SPREADING YOUR WINGS

SPREADING YOUR WINGS

ABOUT THE BOOK

Sisters Anjali and Pooja have a lot of questions about their bodies, the changes they have begun to go through. With the help of their myth-busting doctor cousin, and along with their friends and their mothers, they go in search of answers. With over 100 pages of full-colour illustrations, this volume has tons of information, guides, games and DIY projects to understand adolescent bodies.

SNAPSHOT REVIEW

  • This book is a good resource not just for young readers, but also for teachers and parents, and can be used for health training sessions in schools, NGOs and other groups.
  • There is a LOT of information packed in, and the comic format gives a friendlier interface to what is essentially a health education textbook. Even though the artwork (apart from diagrams and other factual information) is mostly comprised of talking heads, speaking out what a textbook would have said, it makes the whole package seem less threatening to reluctant readers.
  • The vibrant colours and representation of varied skin tones is a plus. One only wishes a greater variety of body shapes had been included.
  • There is no information provided about the author anywhere in the book. Cursory internet sleuthing tells us that she is an American who came to India to work in rural UP and found that the locals “needed…more information on how to take care of themselves”. That was the seed that later sprouted into this book. This makes the author’s location in the larger context of the book’s background complicated – a first-world author coming to a developing country and setting out to “fix” its problems. It appears that the author also needed an interpreter to communicate with the villagers she spoke with. All of this adds up to a problematic standpoint, especially from a feminist publisher.
  • Rural India has been painted with the same brush of ignorance and backwardness. There has been no attempt to incorporate traditional wisdom into the narrative. According to this book, Indians have been steeped in the fear and filth of menstruation, having had absolutely no means of dealing with pain and discomfort, and no idea of hygiene. And that they have never had any knowledge (or curiosity) about their own bodies.
  • The book says that the precedent for menstruating women not being allowed into temples comes from the assumption that they are closer to god, since menstruation signals their ability to get pregnant. In the context of Sabarimala, that explanation only seems to justify their exclusion from places of worship. (Also, why is a Muslim woman asking about temple entry? An example of a beautifully integrated society or the ignorance of an author who doesn’t understand it?)
  • It isn’t clear who the book is targeted at, since it doesn’t seem a good fit for urban, English-speaking children. There are some rural communities who will be able to use it in English, but for most others it needs to be in local languages (a Hindi translation is in the works).

CONCLUSION

The book is a good idea to begin with, but a resounding #OwnVoices fail. There is a lot of information, certainly, but nothing one can’t find elsewhere.

BOOK DETAILS

Author: Ariana Abadian-Heifetz
Illustrator: Pia Alize Hazarika
Language: English
Page Extent: 116 pages
Price: Rs. 545.00
ISBN: 978-9329185932533
Publisher: Young Zubaan, 2018
Subject category: Non-fiction/Comic/Adolescence
Age-group: 10+

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