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South Asian Kidlit Newsletter - Summer 2021


Wow! It's been nearly five years since I published my first South Asian Kidlit round-up blog post on my website in the Summer of 2016. That first issue had only 6 South Asian Kidlit books. Today's issue has over 20! I am thrilled with the quantity and variety of South Asian Kidlit books being published. I am so excited with the way this segment of the market has been growing.

When I first started these posts in 2016, I didn't have an agent nor a book contract. It was a dream that someday I would be able to have a book by me included in one of the round-up posts. Today is that day! Squeee. :-D Thank you all for your support over the years. I feel blessed to have reached this milestone.

If you would like to see back issues from the last five years, you can find them on my South Asian Kidlit Page.

Happy Reading!

P.S. Feel free to share this newsletter with colleagues. Non-Members you can sign-up for the South Asian Kidlit Newsletter here: http://darshanakhiani.com/southasianbooks/
Author/Illustrator Spotlight
Nidhi Chanani likes to dream. Sometimes they pull her onto a kayak, to new cities and epic gardening fails. Sometimes the dreams fuel her creativity. She’s the author of the graphic novels, Pashmina and Jukebox and Shubh Raatri Dost/Good Night Friend, a bilingual board book as well as the illustrator of the picture book I will be fierce and Binny’s Diwali. Nidhi draws and dreams in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, kid and cat.
Q: How has your experiences as a South Asian influenced your art and the stories you choose to tell?

My identity is part of who I am and my art and books are extensions of that. I believe that representation is vital. Each story is an opportunity to explore the many facets of a character which may or may not relate to my South Asian identity. When I write or draw characters, I pull from what I know but I also enjoy learning in the process of creating. 

Q: In what ways do you hope readers will connect with Jukebox?

Simply, I hope that folks will enjoy reading a story about two brown girls who go on a time traveling adventure. Additionally I hope folks connect the themes of music, history and memory. 

You can find out more about Nidhi on her website, Twitter, and Instagram accounts.
Summer 2021 List
Today's list covers books releasing in June thru August of 2021. The books listed below are traditionally published and are either by a South Asian author or illustrator, contains a South Asian main character, or involve South Asian culture. The books are organized by Category and then Publication Date.

For a list of today’s books, check out my South Asian Kidlit Summer 2021 list at Bookshop.org.
Title: How to Wear a Sari
Author: Darshana Khiani
Illustrator: Joanne Lew-Vriethoff
Publisher: Versify
Publication Date: June 22, 2021
ISBN: 9781328635204
Category-Genre: Picture Book
Community Represented: Indian-American
Synopsis:
Being a little kid isn’t always fun and games. Sometimes, it’s downright annoying. When a little girl tires of being treated like she’s TOO little, she sets out to prove to her family that she can do ANYTHING she puts her mind to . . . including putting on a colorful, twinkly, silky sari. Sure, they’re long and unwieldy—but that only means her family will be even more impressed when she puts it on all by herself. Naturally, there are some hiccups along the way, but she discovers that she’s not the only one in her family who has set out with something to prove, with hilariously chaotic results. That’s what photo albums are for!
Title: My Body is a Rainbow: The Color of My Feelings
Author: Mallika Chopra
Illustrator: Izzy Burton
Publisher: Running Press Kids
Publication Date: July 20, 2021
ISBN: 9780762499045
Category-Genre: Picture Book
Synopsis:
Did you know that your body is absolutely amazing? It can do so many things at the same time, explore the world both inside and outside, and help you feel the feelings deep down inside. When you start to feel big feelings, it's helpful to use colors, words, and breath to explore your body and to make yourself calmer and more at peace.
Title: What I Am
Author/Illustrator: Divya Srinivasan 
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: August 3, 2021
ISBN: 9780593204016
Category-Genre: Picture Book
Synopsis:
A young narrator describes herself: a girl, a granddaughter, Indian, and American. Soon, we see the young girl as a plethora of things: selfish and generous, mean and kind, brave and mischievous. While many of these qualities oppose each other, the context and illustrations make it abundantly clear that she speaks the truth. She is a walking contradiction, and that is precisely what makes her both a unique individual and an essential piece of the greater world around her. Divya Srinivasan shows what makes us human and proud to be who we are.
Title: Usha and the Big Digger
Author: Amitha Jagannath Knight 
Illustrator: Sandhya Prabhat 
Publisher: Charlesbridge
Publication Date: August 3, 2021
ISBN: 9781623542016
Category-Genre: Picture Book
Community Represented: Indian-American
Synopsis:
When sisters Usha and Aarti look up at the stars, they see different things. Aarti sees the Big Dipper, but Usha sees the Big DIGGER. And cousin Gloria sees the Big Kite! Could they all be right? A playful introduction to geometry and spatial relationships, featuring Indian American characters and a note about cultures and constellations.
Title: I Can Help
Author: Reem Faruqi
Illustrator: Mikela Prevost 
Publisher: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: August 10, 2021
ISBN: 9780802855046
Category-Genre: Picture Book
Synopsis:

