by Supriya Kelkar
Lee & Low’s Tu Books has bought world rights for Supriya Kelkar’s Ahimsa, a middle grade historical novel about a privileged 10-year-old girl in 1942 India whose mother joins Gandhi’s freedom movement, and who takes up her mother’s work for freedom when her mother is jailed.
2017 is the year for Middle Grade books. This book is about Anjali, a ten year old growing up and seeing the world around her for what it truly is when her mother joins Gandhi’s freedom fighters. Her mother helps Anjali see the world more clearly while the two of them learn to see past their privilege and come into the world that they’ve been blind to due to it.
This book is important today because we’re yet again facing the idea one group of people see’s their lives as more important than others, in this case the British over the Indians, and the higher castes over the lower caste of Dalits (I won’t use the slur for them here, just google if you don’t know who they are). If this sounds familiar, we’re currently living through this idea still with the fact we still need to protest for the rights of people of color. Because sadly, when we don’t know our history, it simply repeats itself again and again. In this case, freedom fighters aren’t truly fighters, but protesters that use nonviolence in hopes to free India of the British control and bring rights to all castes, much like today with Black Lives Matter protests. It’s also important due to the fact this book also deals with the Muslims in India at the time that later created the country Pakistan. We see the tensions of them and the Hindus heating up, the two sides rioting and fighting and watch as Anjali has to come to terms with it herself when her and her best friend are on the two sides of the religious divide. Again, this is similar to today in much of the world where Muslim’s see backlash for their religion.
The writing in this book was really well done. It went at a good pace and not once felt boring or too slow. I found myself completely hooked on this book and stayed up into the early hours reading this because it was simply addicting and too hard to put down. I found that it read simply as a book, not just for middle grade readers, but for all, but made it very clear for those middle grade readers and without too much violence and other frightening things while staying true to the history.
I highly recommend this book for everyone. I know that I personally didn’t learn much about Indian history in school and what I do know I had learned myself from reading and documentaries I had seen. This book does a good job in sharing with us an important time in India’s history and makes it easier for all readers to understand while keeping all readers also hooked on the plot and story. However, I do warn that there is violence in this book. Sadly, history like this tends to be and to tell this story without it wouldn’t tell the full story despite the fact it also teaches us about “Ahimsa”. Violence isn’t always the answer, even if that’s the easiest option.
Rating: 5 stars