Written by: Supriya Kelkar
Cover Art by: Abigail Dela Cruz
For ages: YA Middle Grades and up
Topics Covered: Racism, Indian Culture, Indian-American Families, Growing Up, Fitting In, Own Voices, Immigration.
11 year old Lekha just wants to fit into her Detroit suburb, to not be teased for being Desi and having a birthmark (right where bindis are typically worn) between her eyes. Her best friend Noah loves learning about her Indian traditions (especially dancing) but Lekha is embarrassed when she gets attention at school for being “different” and always having to listen to her name being mispronounced. When a new Desi family moves in next door (with a girl her age named Avantika), Lekha battles with a lot of her own internalized shame and racism surrounding immigration and embracing her ethnic heritage and background as a first generation Indian-American. When a racist local politician gains some traction, both Lekha and Noah learn a lot about what it means to develop their voices.
This book is beautiful, believable, and rung true with a lot of experiences I had as a child (as I’m sure many of us did) with teasing and having to decide whether it’s more trouble to speak up or remain silent. There are many dangers to staying silent and remaining complicit with the oppressive and systemic racism, and this book really discusses them in an age-appropriate way. Lekha really sinks in deep and comes to face her blindspots, such as knowing that having to put whitening cream on your face (like a friend must do) is racist and wrong, but still remains deeply ashamed of how people tease her at school and refuses to bring her favorite classic Indian dishes to school for lunch. Racism and internalized racism are deeply entrenched in our global society, and especially so is colorism. The proximity to whiteness has long denoted value, as has assimilation into “American” culture. Noah learns to be a more vocal ally, and how it is not enough to know something is wrong, a person must actively and vocally refute racist statements. I think this key piece is what a lot of white people are waking up to realize, and understanding that to make real change there has to be discomfort and recognition of privilege.
This book was sent to us by Simon & Schuster, but all opinions are our own. This book is being released tomorrow, June 9th!
About the Author & Cover Artist:
Supriya Kelkar grew up in the Midwest, where she learned Hindi as a child by watching three Hindi movies a week. Winner of the New Visions Award for her middle grade novel AHIMSA, (Tu Books, 2017), Supriya is a screenwriter who has worked on the writing teams for several Hindi films, including Lage Raho Munnabhai and Eklavya: The Royal Guard, India’s entry into the 2007 Academy Awards. She was an associate producer on the Hollywood feature, Broken Horses. Supriya’s books include AHIMSA, THE MANY COLORS OF HARPREET SINGH (Sterling, 2019), AMERICAN AS PANEER PIE (Aladdin/Simon & Schuster, 2020) STRONG AS FIRE, FIERCE AS FLAME (Tu Books, 2020), and THAT THING ABOUT BOLLYWOOD (Aladdin/Simon and Schuster, 2021). Supriya is represented by Kathleen Rushall at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, and Kim Yau at Paradigm for film/TV rights.
Abigail Dela Cruz is an artist based in the Philippines! You can find her on Instagram here.