Welcome to this month’s Feminist Culture Club, brought to you by Equality Now and No nonsense. In the run-up to International Day of the Girl on October 11th, this month’s selections are curated by children’s book author and Equality Now Advisory Board member, Sheetal Sheth who shares some of her favorite kids and young adult fiction.
Books for four to nine-year-olds
I WALK WITH VANESSA BY KERASCOËT
This powerful picture book tells the story of an elementary school girl named Vanessa who is bullied and a fellow student who witnesses the act and is at first unsure of how to help. I Walk with Vanessa explores the feelings of helplessness and anger that arise in the wake of seeing a classmate treated badly, and shows how a single act of kindness can lead to an entire community joining in to help. I love that the narrative is told only in pictures. Kids really love being able to come up with what they think the characters would be saying. The conversations are priceless.
ALMA’S ART BY RODA AHMED
Alma’s Art is inspired by the little-known African American painter Alma Woodsey Thomas, the treasured expressionist who made her national debut in the art world at age 80.
Alma kept beauty and happiness at the forefront of her painting technique, studying how light and color worked together in the shapes and patterns on her canvases. I love accessible books about real life game-changers. Roda is a master storyteller and kids get excited when they realize Alma was a real person they can learn more about.
ANNIE’S PLAID SHIRT BY STACY B. DAVIDS
Annie loves her plaid shirt and wears it everywhere. But one day her mom tells Annie that she must wear a dress to her uncle’s wedding. Annie protests, but her mom insists and buys her a fancy new dress anyway. Annie is miserable. She doesn’t feel comfortable in dresses. Why can’t her mom understand? Annie’s Plaid Shirt will inspire readers to be themselves and will touch the hearts of those who love them. I love this book as it really allows for conversations about expectations around gender and what is considered ‘normal.’
MY FAVORITE BOOK IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD BY MALCOLM MITCHELL
Meet Henley, an all-around good kid, who hates to read. When he’s supposed to be reading, he would rather do anything else. But one day, he gets the scariest homework assignment in the world: find your favorite book to share with the class tomorrow. What’s a kid to do? How can Henley find a story that speaks to everything inside of him? This book exemplifies how when you don’t see yourself in the media around you, you can always create it.
THE OCEAN CALLS BY TINA CHO
A breathtaking picture book featuring a Korean girl and her haenyeo (free diving) grandmother about intergenerational bonds, finding courage in the face of fear, and connecting with our natural world. Dayeon wants to be a haenyeo just like Grandma. The haenyeo dive off the coast of Jeju Island to pluck treasures from the sea–generations of Korean women have done so for centuries. To Dayeon, the haenyeo are as strong and graceful as mermaids.
FINDING OM BY RASHMI S. BISMARK
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. In an ever fraught world, this wonderful multicultural, intergenerational story is a must in classrooms and homes across the world.
Books for young adults
ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING BY NIKITA GILL!
All of Nikita Gill’s books are stunning, whichever you choose to read first she will not disappoint!
UNBELONGING BY GAYATRI SETHI
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. This book is daring, courageous, and unapologetic in a way that is rare and refreshing.
Last month, my new book, Bravo Anjali (follow up to the acclaimed, Always Anjali), came out in the US. In this book, Anjali deals with being the only girl in the room. She realizes that she should never let anyone make her feel bad for being good at something and steps into her excellence. She learns to ‘never dim her light.’ My heart is heavy knowing that so many of our sisters around the world and in the US are not afforded the same freedoms as many of us. I hope the conversations we have with our little ones about this book will give them perspective and gratitude. I worked with Equality Now on a discussion guide to prompt conversations with the children in your life.