Tag Archives: India

Inspiration and Generations: 17 Books for Asian-American & Pacific Islander Month

The books below came to me initially because of their relation to East, South, and Southeast Asia or the Middle East. As I read, images recurred: accomplished individuals, resourceful kids, legends and traditions. But by far the most common—and somewhat unexpected—was grandparents.

On reflection I realized the theme is a natural one. While parents are often consumed with utilitarian tasks aimed at keeping us alive, grandparents are an intimate link to the long flow of ancestry and heritage that contributes to our identity.

Ancestry is, of course, only one of many such streams. Genetics and personal experience, world events and the swirling currents of majority culture shape our preferences and perspectives.

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Compelling Historical Fiction: The Henna Artist, by Alka Joshi

It’s difficult to enumerate the many ways in which this historical novel impressed and delighted me. To begin with the most fundamental of fiction requisites, Joshi excels in conjuring the sights, sounds, scents, and savors of mid-twentieth century India. Descriptions of aromas (geranium, thyme, frangipani, jasmine, peppermint) and concoctions (pakoras, chapattis, masala, pilau, and lassis) grace the page and tantalize the reader. Having traveled in both North and South India on various occasions, such sensory details inevitably evoke familiar and fond associations.

But unfamiliarity with the subcontinent and its history won’t put readers at a disadvantage. Joshi deftly slips in bits of culture and history, intuitively sensing where explanation is required and avoiding excess. Readers are neither left in the dark nor overwhelmed with information. Nor does Joshi indulge in gratuitous detail. Personal narratives intertwine with the broad sweep of history; everything serves a purpose.

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Where East Meets West: Celebrating Asian-American and Pacific Islander month

Losing as well as finding ourselves in story is a joy for readers of all ages. Sometimes a thoroughly unfamiliar topic piques my interest, but more often it is a spark of recognition that attracts me to a book. I hope parents as well as children will find the titles below broadly relatable. 

Only after drafting these reviews did I realize that, while heroes from history dominated my selections for African-American and Women’s History months, this list principally represents fictional depictions of common experiences. These works acknowledge that multicultural kids face challenging circumstances, while also possessing a rich heritage. 

Included are titles for readers from two to twelve (and up). Some deal directly with the immigrant experience; others depict children of immigrants. Some illuminate Asian life and culture. 

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The Silk Road for Young Folks

In slightly belated recognition of translation month (September) and UN Translation Day (Sept. 30), the article linked below appeared on the Story Warren website on September 28, 2022. It features reviews of translated and adapted works for young readers centered around Central Asia and the Silk Road.

Exploring The Silk Road, With Kids (storywarren.com)

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Filed under book review, children's literature, history, picture books, translation