On princesses, superstars, and architects

My 7 year old is a riot. She has all kinds of elaborate dreams and schemes. By contrast, my 4 year old is more logical and reasonable, but she can’t resist my 7 year old’s infectious enthusiasm.

Last week, the 7 yo was talking about how she wants to be a famous singer when she grows up, and how her sister and 2 cousins will be in the band with her. Then she decided, actually, she would be famous by herself. The 4 year old was scared about this idea (she is more shy than her sister) so instead she agreed to be the maid and do all the 7 year old’s chores for her so she can have time to practice her singing and write famous songs.

Later, at bathtime, the 7 year old says to me, “Mommy, I want to be a princess. We need to find a Prince for me to marry so I can be a princess.”

I explained to her that we don’t have princesses in this country, and that it was a good thing that we get to vote to decide who is in charge of us. That way we don’t get stuck with an evil king or something.

I said, “Well, maybe you can CALL yourself Princess when you’re a famous singer?”

7 year old thought this was a terrible idea, but she discussed it in the bath with her little sister and decided that her band name would be THE PRINCESSES and when they were rich, they would have a huge mansion–“No, a CASTLE! Then people might believe that we are REALLY princesses.” She promptly asked the 4 yo if she would still agree to help her clean the castle. The 4 year old agreed.

I reminded them that actually, when they are rich, they can afford to have someone else to clean the castle. “But you know [4 year old] is always saying she wants to be an architect. Maybe she can design the castle?”

The 4 year old liked this idea, but was worried because she doesn’t know how to draw castles. So, the 7 year old, in her very sensible big sister voice informed her that if she wants to be good at drawing castles, she should practice.

“Every time you have choice time in school you should draw a castle,” said the 7 year old.

After they got their pajamas on, the girls wanted to get started practicing drawing castles. I explained this wasn’t the best time to start drawing pictures. It was bedtime.

Once they were done crying and moaning about bedtime and had accepted their fate, the 7 year old instead decided to write a note to remind herself (and her sister) to practice drawing castles first thing in the morning before school.

The next morning, I was awakened by two drawings of castles being thrust into my face :) Naturally I haven’t heard a word about the castle drawings since then….

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Lost Teeth

Today at home:

6 yo niece (face bloody): WAAAAAH! Mommy! I lost 2 teeth!
Sis and me: oh no! are you okay! what happened? which teeth?
6 yo niece: the ones that were wiggly!
Me: phew!!!!! what happened?
Niece: I don’t know! they just came out! Now I can’t find them!
Sis: what were you doing? where were you?
Niece: *crying* I don’t know!
Me: Let’s ask my daughter.

7 yo Daughter comes downstairs with a funny expression.
Me: what happened?
Daughter: we were playing tug of war!
Me: did someone hit her in the face?
Daughter: I don’t know. No. We didn’t.
Me: I don’t get it, what happened? How did her teeth come out?
Daughter: We were playing tug of war with our mouths*–

Me: HAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAAHAHAAHAHAHAHA

They wanted me to write a story about this, but I decided on a blog post.
*”with our mouths” as in they were using their mouths to tug the ribbon they were using.

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On speaking up and on resolutions for the future

I have been involved in many “diversity in literature” discussions over the couple years, and it has been an emotional roller coaster to say the least. Between writing and parenting I don’t spend a lot of time reading the newest and latest books (I’m still catching up on the newest and latest books from two years ago..)

One thing I always worry about: should I speak up about problematic elements in books when I read them? Is there a point in speaking up if it’s a book that has won awards and sold zillions of copies (esp. one that is supposed to be a great “diverse” book)? What are the consequences if I do? What if I LOVED the book except for that one element that was completely, blatantly offensive?

I believe as an adult writing for those younger than myself, I have the power to shape hearts and minds. Kids and teens are still forming their own opinions about themselves and the world. This is a powerful place position to be in. How children’s authors speak and how they behave, (and especially what they write) gets passed along to future generations. It galls me when people minimize this responsibility.

There are not that many Indian Americans in American publishing. I’ve occasionally been in a unique situation due to my background/expertise to speak up, but I cannot represent every Indian Americna out there. Friends or family often disagree with me on what is offensive and what isn’t offensive. I often feel like a lone voice. I wonder, am I being oversensitive? Am I, as an unpublished writer, simply jealous of particular author? I’m human after all.

