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6 Children’s Books by South Asian Authors you need in Your Bookshelf

3 min read

When I grew up in Toronto, the best children’s books had characters named Enid and Nancy. I religiously watched the 1980s children’s TV show “Romper Room” for years and anxiously waited for my name to be called as Ms. Nancy greeted her friends at home through the Magic Mirror. “I see Daniel. I see Katherine. I see Margaret” she’d say, and I was inevitably always let down. Would they ever look through the mirror and see “Priya”? 

Now as a parent of a 2-year-old and a 6-year-old, I survey my children’s bookshelf and see a collection of books by South Asian authors for South Asian children. What stirs me is not only the familiarity of characters’ names in a growing volume of literary work but also how many of the books referenced below tell stories that resonate deeply and convey a powerful message made for our next generation of South Asian readers (ages 3-10). 

The following is a list of my favorite books tailored for South Asian children in 2020, including a few soon-to-release books for 2021!

1. “American as Paneer Pie”
Author: Supriya Kelkar 

 

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This is a coming-of-age story that many of us children of immigrants relate to. In it, a young girl named Lekha finds her voice through the lens of newly arrived immigrant Avantika. It addresses the duality of being American and Indian and explores when it’s necessary to stand up and speak up. 

Order your copy here!

[Read Related: Recommended Reads: 8 Children’s Books by Black Authors]

2. “Finding Om”
Author: Rashmi Bismark

While 2020 raised a host of challenges for our littles to contend with, I found solace in Rashmi Bismark’s “Om,” which artfully ties together intergenerational love and spiritual guidance in its story. Leaning on legacy has been a big theme in my home this past year. While physically distanced from their grandparents for more than a year, my children have been fortunate to have virtual get-togethers with them. These include spiritual lessons and stories of the past. In “Om,” Anu, an Indian African girl, learns mindfulness and the meaning of OM from her much-loved Appuppa (grandfather).

Order your copy here!

3. “Why is My Hair Curly?”
Author: Lakshmi Iyer; Illustrator: Niloufer Wadia 

 

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If you interchange curly hair with dark skin, then Iyer’s book is universal in its message of embracing one’s difference. Interspersed with exquisite black and white illustrations, this chapter book explores genetics, family dynamics and adoption identity through a light-hearted tale.

Order your copy here!

4. “Ambitious Girl”
Meena Harris; Illustrator: Marissa Valdez

 

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A young girl explores what it means to be “ambitious” and how ambition is viewed differently for young girls. She discovers ways girls can reframe and reclaim words like “ambitious” and empower themselves. As my husband and I raise our son and daughter, we are very conscious about framing language that is not punishing but uplifting when we talk to both kids equally about ambition. So, this beautifully illustrated book resonated deeply. I particularly loved historical references to inspiring women who were unapologetically ambitious.

Order your copy here!

[Read Related: Ambitious Girl: Meena Harris Changes the Narrative with Her New Children’s Book]

5. “Bravo Anjali”
Author: Sheetal Sheth; Illustrator: Lucia Soto

If your child loved “Always Anjali” as mine did, then you’ll be as excited as we are about Sheetal Sheth’s sequel “Bravo Anjali.” Sheth expounds on the principle of authentically embracing who you are with a clear message for young girls to not diminish their talents when misunderstood by others. Sheth always writes about lessons that have taken me a lifetime to learn. I’m so happy my daughter gets an early start. 

Order your copy here!

6. “A Young Innovator’s Guide to STEM: 5 Steps To Problem Solving For Students, Educators, and Parents”
Author: Gitanjali Rao

 

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Gitanjali Rao, Time Magazine’s first Kid of the Year, builds on her experiences as America’s Young Top Scientist. She provides a prescriptive process for developing solutions to current world problems that we haven’t seen before.  As a parent, I am eager to help our children (and ourselves) be micro-entrepreneurs in our own field of interests. Rao’s book promises to be a unique instruction in reimagining how we teach ourselves and the next generation. If you’ve listened to Rao’s interviews this past year, you’ll be struck by her poise and sense of purpose, all at the age of 15. This book, I imagine, is the first of many playbooks we’ll see from Rao in the coming years. 

Order your copy here!

It’s encouraging to see the choices available to parents like myself. The volume of creative works that are designed specifically for our children is increasing. The cultural footprint we leave in the literary world, and digital and TV media, are so important in reminding our children that they belong and that their stories are timeless, universal and most of all — they matter. 

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