When Ms. Underwood asks if anyone wants to help Kyle, Zahra always volunteers. She loves spending time with Kyle—he’s creative and generous, and he makes the funniest jokes at lunch. But when Zahra’s other classmates start teasing her for helping him, she starts making choices she regrets. 

Title: Soraya and the Dragon
Author: Salima Alikhan
Illustrator: Jennifer Naalchigar
Publisher: Reycraft Books
Publication Date: August 18, 2021
ISBN: 9781478873686
Category-Genre: Chapter Book - Fantasy
Synopsis:

Months after her adventure rescuing Estelle the Mermaid from the Bayside Aquarium, Soraya is still having trouble fitting in at school and home. But when her class goes on a new field trip to the Balabrook Caverns, Soraya soon learns that new adventuresand new friendsare always just around the corner. Readers will delight in the second book of this popular middle grade series.

Title: Samira Surfs
Author: Rukhsanna Guidroz 
Illustrator:  Fahmida Azim
Publisher: Kokila
Publication Date: June 8, 2021
ISBN: 9781984816191
Category-Genre: Middle-Grade - Novel-in-Verse
Community Represented: Bangladeshi-Rohingya
Synopsis:
Samira thinks of her life as before and after: before the burning and violence in her village in Burma, when she and her best friend would play in the fields, and after, when her family was forced to flee. There's before the uncertain journey to Bangladesh by river, and after, when the river swallowed her nana and nani whole. And now, months after rebuilding a life in Bangladesh with her mama, baba, and brother, there's before Samira saw the Bengali surfer girls of Cox's Bazar, and after, when she decides she'll become one.
Title: Much Ado About Baseball
Author: Rajani LaRocca
Publisher: Little Bee Books/Yellow Jacket
Publication Date: June 15, 2021
ISBN:  9781499811018
Category-Genre: Middle-Grade
Synopsis:
Twelve-year-old Trish can solve tough math problems and throw a mean fastball. But because of her mom's new job, she's now facing a summer trying to make friends all over again in a new town. That isn't an easy thing to do, and her mom is too busy to notice how miserable she is. But at her first baseball practice, Trish realizes one of her teammates is Ben, the sixth-grade math prodigy she beat in the spring Math Puzzler Championships. Everyone around them seems to think that with their math talent and love of baseball, it's only logical that Trish and Ben become friends, but Ben makes it clear he still hasn't gotten over that loss and can't stand her. To make matters worse, their team can't win a single game. But then they meet Rob, an older kid who smacks home runs without breaking a sweat. Rob tells them about his family's store, which sells unusual snacks that will make them better ballplayers. Trish is dubious, but she's willing to try almost anything to help the team. When a mysterious booklet of math puzzles claiming to reveal the "ultimate answer" arrives in her mailbox, Trish and Ben start to get closer and solve the puzzles together. Ben starts getting hits, and their team becomes unstoppable. Trish is happy to keep riding the wave of good luck . . . until they get to a puzzle they can't solve, with tragic consequences. Can they find the answer to this ultimate puzzle, or will they strike out when it counts the most?
Title: Ahmed Aziz's Epic Year
Author: Nina Hamza
Publisher: Quill Tree Books
Publication Date: June 22, 2021
ISBN: 9780063024892
Category-Genre: Middle-Grade
Community Represented: Muslim
Synopsis:
