Category Archives: Bangladeshi Culture & Traditions

Rickshaw Girl

Written by: Mitali Perkins

Illustrated by: Jamie Hogan

For ages: YA Book, easy read.

Language: English, some Bangla. Glossary included in back.

Topics Covered: Feminism, Bangladeshi Culture & Traditions, POC-Centric Narratives, Own Voices, Women in Business.

Summary: This is a quick read about a girl named Naima, who paints the best alpanas in the village.  But, she dreams of more.  Naima yearns for the freedom that boys and men have to work and earn money, to pursue education, and not have to stay around the house doing chores. Naima’s father is a rickshaw driver, and one afternoon when he is taking a rest she tries to drive it so she can disguise herself as a boy and help him earn money.  Unfortunately, she crashes into a thicket and damages the rickshaw.  Her father continues to drive it damaged, until he can’t get anymore business because it starts to rust.  He has heard that a rickshaw repair shop he used to frequent until it shut down has reopened, and Naima’s mother gives him one of her gold bangle bracelets to pay for the repairs.  Meeting her friend Saleem (they must meet in secret, because he is a boy) in the woods, they hatch a plan that Naima will borrow Saleem’s mosque clothes and offer her painting services to the repair shop in exchange for the repairs her father needs so he doesn’t have to use the bangle.  Naima walks to the shop, marveling at the freedom boys and men have to walk around in the streets, and even drink tea at cafes while watching television!  When she gets to the shop, she asks a woman to direct her to the repairman so she may offer her services.  Much to Naima’s shock, she is gruffly told that the woman is the shop owner and rickshaw repair person!  In a rush, Naima takes off her disguise and tells the woman the whole story, and her frustrations that she can’t earn money for her family.  The shop owner softens, and gives her a chance to demonstrate her painting abilities.  After several hours of hard work, Naima’s father arrives in a flurry of worry about Naima’s whereabouts.  He is shocked to find that the repair shop owner is a woman (she took it over when her father passed away, which is why it was closed) and that Naima has been helping her paint all afternoon and evening!  The shop owner offers to exchange the rickshaw repairs for Naima’s labor, and offers to pay her after the repairs are made.  Naima has finally found a way to funnel her artistic talents into a viable source of income for her family!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

largeMitali Perkins has written twelve books for young readers, including Between Us and AbuelaForward Me Back To You,You Bring the Distant Near, and Rickshaw Girl, all of which explore crossing different kinds of borders. She was honored as a “Most Engaging Author” by independent booksellers across the country and has addressed a diversity of audiences in schools and libraries, as well as at festivals and conferences. Mitali was born in Kolkata, India before immigrating to the United States. She has lived in Bangladesh, India, England, Thailand, Mexico, Cameroon, and Ghana, studied Political Science at Stanford and Public Policy at U.C. Berkeley, and currently resides in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Jsilver_webJamie Hogan is an award-winning illustrator, educator, and biker living three miles out to sea.  She grew up in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and earned a BFA in Illustration from Rhode Island School of Design.

Her illustrations have appeared in books and magazines as well as winning merit from the Maine Advertising Club, the 3 x 3 Illustration Annual,  American Illustration, PRINT Magazine, Graphis, and the Society of Illustrators.

She is the author and illustrator of The Seven Days of Daisy, and the illustrator of a dozen children’s books, as well as several adult titles. She illustrated Rickshaw Girl by Mitali Perkins, winner of the Jane Addams Peace Association Award and named on the New York Public Library’s list of 100 Best Books.

Jamie was an adjunct professor at Maine College of Art in Portland from 2003 to 2018, teaching courses in the BFA Illustration program and Continuing Studies. She is currently a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance.

Since 1992, Jamie has lived on Peaks Island with her husband, Marty Braun, and daughter, Daisy. An avid motorcyclist and sketchbook keeper, she draws inspiration from moonlight, reflections, pink clouds, wishing on the first star, and the raw beauty that is Maine.

 

The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali

Written by: Sabina Khan

Cover Art by:

For ages: YA book

Language: English

Topics Covered: LGBTQ, Family, Marriage, Independence, Love, Acceptance, LGBTQ Violence, Homophobia, Bangladeshi Culture & Traditions.

Summary: I could NOT put this book down.  I was instantly hooked.  Warning: you will feel ALL the emotions during this read.

