Category Archives: South Asia Book

One Half From The East

Ten-year-old Obayda’s father lost one of his legs in a bomb explosion and the family is in need of some good fortune. They move from Kabul to s small village. Obayda is dressed as a boy, a bacha posh. This is a longstanding tradition in Afghanistan. Families without a son designate a preteen daughter to fill the void with a simple physical transformation involving swapping clothes and cutting hair. Before she reaches puberty, she is changed back and resumes life as a girl, a gender that enjoys far less freedom and privilege. Obayda becomes Obayd and everything changes. She meets Rashim, another bacha posh. They become friends, explore the village, and play sports, but there is no forever as a bacha posh. This heart-stirring and enlightening coming-of-age story includes an author’s note. mjw
Title: One Half From The East
Author: Nadia Hashimi
Publisher
: Harper Collins Publishers
Copyright
: 2016
Original Language
: English 
ISBN
: 978-0-06-242190-6
Hardcover pages
: 272
Age range
: 8-12
Genre
: Fiction
Book setting
: Afghanistan
Author’s ethnicity
: Afghan
Author’s residence
: U.S.
Awards
: 2017 South Asia Book Award Highly Commended
Subjects
: Bacha posh, Child marriage, Gender, Prejudice and racism, Self-esteem and self-reliance

What Elephants Know

Young Nandu was abandoned in the Nepalese Borderlands and raised by a pack of dhole, Asiatic wild dogs, much like Mowgli in The Jungle Book, until he was brought to the king’s elephant stable. There, Subba-sahib, the stable head, and Devi Kali, a protective female elephant become his new “parents.” Nandu wants to be a mahout, an elephant driver. He goes to boarding school where his teacher, Father Autry, becomes his mentor. When the elephant stable is to be closed, Nandu works to save it. This beautiful coming-of-age story includes rich detail about the culture of Nepal and a wealth of knowledge about the natural world. A glossary helps with the Nepalese words and common elephant commands. Maps adorn the endpapers. The book “dedicated to elephant lovers everywhere” was written by a world-class scientist specializing in the ecology of the Himalayan region. mjw
Title: What Elephants Know
Author: Eric Dinerstein
Publisher
: Disney Hyperion
Copyright
: 2016
Original Language
: English
ISBN
: 978-1484728543
Hardcover pages
: 288
Age range
: 9-12
Genre
: Fiction
Book setting
: Nepal
Author’s ethnicity
: U.S.
Author’s residence
: U.S.
Awards
: 2017 South Asia Book Award
Subjects
: Elephants, India, Jungles, Nepal history 20th century, Orphans

Dear Mrs. Naidu

dear-mrs-naiduSpunky twelve-year-old Sarojini lives in Bangalore with her mother, who works in rich people’s houses. They struggle to make ends meet. Her best friend Amir has moved from their poor government school to a posh private school and Sarojini worries that she has lost her friend. She learns about the Right to Education law and becomes determined to improve her school. She gets help from feisty Deepti, a classmate; Vimala Madam, a human rights lawyer who might also be an evil genius; and Mrs. Sarojini Naidu, a long-dead freedom fighter and poet. Told through letters written to Mrs. Naidu, this is Sarojini’s life-changing journey, where she learns about justice and important education issues in India. The book concludes with a note about the real Sarojini Naidu and a list of organizations working for child rights. mjw
Title: Dear Mrs. Naidu
Author: Mathangi Subramanian
Publisher
: Zubaan Publishers Pvt Ltd. New Delhi
Copyright
: 2015
Original Language
: English
ISBN
: 978-93-83074-98-3 
Paperback pages
: 286
Age range
: 12 up
Genre
: Fiction
Book setting
: Bangalore, India
Author’s residence
: New Delhi, Delhi, India
Awards
: 2016 South Asia Book Award
Subjects
: Education, Friendship, Human rights, Law, Right to Education

Same, Same But Different

same same butElliot lives in America and Kailish lives in India. They exchange drawings and notes as part of a Picture Pals project in their schools. The boys compare families, pets, cities, alphabets, and art and yoga classes, and discover that they are best friends even though they live in two different worlds. Or do they? “Different, different but the same!” The colorful, detailed and vivid art, rendered in acrylic, crayon, pencil, collage, and tissue paper, illustrates the differences and similarities between the boys’ homes. Stamps on the endpapers are whimsical and fun. In this age of instant access through the Internet, students can see a different way to communicate. The author/illustrator traveled to Nepal and India where she learned the popular saying “same, same but different” that is used to compare cultures. mjw
Title: Same, Same But Different
Author: Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw
Illustrator
: Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw
Publisher
: Henry Holt and Company, New York
Copyright
: 2011
Original Language
: English
ISBN
: 978-0-8050-8946-2
Hardcover pages
: 40
Age range
: 4-7
Genre
: Picture Book
Book setting
: U.S. and India
Author’s ethnicity
: U.S.
Author’s residence
: U.S.
Illustrator’s ethnicity
: U.S.
Illustrator’s residence
: U.S.
Awards
: 2012 South Asia Book Award, 2012 Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Award
Subjects
: Alphabet, Friendship, Pen pals

