Diversity in MG Lit #2 India, Pakistan, & Tibet

Asian literature is such a broad category that I will cluster books by geography. This month I’ll be featuring books set in India, Pakistan, and Tibet. I will focus on the stories of China and southeast Asia in a later post. Throughout this series I will try to focus on new books with a particular emphasis on debut authors and small or regional presses. Please share your favorite books about India, Pakistan, and Tibet in the comments.
  • MEET. YASMIN!by Saadia Faruqi, art by Hatem Aly, published by Picture Window Books and available in August 2018.
    • For the youngest MG readers, Pakistani-American Yasmin is going to be a real treat. She is a spunky, curious second grader with a fairly typical round of family and school-centric adventures. Her mother and grandmother are hijabis. She is not—as is common (but not universal) among Pakistani girls of this age. I appreciated the inclusion of live-in grandparents, including a grandfather in a wheelchair. The text of the story never mentions Yasmin’s ethnicity as an obstacle. The end notes contain some information about Pakistan, a short glossary of words in Urdu, a recipe for lassi and a craft suggestion. Large text, generous leading, and lively illustrations on every page make this a great choice for new readers. Saadia Faruqi has written short stories and essays for adults. This is her debut children’s book. Hatem Aly is the illustrator of the Newbery Honor winning Inquisitor’s Tale
  • RUNNING ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD by Jess Butterworth, published by Algonquin Young Readers and available May 2018.

     

    • Here is a refugee story, an adventure story, a survival story and a mystery all in one. Most MG readers will have at least heard of the Dalai Lama but they are probably less familiar with the migration of thousands of Tibetan Buddhists over the Himalayas to India. Sam and Tash are two such refugees who flee to India when Tash’s parents are arrested for participating in the resistance to Chinese rule. They bring yaks on their journey. Twelve year old me would have read it just for the yaks. This one is on the easier end of the reading scale and it handles the brutality of the political situation in Tibet with a light touch—neither denying the violence nor giving it undue detail. I wish there was a map but otherwise this is a gem of book. It’s Jess Butterwoth’s debut novel.
  • AMAL UNBOUND by Aisha Saeed published by Nancy Paulson Books and available May 2018
    • Contemporary indentured servitude is far more common world wide than any government is willing to admit. It is hardly ever a topic of fiction even for adults, but Aisha Saeed has done a nice job of taking a topic full of brutality and monstrous injustice and fashioned it into a story that will arouse a readers conscience and compassion on the topic of slavery without crushing their spirit with to much brutal detail. Amal is a book-loving girl with dreams of higher education who is swept up by a local man who has the power of a feudal lord and made to serve as a maid in his home—an arrangement from which typically no-one returns. Amal is clever enough to get away and readers will rejoice in her escape.
  • THE NIGHT DIARY by Veera Hiranandani published by Dial Books for Young Readers and available in March of 2018.
    • Set in 1947 and told in diary entries addressed to her mother who died long ago, Nisha tells the story of how her half-Hindu and half-Muslim family decided to leave their home in response to the partition of India. Nisha is shy and her social circle is quite limited which, along with the diary format, makes this a more cerebral book than the others on this list. It’s an interesting slice of recent history that will likely be new to readers.
  • ARU SHA AND THE END OF TIME,by Roshani Chokshi published by Rick Riorden Presents and available in May of 2018.
    • Here’s a story in the Rick Riorden tradition of mythology come to life. Spunky middle school girl takes a dare she shouldn’t have while touring her friends through a museum of  Indian-American artifacts. Monsters are unleashed, pluck and cultural savvy are employed, the world is saved. It’s a romp any reader of the Percy Jackson books will love.
  • THE SERPANT’S SECRET: KIRANMALA & THE KINGDOM BEYOND  by Sayantani Dasgupta published by Scholastic and available June of 2018
    • This is probably my favorite book cover of the year. Love the colors and the girl with her bow and arrows facing down an army of snakes to save New Jersey. I feel like New Jersey is going to be okay. This is another fantasy based in Indian mythology with a sprinkle of romance and dollop of sass. I have some avid mythology readers at the shop and this was their favorite read of the summer
Lots of great books to choose from. If you’ve got a favorite I didn’t mention, please recommend it in the comments. Next month I’ll be featuring books from the Hispanic American experience.
Rosanne Parry
Rosanne Parry is the author of a 4 MG novels and the forthcoming A WOLF CALLED WANDER and LAST OF THE NAME. She is a bookseller at Annie Blooms and teaches in the Masters in Book Publishing program at Portland State. She writes in a treehouse in her back yard.
1 Comment
  1. Thanks for these suggestions! I’m reading “Running on the Roof of the World” next. I loved Amal Unbound!