Ahmed Aziz is having an epic year—epically bad. After his dad gets sick, the family moves from Hawaii to Minnesota for his dad’s treatment. Even though his dad grew up there, Ahmed can’t imagine a worse place to live. He’s one of the only brown kids in his school. And as a proud slacker, Ahmed doesn’t want to deal with expectations from his new teachers. Ahmed surprises himself by actually reading the assigned books for his English class: HolesBridge to Terabithia, and From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Shockingly, he doesn’t hate them. Ahmed also starts learning about his uncle, who died before Ahmed was born. Getting bits and pieces of his family’s history might be the one upside of the move, as his dad’s health hangs in the balance and the school bully refuses to leave him alone. Will Ahmed ever warm to Minnesota?
Title: Jukebox
Author/Illustrator: Nidhi Chanani
Publisher: First Second
Publication Date: June 22, 2021
ISBN: 9781250156372
Category-Genre: Middle-Grade - Mystery
Synopsis:
A mysterious jukebox, old vinyl records, and cryptic notes on music history, are Shaheen's only clues to her father's abrupt disappearance. She looks to her cousin, Tannaz, who seems just as perplexed, before they both turn to the jukebox which starts…glowing? Suddenly, the girls are pulled from their era and transported to another time! Keyed to the music on the record, the jukebox sends them through decade after decade of music history, from political marches, to landmark concerts. But can they find Shaheen’s dad before the music stops? This time-bending magical mystery tour invites readers to take the ride of their lives for a coming-of-age adventure.
Title: Kiki Kallira Breaks a Kingdom
Author: Sangu Mandanna
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers 
Publication Date: July 6, 2021
ISBN: 9780593206973
Category-Genre: Middle-Grade - Fantasy
Synopsis:
Kiki Kallira has always been a worrier. Did she lock the front door? Is there a terrible reason her mom is late? Recently her anxiety has been getting out of control, but one thing that has always soothed her is drawing. Kiki's sketchbook is full of fanciful doodles of the rich Indian myths and legends her mother has told her over the years. One day, her sketchbook's calming effect is broken when her mythological characters begin springing to life right out of its pages. Kiki ends up falling into the mystical world she drew, which includes a lot of wonderful discoveries like the band of rebel kids who protect the kingdom, as well as not-so-great ones like the ancient deity bent on total destruction. As the one responsible for creating the evil god, Kiki must overcome her fear and anxiety to save both worlds--the real and the imagined--from his wrath. But how can a girl armed with only a pencil defeat something so powerful?
Title: A Mystery at Lili Villa
Author: Arathi Menon
Publisher: Yali Books
Publication Date: July 31, 2021
ISBN: 9781949528824
Category-Genre: Middle-Grade - Mystery
Community Represented: Indian
Synopsis:
Cousins Arj, Tam, and Mira are spending their summer vacation in Elathoor, a little village in Kerala when their family home, Lili Villa, is broken into and some jewelry is stolen. The Terrific Three set out to solve the mystery but soon discover that there is no shortage of suspects.  Is it Pinching Kodavis or Dumdumchecchi, the milking lady? Is it the mean fisherwoman who starves the cat or the retired nurse who owns a luxury car? Or is it Mani with his upside-down Russian secret? Who could the thief possibly be?
Title: Threads of Peace
Author: Uma Krishnaswami
Publisher: Atheneum
Publication Date: August 17, 2021
ISBN: 9781481416788
Category-Genre: Middle-Grade - Non-Fiction
Community Represented: Indian & African-American
Synopsis:
A lawyer and activist, tiny of stature with giant ideas, in British-ruled India at the beginning of the 20th century. A minister from Georgia with a thunderous voice and hopes for peace at the height of the civil rights movement in America. Born more than a half-century apart, with seemingly little in common except one shared wish, both would go on to be icons of peaceful resistance and human decency. Both preached love for all human beings, regardless of race or religion. Both believed that freedom and justice were won by not one, but many. Both met their ends in the most unpeaceful of ways—assassination. But what led them down the path of peace? How did their experiences parallel...and diverge? Threads of Peace keenly examines and celebrates these extraordinary activists’ lives, the threads that connect them, and the threads of peace they laid throughout the world, for us to pick up, and weave together.
Title: Of Princes and Promises
Author: Sandhya Menon
Publisher: Simon & Schuster BFYR
Publication Date: June 8, 2021
ISBN: 9781534417571
Category-Genre: Young Adult - Fairytale Retelling
Synopsis:
Caterina LaValle is determined to show she’s still the queen of St. Rosetta’s Academy. Sure, her crown may be slightly askew after her ex-boyfriend, Alaric, cheated on her, but she’s a LaValle. She’ll find a way to march right back in there, her hands clutching the strings to the whole puppet show. This time, she’s going to be untouchable. 
Rahul Chopra knows that moment he shared with Caterina LaValle at the winter formal meant something. Surely she feels it, too. He’s a little uncertain how someone like him (socially inept to a point way past “adorkable”) could fit into her world, but he’s loved Caterina for years. He knows they’ll find a way.
When Caterina finds out Alaric is taking a supermodel to the upcoming gala, she knows she cannot arrive without the perfect date. But the thought of taking another superficial St. R’s boy exhausts her. The solution? Sweet-but-clueless Rahul Chopra and a mysterious pot of hair gel with the power to alter the wearer into whatever his heart desires.
When Rahul tries it, he transforms instantly into RC—debonair, handsome, and charming. But transformation comes with a price: As Rahul enjoys his new social standing, the line between his two personas begins to blur. Will he give up everything, including Caterina, to remain RC? Or will this unlikely pair find their way back to each other?
Title: A War of Swallowed Stars
Author: Sangu Mandanna
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Publication Date: June 15, 2021
ISBN: 9781510733800
Category-Genre: Young Adult - Space Opera
Synopsis:
A prince without his kingdom.
A kingdom without its princess.
The destruction of the stars themselves.
War is destroying the galaxy. Esmae has vanished without a trace. A terrifying, ravenous beast is devouring the stars one by one. Titania is offered a gift that may well be a curse. Alexi, the exiled prince, is asked to pay a heavy price for his mistakes. And far, far away, on a dark, mysterious planet, a sleeping god stirs awake.
War or family.
Pride or peace.
As the end of the world draws ever closer, Esmae and Alexi must decide how far they’ll go to win—and who they’ll sacrifice along the way.
Title: Sisters of the Snake
Author: Sarena & Sasha Nanua
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: June 15, 2021
ISBN: 9780062985590
Category-Genre: Young Adult - Fantasy
Synopsis:
A lost princess. A mysterious puppet master. And a race against time—before all is lost. Princess Rani longs for a chance to escape her gilded cage and prove herself. Ria is a street urchin, stealing just to keep herself alive. When these two lives collide, everything turns on its head: because Ria and Rani, orphan and royal, are unmistakably identical. A deal is struck to switch places—but danger lurks in both worlds, and to save their home, thief and princess must work together. Or watch it all fall into ruin.
 