The Secret Sky: A Novel Of Forbidden Love In Afghanistan

secret skyThis modern Romeo and Juliet story of sorts, set in Afghanistan, is narrated by three of the main characters. Samiullah, a Pashtun boy, and Fatima, a Hazara girl, are two innocent teenagers who fall in love. Their ethnic groups differ and do not get along because of their historical backgrounds. Their desire to get married disgraces their families and sets a series of horrific events in motion. The third narrator is Samiullah’s cousin Rashid, the villain, who has fallen under the influence of the Taliban. He has seen Samiullah and Fatima together, assumes the worst, and turns them in to the local Taliban. Disturbing depictions of physical, emotional, and sexual violence against men, women, and children; amazing acts of kindness, bravery, and sacrifice; vivid imagery; complex characters; and a suspenseful ending make the book unputdownable. Though fictional, this powerful and hopeful love story paints a realistic picture of the conflicts and culture clashes in Afghanistan today. The author was a foreign news correspondent in Kabul for nearly five years. mjw
Title: The Secret Sky: A Novel of Forbidden Love In Afghanistan
Author: Atia Abawi
Publisher
: Philomel Books, Penguin Young Readers Group
Copyright
: 2014
Original Language
: English
ISBN
: 978-0-399-16078-3
Hardcover pages
: 320
Age range
: 14 up
Genre
: Fiction
Book setting
: Afghanistan
Author’s ethnicity
: Afghani
Author’s residence
: Jerusalem
Awards
: 2015 South Asia Book Award – Highly Commended, 2015 Amelia Bloomer List
Subjects
: Conflict, Culture, Ethnic relations, Family relations, Hazaras, Love, Marriage, Pushtuns, Social justice, Talibans

Twenty-two Cents: Muhammad Yunus And The Village Bank

22 centsMuhammad Yunis grew up in India in the 1940s in a family that cared for and wanted to help others. He witnessed extreme poverty. He studied economics in America, and when he returned to his homeland (which became Bangladesh), as an economics professor, he founded Grameen Bank where people could borrow small amounts of money to start a job, and then pay back the bank without unfairly high interest charges. Over the next years, he was responsible for loaning more than 10 billion U.S. dollars in micro-credit, and empowering the poor, especially women, to break the cycle of poverty. Yunus would become renowned as the Banker to the Poor. Accurate and authentic soft chalk pastels enhance this true story. Back matter includes an Afterword with information on poverty in America, an update on Yunus’s life, and photos of him as a young Boy Scout and as a Nobel Prize laureate in 2006. Author’s Sources are also provided. mjw
Title: Twenty-two Cents: Muhammad Yunus And The Village Bank
Author: Paula Yoo
Illustrator
: Jamel Akib
Publisher
: Lee & Low Books, New York
Copyright
: 2014
Original Language
: English
ISBN
: 978-1-60060-658-8
Hardcover pages
: 40
Age range
: 6-11
Genre
: Picture book, Biography
Book setting
: India and Bangladesh
Author’s ethnicity
: Korean-American
Author’s residence
: U.S.
Illustrator’s ethnicity
: English and Malaysian
Illustrator’s residence
: England
Awards
: 2015 South Asia Book Award, 2015 IRA Notable Books for a Global Society
Subjects
: Bangladesh, Bankers, Economics, Economists, Generosity, Microcredit, Microfinance, Nobel Peace Prize 2006, Social activists, Social justice

A Moment Comes

a moment comesSet preceding the 1947 Partition of India and Pakistan, this story of turmoil and politics is told from the alternating points of view of three very different narrators. Margaret is a privileged British girl, living in India because her father is one of the cartographers finalizing the borders that will divide the country into two separate religious states. She is spoiled and finds India hot, loud, and dangerous, but is enthralled by the culture. Anupreet, a beautiful Sikh girl, once confined to her home to protect her from violent angry men, is employed as a maid for Margaret’s family, where her family believes she will be safe. Eighteen-year-old Tariq, a Muslim, hired as a translator for Margaret’s father, is caught between his forbidden interest in Anupreet and Margaret, who might be able to help with his goal of studying at Oxford. It is a dark and violent time, when no one is safe. Ultimately, 10 to 14 million people in India relocated and over one million died as a result. The time of Partition is underexplored in Western literature, especially in young adult historical fiction. A Glossary defines words used in the book and also mentions places and foods.   An Author’s Note offers even more information and details Bradbury’s connection to India. mjw
Title: A Moment Comes
Author: Jennifer Bradbury
Publisher
: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, Simon & Schuster, New York
Copyright
: 2013
Original Language
: English
ISBN
: 978-1-4169-7876-3
Hardcover pages
: 288
Age range
: 12 up
Genre
: Historical fiction
Book setting
: Jalandhar, India
Author’s ethnicity
: U.S.
Author’s residence
: U.S.  Author has lived in India.
Awards: 2014 South Asia Book Award
Subjects
: Culture, Household employees, India, Muslims, Pakistan, Partition 1947, Punjabi, Radcliffe Line, Sikhs, Tolerance