We’re back after a bit of a hiatus and ready to jump back into it. So, here’s a question to mull over in the new year: when is a story just a story? When it comes to happy, uplifting ones, we tend to celebrate the power of fiction, it’s ability to make us laugh, touch our hearts, and inspire us to be better versions of ourselves. But when it comes to dark and disturbing stories, or those with tragic ends—stories that upset or disturb us—the advice is, “It’s just a story, it’s not real.”

Well, guess what, folks? It doesn’t work that way. Because it can’t. The repercussions of a tale told can have long-lasting effects on our lives, especially for children. For example in their perception of their role in this world, say, how gender stereotypes are formed and carved into our minds. The award-winning writer Josie Glausiusz explores this in her piece for The American Scholar.

In the Indian context, there is certainly an emerging consciousness about the need to move away from the didactic fiction of yore to more contemporary themes, including addressing prejudice and stereotype. However, it’s still very early days and attempts to break the mould often circle right back into the very boxes they want to escape. That’s not to say there aren’t attempts, but a lack of both visibility and awareness doesn’t help. Jerry Pinto has more.

There is an overwhelming misconception that children need to be protected from notions of difference or difficulty. Trouble is, in doing so, they grow up with a narrow understanding of the world. The Indian Express’s parenting column has some advice.

When it comes to representation, it certainly helps to see yourself in stories. And note, that mere visibility is distinct from representation. Padma and Parvati Patel, for instance, only ticked the visibility box in the heavily whitewashed Harry Potter world. Supriya Kelkar’s Ahimsa, though, is one were Indian children (and others) find themselves front and centre. Read an interview with the author.

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