comic Diary
247 pp. Houghton 2012. ISBN 978-0-618-94519-1

Illustrated by Mari Araki. Tina ponders "personal existential identity" and the universe in this graphic novel, a journaling project for her English class on existential philosophy. She writes (and draws) about her Indian American family; the sudden, painful end to her closest friendship; and Big Questions about life, meaning, and identity. Tina's a relatable protagonist, and her unusual perspective is enlightening; the illustrations are expressive.


Red, White, and Whole
by Rajani LaRocca
Middle School    Quill Tree/HarperCollins    224 pp.    g
2/21    978-0-06-304742-6    $16.99
e-book ed.  978-0-06-304744-0    $9.99

It’s 1983, and thirteen-year-old Reha feels she has “two lives.” In one, she’s a serious student who tries to make her Indian immigrant parents proud but is seen as an outsider (who speaks “Indian”) at her predominantly white school. In her other life, Reha, who doesn’t actually speak her parents’ native languages, feels that “no matter where I go, / America or India, / I don’t quite fit.” These feelings intensify when her Amma (mother) is diagnosed with leukemia, goes through several rounds of chemotherapy, and, ultimately, succumbs to her illness. Composed of short, metaphor-rich poems, this verse novel weaves together complex narrative strands with sophistication. It does the double duty of giving voice to the hyphenated American experience and navigation of dual identities, while also representing the illness and loss of a parent with tenderness and fidelity to the stages of grief. Blood is a predominant metaphor, but it’s not off-putting. The “red, white, and whole” of the title refers to “whole blood…the precious river in our arteries, our veins, our hearts,” and represents both Amma’s illness and Reha’s more abstract yearning to belong wholly to one place. Give this emotionally powerful novel to immigrant, third-culture kids or anyone experiencing grief and loss.


Menon, Sandhya When Dimple Met Rishi
380 pp. Simon Pulse 2017. ISBN 978-1-4814-7868-7 Ebook ISBN 978-1-4814-7870-0

Rishi is excited to meet Dimple, a girl his parents have chosen for him to marry; fiercely independent Dimple knows nothing of the arrangement. After a bad first impression, the two, with differing attitudes toward their religion and Indian American culture, fall in love at their summer web development program in San Francisco. Alternating narration provides deep character insight in this delightful, observant rom-com.


Murray, Kirsty, Dhar, Payal, and Ray, Anita, editors Eat the Sky, Drink the Ocean
225 pp. McElderry 2017. ISBN 978-1-4814-7057-5 Ebook ISBN 978-1-4814-7059-9

Indian and Australian authors worked together across distance as well as separately to create the works in this enthralling anthology of feminist speculative-fiction pieces that are both dazzling and disorienting. Spanning continents, cultures, genres, and even formats, the ambitious and fascinating contributions are each successful individually in craft and invention, even if they don't quite hang together as a unified collection.


Perkins, Mitali Forward Me Back to You
417 pp. Farrar 2019. ISBN 978-0-374-30492-8 Ebook ISBN 978-0-374-30493-5

Boston boy Robin (born in Kolkata and adopted by wealthy white parents) joins a service trip to India to help survivors of human trafficking; biracial Kat, temporarily living in Boston following a sexual assault, goes too. Alternating chapters explore Robin's journey to learn more about his birth parents and Kat's healing through helping other victims. Well-rounded secondary characters deliver moments of levity and emotional support for the protagonists.


Perkins, Mitali Monsoon Summer
261 pp. Delacorte 2004. ISBN 0-385-73123-X LE ISBN 0-385-90147-X

Half-white, half-Indian, Jazz sees herself (unfavorably) as "Amazon woman," the complete opposite of her petite, do-gooder mom, but on a trip to India, Jazz starts helping others, and her distorted self-image gets an overhaul. The funny and honest first-person narrative also treats readers to a satisfying (if predictable) romance when newly confident Jazz confesses her feelings to Steve, the unrequited love of her life.


Perkins, Mitali  You Bring the Distant Near
305 pp. Farrar 2017. ISBN 978-0-374-30490-4 Ebook ISBN 978-0-374-30491-1

The novel follows the Indian Das family from their 1970s immigration to the U.S. through the next few decades, showing conflicts involving cultural sensibilities, identity, interracial relationships, and geographic distance. If ever the intricate complexities of immigrant families living between homelands were in doubt, Perkins has laid those doubts to rest in an ambitious narrative illuminating past and present, departure and reunion, women and family.


Sharma, Nisha My So-Called Bollywood Life
297 pp. Crown 2018. ISBN 978-0-553-52325-6 Library ISBN 978-0-553-52326-3 Ebook ISBN 978-0-553-52327-0

Bollywood-obsessed Winnie Mehta, from an Indian Hindu family living in Princeton, New Jersey, wants it all: admission into NYU's film program and the right boyfriend. But is that Raj, the now-cheating boyfriend who's always fit her astrological prophesy, or budding filmmaker Dev, who's becoming more attractive to her by the day? A funny, breezy romance filled with Bollywood film references (a guide to which is appended).


Venkatraman, Padma A Time to Dance
312 pp. Penguin/Paulsen 2014. ISBN 978-0-399-25710-0

This free-verse novel set in contemporary India stars Veda, a teenage Bharatanatyam dancer. After a tragic accident, one of Veda's legs must be amputated below the knee. Veda tries a series of customized prosthetic legs, determined to return to dancing as soon as possible. Brief lines, powerful images, and motifs of sound communicate Veda's struggle to accept her changed body.

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Darshana Khiani

Great list! Pleasantly surprised to see How to Wear a Sari included.Just stumbled upon this now. Just wanted to let you know there are an excellent number of traditionally published Diwali books that came out in the past few years.Diwali: Festival of Lights by Rina SinghHappy Diwali! by Sanyukta Mathur & Courtney Pippin-MathurMy Diwali Light by Raakhee Mirchandani Singh & Supriya KelkarDiwali is My New Home Shachi Kaushik & Aishwarya TandonBinny's Diwali by Thrity Umrigar & Nidhi ChananiArchie Celebrates Diwali by Mitalie Mitali Banerjee Ruths and Parwinder SinghI maintain lists of South Asian Kidlit titles on my website: also run a quarterly newsletter with lists of upcoming South Asian Kidlit titles.

Posted : Mar 03, 2023 10:04



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