Prince charming who? How Indian children’s books are challenging stereotypes

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Stories of demons, gods and fairy tales with happy, moralistic endings probably formed a memorable part of your childhood. You may remember reading these stories, but do you remember asking why the princesses were always soft-spoken, swooning, fair-skinned women waiting to be rescued?

Gender tends to be a recurring theme in Manjula Padmanabhan’s books. The 63-year-old author wrote “Unprincess” in 2005, a collection of three children’s stories, with the simple motive to write “entertaining and interesting” tales with non-princess characters for heroines.

“I don’t fret about meanings as I write. I know they’re embedded in everything I do,” she told TNM. Manjula highlights what has been problematic with the dominant discourse of children’s literature. Selling unquestioned stereotypes in the guise of moralistic happily ever-afters.

However, like Manjula, there are people who are seeking to create alternative children’s literature which is diverse, inclusive, and sensitive.

Bengaluru-based Maegan Dobson Sippy and Bijal Vachharajani curate books for children and young adults on their Instagram account “BAM! Books”. The initiative is about 10 months old and hopes to be a platform for parents, educators and readers to find the latest books and trends, especially those with South Asian aspirations. Read more

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