Saturday, February 5, 2022

Q&A with Bijal Shah




Bijal Shah is the author of the new picture book For the Love of Laxmi. She was born in India and raised in the United States.


Q: What inspired you to write For the Love of Laxmi, and how did you create your character Laxmi?


A: The title is a play on “for the love of God.” Laxmi is also a name of an Indian goddess known for wealth and prosperity. And in Hindu families, when there is a newborn girl, she is usually referred to as the Laxmi of the house (the closest analogy I have in the American culture, for that is when you call someone your good luck charm). 


While being the Laxmi of the house sounds like a tremendously charming compliment, the reality differs a lot. The everyday subtle remarks and biases showcase an almost microaggressive environment full of double standards among gender type, class, and race.


This book aims to highlight those daily conversations and see how it impacts and shapes a child's identity and world. 


Q: What do you think Alexa Carter's illustrations add to the story?


A: It added life! I met with at least 12 illustrators while starting this process, and Alexa understood Laxmi instantaneously. While everyone I spoke to regarding design for this book was great, it always felt like they were more attached to bringing their signature style to this, where Alexa focused on being true to the character.


Alexa was the only one that didn't want to jump into the chapters right away; she wanted to develop Laxmi at all ages and her family members' aging process. Every family member has a signature color, jewelry, hair, and it tweaks a little as they get older - it has this beautiful natural progression. 


And it was the same with the house - we had countless conversations about the color of the walls, the swing, the curtain, and how the house would change over time. 


I remember towards the last few chapters, we would discuss the face Laxmi would make or the things Grandmother would say as if they were real people and say something like, "Oh Laxmi is having that."


I can't imagine anyone else designing Laxmi. 


Q: The book's subtitle is "Everyday Desi Biases and the Imprints They Leave." What do you think the book says about those imprints?


A: So this is Part One of a three-part series, which focuses on showcasing the seeds of these insecurities - you see this through Laxmi's observations in the adolescent years. Then you start seeing her speaking up a little bit but not enough to draw the boundary or put a stop to it.  


I hope the book helps parents and grandparents understand how much kids can internalize these conversations and emotions and the harm and insecurities they can lead to.


When I started sharing the book with family, it led to family members sharing their memories of these/similar moments from their childhood and how they felt then. I hope this starts a conversation among generations about their experiences. 


Q: What do you hope readers take away from the story?


A: I hope the readers see Laxmi in them, I hope they find her relatable, and I hope she triggers a memory that is deeply buried and I hope it starts a much needed conversation. 


Q: What are you working on now?


A: At the moment, I'm focused on a successful release of For the Love of Laxmi and hoping to get this into as many hands and homes as possible. 


I've always dreamt of writing a memoir, so there is continuous work there, and part two of For the Love of Laxmi is also in the works - we see Laxmi in college and her 20s navigating cultural dualities. You'll see how some of these conversations shaped her world and the decisions she makes. 


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: We really hope Laxmi becomes a relatable character for every young girl growing up in a dual/multi-cultural world.  


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

No comments:

Post a Comment