Ever wondered how Christmas is celebrated in India? Manju’s Kerala Christmas opens a window into that world.
Speech-language pathologist Ashley George first drafted this story in 2014, printing from her computer, decorating the manuscript with stickers. Did she know that just 8 years later, she would have published the book on her own, and it would be selling on Amazon?
A daughter of immigrants, every holiday season Ashley’s father told her stories of how their family had celebrated Christmas back home in Kerala. This book is a compilation of memories, stories narrated in her childhood. Ashley put them down on paper and shared them with us. Told through the eyes of a young girl in Kerala, this picture book describes how a family prepares and celebrates the Christmas holidays.
People of color remain vastly underrepresented in kidlit. We need more writers to step forward and tell their stories. Yet, studies show that representation in children’s literature can tie directly to a child’s self concept and their perception of other ethnicities. Books about Asian children are less than 7 percent, and the generic term of “Asian” is not further broken down to determine the number of Indian characters. The good news is that the traditional publishing world has seen real growth in this area, but when you are starting in the single digits…you’ve got a ways to go. (1)
Thanks to the modern technology and the world of self publishing, many people of color with a story to tell have been able to get their stories into the world, under their own direction. Ashley George is one of those people who had the courage and strength to go through the laborious process of turning her family story into a book. We need more people like her!
When I sat down to read “Manju’s Kerala Christmas” with my daughter, I was transported and was flooded with nostalgia. So many of the traditions included in this story were traditions my own parents carried over the oceans with them. Fruitcake, palappam, and caroling were all part of our Malayali community’s Christmas celebration. As I read through the pages, I saw so many familiar Malayalam words: Ammachi (grandmother), Koche (young one), and appam (a fermented rice cake, traditional Kerala cuisine). I was reminded of many lovely festive moments of my childhood which I happily shared with my daughter.
And that my friends, is the power of representation. The warm feeling you get inside when you see yourself and your history in a story. And the excitement that you can share it with the next generation.
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Information on Representation in KidLit:
(1) Jagoo, Krystal, The Importance or Representation, Very Well Mind, March 14, 2021.
(2) Glosson, Megan, "Why Children Need to See Themselves Represented in Media", Moms.com, May 16, 2021.
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