Recently someone called my attention to an illustrated book from India that’s been getting great reviews abroad. It’s called ‘Hope Is a Girl Selling Fruit’ and it is written and illustrated by a young artist named Amrita Das, translated into English and published by Tara Books.
Supposedly semi-autobiographical, it is the story of a young girl who goes from her little village to the big city of Chennai to learn art. On the train she meets a girl from a poor family and learns her perspective of growing up as a girl too. The book is about a young woman making her own choices in a male dominated culture like ours. And as the book’s description on Amazon says, “she manages to steer the Mithila tradition of women’s art from the domesticity of its origins to actually questioning the traditional confines of women’s lives.”
By the way, apparently only a third of all our books for chidren and young adults have a female protagonist. Now that definitely is a statistic that needs active intervention by people in publishing, doesn’t it?
Why I found this book interesting is not just because it’s Indian and female-centric. For me it was heartening in multiple respects. The beautiful artwork, done mainly in the traditional Mithila style, is so refreshing – it reinforces my faith in the relevance of our folk arts for contemporary applications, which is also a ‘cause’ dear to me. And of course, it is a wonderful contribution to filling the hole that exists for young girls and women in our society – the lack of female protagonists to identify with, in what we read and see as we grow up in a man’s world.