Let’s take a trip with this exuberant girl as she crosses back and forth over the great divide of her two cultures, and figures out just who she is: not one or the other, but a product of both.
Festive henna, garnet red
Bindis, bangles, desi queen
Which is the color of me?
Rhythmic stride, jaunty step
Jangly yellow, Bollywood moves
Shimmery blue, hip-hop grooves…
Which is the color of me?
The reader follows along as this girl shows how the colors that make up the fabric of her being are so different and yet still a part of who she is.
I LOVE this illustration that shows the divide so perfectly.
Two iconic cultural images for one child.
For every example, the refrain asks the question: Which is the color of me? How does she reconcile these differences?
We reach a spread where the girl begins to gather the different colors of threads that make up the fabric of her being, the “different colors of me.” We see how these threads weave into patterns that “shape the fabric of me.” How the sounds of the different languages she knows, the foods she eats blend inside her. How she doesn’t need to hide any of the disparate parts of her world. That she can be proud of and stay true to all of the colors she holds inside her.
This book is a joyful celebration of multiculturalism within a single child as she claims both sides of her great divide and integrates the two. The luscious, textured illustrations are made from cut and torn paper, fabrics, mixed media, and digital collage. Children who do not yet know how to read will be able to “read” the illustrations and understand how this girl navigates, integrates, and celebrates her two cultures. Perfect!
Make a culture box that represents each aspect of a child’s culture(s) that are important to them. It could include sports, music, foods, traditions/ceremonies, clothing, body/hair decoration, etc.
Like the culture box, think about the colors and textures of the different cultures, likes/dislikes, etc. that make each child unique. Make a mixed media collage like those in the book that integrates those cultures into one artwork.
Research the origins of different kinds of board games. Are there games that are unique to a particular culture? Are there games that are similar between cultures?
Title: American Desi
Author: Jyoti Rajan Gopal
Illustrator: Supriya Kelkar
Publisher: Little Brown, 2022
Themes: multiculturalism, multi-racial children, celebrating your uniqueness
Ages: Pre-K through elementary school
For more perfect picture book recommendations, please visit Susanna Hill’s website.
6 thoughts on “American Desi – Perfect Picture Book Friday”
Upon seeing the title, I was hoping for something I Love Lucy related, but this story looks much better than my expectations.
Sorry to disappoint you, initially, but am glad you see the wonderfullness (yes, that’s my very own word) that is this book!
Great review, Jilanne. This is such a wonderful book. I love the illustrations and the way the cultures combine.
Thanks, Maria! It’s so lyrical, and the way the artwork supports the whole theme is really wonderful!
What a clever story about being true to yourself and finding your own way of expressing yourself through colors. Lovely!
It really is. And figuring out how to navigate two or more cultures that live inside yourself can be challenging.