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Children's literature festival in US focusses on books by authors from Indian diaspora

Entertainment Culture

Press Trust of India  |  New York 

An award-winning book about a young Indian girl who learns to embrace her cultural identity and a story about an Indian-American superhero were some of the highlights of a children's literary festival held here.

Organised by the Indo-American Arts Council (IAAC) last month, the 5th Annual Literature Festival festival was attended by nearly 30 authors.

The event included the first children's literature programme titled 'Wonderland@IAAC'.

The Council and The Culture Tree, which provides South Asian theme educational and cultural programmes, partnered together to organise the children's festival aimed at igniting young minds "in a way only words and thoughts can", the IAAC said.

Festival Director Nili Lakhani said the event celebrated works representing South Asian heritage and for the first time had a dedicated line-up of books for and about children.

"The need of the hour is diversity in youth literature and pioneering initiatives such as the children's lit festival help push forward important conversations and lead to a real change in children's literature publishing. Our vision is to create a place where Indian-American children see themselves reflected within the literature they read," Lakhani said.

Among the highlights of the festival were Kanchan Koya's 'The Spice Spice Baby Cookbook', a first-of-its-kind cookbook detailing the science of spices.

Koya, who has a doctorate in Molecular Biology from Harvard Medical School, discussed the powerful benefits of spices and the need to use them in food for the family.

Sheetal Sheth talked about her first children's book 'Always Anjali', which won the 2019 Purple Dragonfly Book Award Grand Prize. The book is about a young bright girl who gets bullied for her "different" name but gradually learns to celebrate who she is and carry her name with pride and power.

Veera Hiranandani talked about her book The Night Diary', a 2019 Newbery Honor Award Winner and named Best Book of Year in 2018 by The New York Times and The Washington Post among others.

The book is a fictional account of one family's experience during the partition of India in 1947.

The festival's highlight also included Mona Sehgal's Under the African Sky', the story of Krishna, an Indian-American boy who struggles to reconcile his Indian heritage with American childhood.

Set against the backdrop of the African wilderness, it highlights themes of natural and environmental harmony and conflict.

The festival also presented the Ramleela Puppet Storytime show by The Culture Tree that celebrated the magic of Diwali through the art of puppeteering.

Award-winning writer, editor and pediatric cancer crusader Raakhee Mirchandani's book talk was on her work Super Satya Saves the Day', which was inspired by her daughter Satya.

The book is about an Indian-American superhero, who is ready to save the day, even if she doesn't always know it right away. The animated story explores the inner hero in all children.

Author Roopa Pai, who flew in from India, presented an interactive session with her talk on The Ten Powerful Ideas From Ancient India' that explored modern day questions parents and children face everyday.

Emphasizing the need for more children's literature by Indian-American authors, the Culture Tree founder Anu Sehgal noted that there is a huge diversity gap in children's books.

She noted that people of colour make up 37 per cent of the US population, but only 10 per cent of children's books published in the past 21 years include multicultural content.

Through Wonderland our vision is to create a platform where children's books by authors from the Indian diaspora get the visibility they deserve. Additionally, we want Indian-American children to see themselves and their lives in literature. This will instill a deep sense of confidence and curiosity about their culture. Through festivals like this, we also offer cross-cultural exposure that can help develop knowledgeable, open-minded and respectful individuals, Sehgal said.

The festival was also attended by actor Anupam Kher who spoke about his newly released book Lessons Life Taught me, Unknowingly: An Autobiography.'

Sarod Maestro Amjad Ali Khan and his sons Ayaan Ali Bangash and Amaan Ali Bangash also attended the festival.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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First Published: Mon, November 11 2019. 20:00 IST