Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Guest Post & Giveaway: Varsha Bajaj on Reading Across Borders & Cultures

Varsha (taller girl) with her mother and sister.
By Varsha Bajaj
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

I grew up reading cross culturally because I didn’t have a choice. In the late '60s and '70s, British and American authors wrote the children’s literature available in India.

While I had not seen anyone with red hair like Anne Shirley in Anne of the Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery (1908), I understood her desire to please Marilla Cuthbert; it was the same as my desire to please my mother.

I felt Jo’s grief when Beth died of scarlet fever in Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (1868, 1869).

I also fell in love with the idea of winter and a Christmas tree.

I devoured the Secret Seven series by British writer, Enid Blyton (1949-1963). We mimicked their “secret society” and had a meeting place and passwords. It was a girls versus boys club on my street back in Mumbai.

These books did not set out to “educate” me, but they did. They also entertained me and made an indelible impression.

When I traveled to England and then America in 1986, I felt like I was finally visiting a place that I had known for a long time. I understood that our differences were skin deep and that we all wanted to belong and feel loved, and have friends.

Reading cross culturally had prepared me.

In 2014, the world is at our front door. We live in a multicultural society, we eat foods from all over the world, we communicate with people from across the oceans far easily than we did before.

So how can we not read and know each other through our stories?

I have read your stories and will continue to do so.

Do you want to read mine?

Cynsational Notes

Varsha Bajaj came to the U.S., as a graduate student in 1986. She earned her master’s degree in Counseling from Southern Illinois University and worked as a Licensed Professional Counselor in St. Louis. Her debut novel is Abby Spencer goes to Bollywood (Albert Whitman, 2014), and she looks forward to the release of Our Baby, illustrated by Eliza Wheeler (Nancy Paulsen Books).

Varsha & Cyn
Cynsational Giveaways

Enter to win a signed copy of Abby Spencer Goes to Bollywood by Varsha Bajaj (Albert Whitman, 2014). Author sponsored. Eligibility: North America.

Or enter to win an unsigned copy of Abby Spencer Goes to Bollywood by Varsha Bajaj (Albert Whitman, 2014). Author sponsored. Eligibility: international.

a Rafflecopter giveaway a Rafflecopter giveaway

15 comments:

writersideup.com said...

This is such an inspirational post and needs to be shared, (I'll tweet it). Diversity in literature has been quite the hot topic lately, so this will add to that conversation in a very positive way. I still say it comes down to people of diverse backgrounds WRITING quality books about what they know, and if those increase, so will the publishing of those books.

Darshana said...

lovely post. congrats on your upcoming books! I love Eliza Wheeler's work.

Vonna said...

What a lovely post, Varsha! And so appropriate for your story about a girl finding her way across cultures.

asakiyume said...

Reading cross culturally had prepared me.

--me too, in a different direction. I heartily agree with the statement.

And I most definitely would like to read your book, from the title alone :-)

DeenaML said...

As a librarian at a public library with a large Asian population, I am so excited to see your MG and want it on our shelves! Did you find that writing an Indian character made it easier or harder to sell your novel? Or did it not make a difference?

Hanna McCown said...

We grew up on the same books. I'm very interested now in reading your book. So much good luck to you Varsha Bajaj. Hanna

deeleone.com said...

Thanks for this enlightening post, Varsha. Congratulations on the publication of your books! May there be many more!

Crystal Allen said...

Great post! I have read Abby Spencer and feel as if I know her and her family. I just wish Varsha would add a picture of Abby's Dad to her website. If it is a picture of him dancing, that would be a plus! :) Crystal

Donna said...

I love this little peek into your childhood reading and how it inspired you as a writer, Varsha.

Many thanks to you and to Cyn for sharing.


Toppolino said...


I love your perspective on diversity in books, and how you came to it from another angle. The book sounds great--I'd love to read it!

Varsha Bajaj said...

Writersideup, Vonna, Dee, Donna, thank you all!
Darshana, I love Eliza's work too.
Asakiyume, yes, reading cross culturally prepared me like nothing else did.
Hanna, we share a special bond!
Crystal, I will have to try and find a picture of the inspiration for Dad and add it, with the music:)
Toppolino,thanks for appreciating my perspective.

Varsha Bajaj said...

Deena, thanks for putting Abby Spencer on your shelves. I hope "all" the kids in your school enjoy the story and the journey. I am not sure if it was harder to sell the book because Abby Spencer is biracial. I would like to think not but I don't know. My agent loved it and was behind it from the idea stage.

Nikki said...

Oh, yes, Varsha, I DO want to read your stories! And I want everyone who hasn't yet to read them, too. Reading across cultures - I wish this for all the kids I know.

Varsha Bajaj said...

Nikki,
Reading cross culturally is the best! It makes me happy that we can swap stories.
Varsha

Lindsey Lane said...

Varsha, I am so glad that you are now the writer of cross cultural books. A whole new generation of readers, including me, are very lucky.

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