Title: Rising Like a Storm
Author: Tanaz Bhathena 
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux 
Publication Date: June 22, 2021
ISBN: 9780374313111
Category-Genre: Young Adult - Fantasy
Synopsis:
With King Lohar dead and a usurper queen in power, Gul and Cavas face a new tyrannical government that is bent on killing them both. Their roles in King Lohar's death have not gone unnoticed, and the new queen is out for blood. What she doesn't know is that Gul and Cavas have a connection that runs deeper than romance, and together, they just might have the strength and magic to end her for good. Then a grave mistake ends with Cavas taken prisoner by the government. Gul must train an army of warriors alone. With alliances shifting and the thirst for vengeance growing, the fate of Ambar seems ever more uncertain. It will take every ounce of strength, love, and sacrifice for Gul and Cavas to reach their final goal―and build a more just world than they've ever known.
Title: The Chariot at Dusk
Author: Swati Teerdhala
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Publication Date: June 29, 2021
ISBN: 9780062869272
Category-Genre: Young Adult - Fantasy
Synopsis:
Esha is reeling from Kunal’s betrayal, but she has a kingdom to rule from behind a thin smokescreen—pretending to be Princess Reha while she sends her most trusted soldiers to collect Reha and Kunal by any means necessary. Traitors, after all, must be punished. But the Yavar are attacking from every front—tracking down Kunal and Reha in the remote mountains, kidnapping Harun—in search of legendary artifacts that will give them the power to break the precarious janma bond and release the destructive magic back into the lands. Now that the race is on to find the missing artifacts, Esha must put aside her rage and work with Kunal again—but can she find the strength to forgive him, or will the Viper have her revenge at any cost?
Title: Radha & Jai's Recipe for Romance
Author: Nisha Sharma
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers 
Publication Date: July 13, 2021
ISBN: 9780553523294
Category-Genre: Young Adult - Contemporary
Community Represented: Indian-American
Synopsis:
Radha is on the verge of becoming one of the greatest kathak dancers in the world . . . until a family betrayal costs her the biggest competition of her life. Now she has left her Chicago home behind to follow her stage mom to New Jersey. At the Princeton Academy of the Arts, Radha is determined to leave performing in her past and reinvent herself from scratch. Jai is captain of the Bollywood Beats dance team, ranked first in his class, and is an overachiever with no college plans. Tight family funds means medical school is a pipe dream, which is why he wants to make the most out of high school. When Radha enters his life, he realizes she's the exact ingredient he needs for a show-stopping senior year. With careful choreography, both Radha and Jai will need to face their fears (and their families) if they want a taste of a happily ever after.
Title: The Wild Ones
Author: Nafiza Azad
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication Date: August 3, 2021
ISBN: 9781534484962
Category-Genre: Young Adult - Fantasy
Synopsis:
We are the Wild Ones, and we will not be silenced. We are girls who have tasted the worst this world can offer. Our story begins with Paheli, who was once betrayed by her mother, sold to a man in exchange for a favor. When Paheli escaped, she ran headlong into Taraana—a boy with stars in his eyes, a boy as battered as she was. He tossed Paheli a box of stars before disappearing. With the stars, Paheli gained access to the Between, a place of pure magic and mystery. Now, Paheli collects girls like us, and we use our magic to travel the world, helping to save other girls from our pain, our scars. When Taraana reappears, he asks for our help. Dangerous magical forces are chasing him, and they will destroy him to get his powers. We will do everything to save him—if we can. For if Taraana is no longer safe and free, neither are the Wild Ones. And that...is a fate that we refuse to accept. Ever again.
Title: Mercury Boys
Author: Chandra Prasad
Publisher: Soho Teen 
Publication Date: August 3, 2021
ISBN: 9781641292658
Category-Genre: Young Adult - historical/speculative fantasy
Synopsis:
After her life is upended by divorce and a cross-country move, 16-year-old Saskia Brown feels like an outsider at her new school—not only is she a transplant, she’s biracial in a population of mostly white students. One day while visiting her only friend at her part-time library job, Saskia encounters a vial of liquid mercury, then touches an old daguerreotype—the precursor of the modern-day photograph—and makes a startling discovery. She is somehow able to visit the man in the portrait: Robert Cornelius, a brilliant young inventor from the nineteenth century. The hitch: she can see him only in her dreams. Saskia shares her revelation with some classmates, hoping to find connection and friendship among strangers. Under her guidance, the other girls steal portraits of young men from a local college's daguerreotype collection and try the dangerous experiment for themselves. Soon, they each form a bond with their own "Mercury Boy," from an injured Union soldier to a charming pickpocket in New York City. At night, the girls visit the boys in their dreams. During the day, they hold clandestine meetings of their new secret society. At first, the Mercury Boys Club is a thrilling diversion from their troubled everyday lives, but it's not long before jealousy, violence, and secrets threaten everything the girls hold dear.
Title: Unbelonging
Author: Gayatri Sethi
Publisher: Mango & Marigold Press
Publication Date: August 2021
ISBN: TBD
Category-Genre: Young Adult - Memoir
Community Represented: Indian - Tanzanian - African-American
Synopsis:
Where do those relegated to the margins find belonging?
In her luminous debut Unbelonging,  Gayatri Sethi deftly interweaves verse, memoir, and a bold call to action as she recounts her experience searching for home in the diaspora. Drawing upon her life story as a Tanzanian-born-Punjabi turned American educator and mother of biracial children, Sethi tells an intimate tale of stepping into her power while confronting misogyny, racism, and empire. Spanning decades and continents– from Partition to the Black Lives Matter movement, South Africa to Atlanta – Unbelonging tells urgent truths, inspires critical self-reflection, and emboldens its readers to pursue radical forms of justice, compassion, and solidarity.
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