Books for Desi Babies: How to Make Bedtime a Little More Cultural
Bharat Babies founder Sailaja Joshi found that there are five times as many books about trucks and twice as many books about bunnies than there are about children of color. I can attest – I’ve probably read more board books about construction sites than one person every needs to see.
The seven companies below were founded to combat that exact issue – and to bring South Asian characters, lessons and history to life for children to absorb.
Publisher: Bharat Babies
Sailaja Joshi was dismayed by her research about books on POC babies – so she looked for a solution. Now, her company puts out board books and early reader stories such as “Padmini is Powerful,” “Amal’s Ramadan” and “Let’s Celebrate Diwali” from various South Asian authors such as Raakhee Mirchandani, who has written for the Wall Street Journal, Elle and HuffPo, and Sheetal Sheth, an actress who appeared in ABCD, Nip/Tuck and NCIS: LA.
Publisher: Modi Toys
For a child-friendly way to share the story behind the plush Baby Ganesh, Modi Toys co-founder Avani Modi Sarkar wrote “How Ganesh Broke His Tusk” – a simple way to begin instilling the basics of Hindusim to young children. A second book, featuring Hanuman, is set to release later this year.
Publisher: Everyday Love
Author: Nidhi Chanani
Illustrator and cartoonist Nidhi Chanani published her first bilingual book, “Shubh Raatri Dost/Good Night Friend” via Bharat Babies, but has penned others, such as “Jasmine’s New Pet,” and “Pashmina.” The latter is aimed at preteens who are learning to juggle two cultures and Netflix recently announced a film adaptation of the book, directed by Gurinder Chadha (who also directed Bend It Like Beckham – no big deal).
For the littlest readers, Indigrow has “A to Z of India,” which puts a desi spin on “a is for apple, b is for ball,” by introducing toddlers to the autorickshaws and buffalos of India. For slightly older children, the company has flash cards and a memory game to help kids match letters with their motherland and put a cultural spin on learning the alphabet.
Publisher: The Amma Series
Author: Bhakti Mathur
Delhi-raised, Hong Kong-based Bhakti Mathur has found a unique way to teach young ones about the various religions of India. Through her “Amma Tell Me” and “Amma Take Me” series, children go on photo-filled journeys to learn about the Golden Temple, Tirupati, Diwali, the Ramayana, Raksha Bandan and more.
Publisher: Modern Marigold Books
Author: Suhani Parekh
Like Sailaja Joshi, Modern Marigold Books author Suhani Parikh found that there was a dire need for more diverse characters, particularly of South Asian descent, in children’s literature. Although the landscape of the country has changed, she found the stigmas and stereotypes she faced as an adolescent were still issues today. She plans for her books, which will be available soon, to revolve around strong South Asian protagonists dealing with culturally-inclusive, universal issues and messages.
Author: Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
As a writer, how do you follow up having Aishwarya Rai star in the movie based on your book? You write a children’s book, of course! After the success of “The Mistress of Spices,” acclaimed Indian author Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni weaved a Bengali folktale about an old woman traversing a jungle to visit her daughter into a brightly-colored book for kids.
What are your some favorite children's book by Indian authors? Tell us below so we can keep growing our reading list!
Avani Nadkarni is a former journalist who currently works in tech PR and is forever navigating the tricky balance of trying to raise her child in the U.S. while teaching him about his Indian and Sri Lankan roots.