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Amplifying the voices of diverse multiracial authors and illustrators, a guest post by Sailaja Joshi

 Photo credit: BLIP Photography

As a book lover, sociologist and someone who understood the power of books, I knew I wanted literature to be part of my daughter’s upbringing, and to have her learn about her heritage through the lens of other cultural experiences. As excited as I was to build my daughter’s library, I found myself extremely frustrated at what I saw. The small selection of books featuring Indian or South Asian characters on the market were developmentally inappropriate, culturally inaccurate or insensitive, and not what I wanted on my daughter’s bookshelf. It was in this moment I realized I must do something about this. This is how Mango & Marigold Press came to be.

The work we do at Mango & Marigold Press helps to amplify the voices of diverse multiracial authors and illustrators. With our #1001DiverseBooks initiative, Mango & Marigold Press funds 1,001 new copies of each of their books for literacy nonprofits to bridge the accessibility gap and provide children with a wider range of representation in the characters and experiences they’re reading about. Recently, we celebrated our sixth anniversary and 20th published book, yet despite the strides we’ve made and the impact we’ve had on the publishing industry (along with many other amazing organizations and initiatives), it’s clear that substantial improvement is still very much needed.

Representation matters in children’s literature. Children need to see themselves in literature. A lot of people might dismiss the importance that children’s books have on the state of the world, but I’d strongly disagree. Kids are born open-minded. By creating a more diverse landscape of literature, we open up the world for them, encourage wonder and awe, and prompt conversations about culture, race, and experiences. At a young age, children’s minds are like sponges — quickly absorbing everything they see and hear. Incorporating diverse literature at these early stages makes it easier for a child to absorb and form a sense of acceptance.

As parents, we have an amazing ability to mold and shape our children’s young minds and create lifelong morals and values that will help them better themselves and the world through the literature we read to them and provide them with. Teaching kids about diversity and acceptance is a large part of our responsibilities, and an easy and organic way to do that is through literature. Here are some ways to diversify your child’s at home libraries, along with a handful of recommended titles to add to your child’s collection.

Photo credit: Emily Tirella

Three Ways to Diversify Your Children’s Book Collection

Audit Your Current Library

In order to best fill in the gaps, you need to understand what your collection is lacking. Therefore, look through your current assortment of books before heading to the library or bookstore so you have a plan and know exactly what you’re looking for.

Authors Matter – Check the author

Representation matters in literature, but so does who’s writing it. Oftentimes, cultural experiences are misrepresented in literature because they are being written by authors writing outside their experiences, therefore, do your own research and make sure the author is writing from personal experience.

Make it a recurring to-do and not a one-time checklist

The world is constantly changing, and so should you. Your libraries should evolve and change throughout the years and diversifying shouldn’t be viewed as one-time to do. One of the best ways we can support diversity is by making it a part of the conversation every day, so keep at it!

Recommended Titles

Finding Om (written by Rashmi Bismark, Illustrated by Morgan Huff)

Finding Om is an illustrated children’s book that shares the story of Anu, an Indian African girl who explores the mantra Om with her beloved grandfather, Appuppa. Through this story, she begins to uncover techniques of mindfulness that readers can explore along with her. This wonderful multicultural, intergenerational story is sure to become a staple in classrooms and homes across the world.

Super Satya Saves the Day (written by Raakhee Mirchandani, Illustrated by Tim Palin)

Super Satya, a Sikh American girl, is ready to have a super day, including finally conquering the tallest slide in Hoboken. But her day takes a not-so-super turn when she realizes her superhero cape is stuck at the dry cleaner. Will she be able to face her fears, help her friends and be the true hero everyone knows she is? Super Satya Saves The Day introduces Satya, a precocious Indian-American superhero.

Always Anjali (written by Sheetal Sheth, illustrated by Jessica Blank)

When Anjali finally gets the bike of her dreams on her birthday, she and her two best friends are excited to get matching license plates with their names on it. But Anjali can’t find her name. There’s Amy, Betsy, Chris, and many more, but no Anjali. To make matters worse, she gets bullied for her different name, and is so upset she demands to change it. When her parents refuse and she is forced to take matters into her own hands, she winds up learning to celebrate who she is and carry her name with pride. A timeless story about appreciating what makes us special and honoring our differences. Grand prize winner in 2019 for the Purple Dragonfly Award.

Bindiya in India (written by Monique Kamaria Chheda, MD, Illustrated by Debasmita Dasgupta)

Bindiya in India is the story of a young Indian American girl’s first trip to India for an Indian wedding. Weaving together Hindi and English, the children’s illustrated book takes place in the 1990s. It follows Bindiya as she meets her extended family for the first time, celebrates Indian wedding traditions, and creates memories and bonds to last a lifetime.

Meet the author

Photo credit: Emily Tirella

Sailaja Joshi is the founder of Mango & Marigold Press, an award-winning independent publishing house that shares the sweet and savory stories of the South Asian experience. Mango & Marigold Press’s mission has expanded to not only bridge the diversity gap in literature for children and teens but also improve the accessibility of diverse books in underserved communities through their #1001DiverseBooks initiative, with a goal to close the literacy and achievement gap. Sailaja has also been a passionate volunteer in the Hindu Youth community for over twenty years.