Dissident Kid Lit
Four South Asian authors talk about children's publishing & narratives that come from pain but create joy.
SIMRAN JEET SINGH
· VASHTI HARRISON
· SHELLY ANAND
· SAIRA MIR
Political dissidence isn't often thought to be part of parenting discourse or children's reading practice—but it must be. In our third panel, four South Asian authors talk about navigating children's publishing and the balance of narratives that come from pain but create joy. Saira Mir, Simran Jeet Singh, Vashti Harrison, & Shelly Anand discussed why their books tackle issues including race, religion, age, and body image, and how children's literature can aim to decenter the white gaze, break out of victimized narratives, and spark conversations in young readers. Watch Deputy Editor Aditya Desai on how this panel came about.
The panel opened with Shelly reading from her book, Laxmi's Mooch, that has since been published to great acclaim. It then moved into a conversation with Saira, Simran, and Vashti and their books, Muslim Girls Rise, Fauja Singh Keeps Going, and Festival of Colors, respectively, while tackling such questions as: How do you balance the desire to claim ownership of narratives or to offer representation? How do we navigate being asked to write about communal trauma, pain versus writing what we want? What are the strategies of breaking out of a victimizing framework? We conclude with an illustration demo from Vashti on how she collaborates with the writer's storylines and finds ways to place her own political stamp on the book!
EDITOR'S NOTE: Since this panel on 20th December 2020, our panelists have published more notable books (some recent, others upcoming in 2023). Check for updates by navigating to their pages below.
ALSO IN THIS ISSUE:
Watch the panel on YouTube or IGTV.
Future Dream Spaces
Kindness as Politics
Literature & Liberation
Politics of Art
SIMRAN JEET SINGH is Executive Director for the Aspen Institute’s Religion & Society Program and author of The Light We Give: How Sikh Wisdom Can Transform Your Life (Riverhead Books, 2022) and the award-winning children’s book Fauja Singh Keeps Going: The True Story of the Oldest Person to Ever Run a Marathon. He is a visiting professor of history and religion at Union Theological Seminary and a Soros Equality Fellow with the Open Society Foundations. In 2020 TIME Magazine recognized him among sixteen people fighting for a more equal America. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, and CNN, and he is a columnist for Religion News Service.
VASHTI HARRISON is an NYT-bestselling author, illustrator, and filmmaker, originally from Onley, Virginia. She has a background in cinematography and screenwriting and a love for storytelling. She is the author and illustrator of the best-selling middle grade series Little Leaders, Little Dreamers, Little Legends, the illustrator of the best-selling picture books Hair Love by Matthew Cherry, Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o, which received a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor. Her latest children's book Big will be published by Little, Brown in May 2023. Vashti is a two-time recipient of the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work for Children. Her experimental films have shown around the world at film festivals and venues including the New York Film Festival, Rotterdam International Film Festival and Edinburgh International Film Festival.
SHELLY ANAND was born and raised in Georgia by immigrant parents from India. She is a human rights attorney fighting for immigrant and workers' rights in the South, and Co-Founder and Executive Director of Sur Legal Collaborative. She lives in Decatur, Georgia with her husband and two children. She is the author of the picture book Laxmi's Mooch, (Kokila, 2019), and co-author with Nomi Ellenson of I Love My Body Because (Simon & Schuster Kids, 2022).
SAIRA MIR is a physican and author of the award-winning picture book Muslim Girls Rise (2019). This biographic anthology was born out of the need to counter Islamophobia and fill her daughter’s heart with amazing Muslim women like her. Her new book, Always Sisters: A Story of Loss and Love will be published by Simon & Schuster in August 2023, available for preorder at her website.