Rukhsana is a teenager, just a few months away from graduation.  Rukhsana’s parents are Bangladeshi, and very strict.  They have no idea that she is dating a white girl named Ariana.  Rukhsana’s parents in fact, would love to arrange a marriage for her but Rukhsana is able to secure a full ride to CalTech for physics and bide some time before that happens.  However, one day Ariana is over and Rukhsana’s mother catches them kissing.  All of a sudden, she is whisked away to Bangladesh to visit her “ailing grandmother”, but then ulterior motives are uncovered and Rukhsana is informed she is not allowed to leave the country until she agrees to a formal engagement with a suitable husband-to-be.  After a botched escape plan where Rukhsana’s passport hiding place is discovered and a tumultuous fight with Ariana over the phone, she feels alone and defeated.  Rukhsana is then informed she must be married before leaving the country, locked in a room, and a shaman is called to perform an exorcism of the bad spirit (jinn) that is making her act so disobedient.  Then Rukhsana meets someone named Sohail, a boy whose parents are pushing for him to get married.  But it turns out, he’s already dating someone…someone handsome that lives in the United States.  Sohail and Rukhsana hatch a plan to feign an engagement and then flee before the wedding where they will part ways and link back up with their partners.  Sohail is also a famous blogger, but he writes about what is wrong with Bangladesh and calls for reform-specifically with the anti-LGBT policies currently in place.  He has thousands of weekly readers but is also being followed by extremists known for violence.  When eating lunch together in a cafe, some thugs sit near the pair to intimidate Sohail.  He quickly wraps up lunch and they finish eating in his office, laughing off the incident.

When the day of the wedding ceremony comes, Rukhsana plans to sneak out of her family’s home into a taxi with her younger brother and go to the airport.  Sohail will do the same and they will catch the flight together.  When Rukhsana arrives, Sohail is late.  She waits as long as she can, but gets on the plane alone and makes the long trek back to America, where some friends pick her up and let her stay at their house.  When Rukhsana finally turns her phone back on, she has many missed calls and voicemails from her parents.  Thinking that they are angry at her for skipping out on the expensive wedding, she ignores them and takes a few days to attempt emotional healing from the extreme trauma and duress that she has just endured over the last few months stuck in Bangladesh.  Her friends sit her down, and tell her she needs to listen to the messages.  Sohail is dead.  On the way to the airport he is murdered viciously with a machete by the thugs, because he is gay.

I won’t spoil the ending, but just know that it will wrench your heart from the very depths inside your soul and be impossible to put down.  I was reading it through tears, enraptured at the emotional complexity of the characters, and the growth of Rukhsana throughout this life-changing endeavor that she found herself inextricably linked to, unable to escape.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

sabina-profileSabina Khan is the author of THE LOVE & LIES OF RUKHSANA ALI, a YA Contemporary, was released Spring 2019 from Scholastic. She is an educational consultant and a karaoke enthusiast. After living in Germany, Bangladesh, Macao, Illinois and Texas, she has finally settled down in beautiful British Columbia, Canada, with her husband and three daughters, one of whom is a fur baby.

Tiger Boy

Written by: Mitali Perkins

For ages: YA Book

Language: English, some Bangla.

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Bangladeshi Culture & Traditions, Environmental Activism, Education, Social-Emotional Development.

Summary: The span of the plot in this story is only a few days, but the growth of the main character Neel seems much bigger than that.  Neel is a gifted student and has been given the opportunity to take a huge exam in attempt to win a scholarship for a school a few hours from his small island village.  Neel is resistant, because he doesn’t like math.  He also wants to stay in his village and learn to live off the land and carpentry skills like his father.  Neel’s father currently works for a rich but mean man named Gupta.  When a baby tiger escapes from the local nature reserve, Neel and his friends learn that Gupta plans to catch the cub and sell it on the black market.  Neel and his sister Rupa decide they must catch the cub and return it, because they have learned from their father to honor and protect nature.  During their nighttime searches, Neel also learns the value of the math he doesn’t want to study for when he draws a map of the island to look for hiding spots that the tiger might be living in.  The plot is driven by the fact that Neel and Rupa’s father is being paid by Gupta to hunt for the cub, because he wants to pay for a tutor for Neel.  Upon discovering the cub in a cave, Neel and Rupa race to the shore where there are small boats they can row over to return the cub.  We won’t spoil the end of the book, but Neel learns that he must leave his small village for a short amount of time in order to be able to return, armed with the knowledge to keep his village’s flora and fauna healthy and safe.  Great read!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

largeMitali Perkins has written twelve books for young readers, including Between Us and AbuelaForward Me Back To You,You Bring the Distant Near, and Rickshaw Girl, all of which explore crossing different kinds of borders. She was honored as a “Most Engaging Author” by independent booksellers across the country and has addressed a diversity of audiences in schools and libraries, as well as at festivals and conferences. Mitali was born in Kolkata, India before immigrating to the United States. She has lived in Bangladesh, India, England, Thailand, Mexico, Cameroon, and Ghana, studied Political Science at Stanford and Public Policy at U.C. Berkeley, and currently resides in the San Francisco Bay Area.