I’ve also had concerns about my budding writing career, about unwittingly severing ties with publishers who may be upset about me pointing out racism in their books. More importantly though, speaking up about racism has been hard because of fear for my personal safety. I have heard several instances of women speaking up online, being harassed online, and then being targeted IN PERSON. Is my personal safety worth it?

I wrote a version of this blog post earlier last month (i.e. pre-election) in response to a question an author posted on Facebook after reading an egregiously offensive book by an award-winning author. I saved my thoughts as a draft. Cut and pasted. Edited. Saved the draft again. Went back to a previous version. Dithered about whether or not to post.

After this election, I’m convinced that it is vitally important to speak up about racism in all aspects of life, not just publishing. For the rest of the year and into the next, I resolve not to worry so much about other people’s opinions about me speaking up. With the political landscape the way it is, artists and writers must be more honest and open. We must not succumb to the shaming that happens online for voicing dissenting opinions. We must not let this country become a place where it is not safe to be a lone voice.

I hope you are with me on this.

Best wishes for the new year,

Amitha

 

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Writer

Am I a Writer with a capital W or a lowercase one, written in pencil?

 

PS For those of you who have no idea what this is about: I decided to transcribe some of the poems and ideas I wrote in the little purple notebook I keep next to my bed. 

I almost didn’t include this one, but then I decided it was a good example of things that pop into my head. Do you have an idea notebook (or like me “notebooks” plural)? What do you write in yours?

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Freeflow

Why do the words flow freer when I’m tired

When I’m half asleep

Body aching, footsore from a long day of mothering.

 

Children clinging to my legs,

wanting me closer,

closer

Though my mind wanders,

my heart stays

with them.

 

And the words come in my mind,

flowing through the pencil

after bedtime.

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If I knew

If I knew what you meant to her,

It wouldn’t have happened that way.

I would’ve gone without you

to another land

to another place.

 

Instead I stayed,

and we were never apart.

But we should’ve been.

 

(Like I said, these poems come to me when I’m falling asleep so I don’t always know exactly what they are about. Or if I did at the time, I have no idea now! Maybe it was a book I was reading at the time?) :) ASJK

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Waves

(This poem is inspired by a character in one of my manuscripts. but I probably will not use it since her backstory has changed…)

The night was black, and the the ocean pounded, pounded, pounded agains the rocks.

My father was gone, gone, gone.

And it beat a hole against the rocks, made a cave in my chest.

Sometimes the water floods in, makes it feel full, and sometimes

it’s empty.

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In My Heart I Am a Poet

As promised last week, here is one of the poems from my little purple notebook.

In my heart, I am a poet.

But the words won’t come

       when bidden.

They come in the night when the world is asleep

         when my mind is empty

and quiet as the room.

Warm cat purring,

down comforter comforting,

a blanket of sleep squeezing tight.

Awake, the words fail to delight.

No longer profound.

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Little Purple Notebook

Sometimes when I’m tired, sentences pop into my head.

I scribble them down in a little purple notebook that I keep by my bedside. Mostly they are story ideas that may or may not go anywhere, or ideas for solving a problem in one of my manuscripts, but occasionally I jot down a poem.

Some of these poems are seared into my brain; some of them I forget as soon as they’re written down. (Sometimes my pen is an eraser of memories.)

I was glancing through my little purple notebook today and thought why not put them in my blog?

So over the next few weeks I’ve scheduled some of them to go online.

I’ll tag them: Little Purple Notebook. I’ll post them approximately once a week until I run out, or until I decide the posts are too embarrassing and I need to delete them all…

:) ASJK

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Banned Book Week Discussion

Hi Everyone!

I’m going to be participating in a discussion about banned books as part of Banned Book Week Discussion at Falmouth Public Library. The other speakers will include: author I.W. Gregorio (Ilene Wong), Stephanie Seales, and Sara Hines from Eight Cousins Bookstore in Falmouth.

If you can’t come–I know it’s a little far for some of my Boston area kidlit friends–please share with your friends!

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