Now, more than ever, we are in need for more representation that showcases the cultural diversity of our world in the media we consume. This is especially important for our youth, as what they see and learn about in their early years can mold their perspectives later in life. I was able to interview the founder of Bharat Babies, a company that focus on South Asian literature for children and their parents, a few years ago, and I was recently able to speak with Sailaja Joshi about her plans for the future.
We discussed her desire to expand the narratives and explore the different cultures within the South Asian diaspora, as well as focus on the many different religions that Desi people are connected with, such as Jainism, Buddhism, and Sikhism. Joshi hopes to “help minority communities tell their stories to their kids of the next generations.” With help from cultural advisors and advocates that go through their scripts to keep everything as authentic as possible, Joshi aims to bring more awareness about the rich history and unique lives that SA people experience.
We are so incredibly thrilled to announce the release of our FIRST Hindi/English board book with artist @nidhiart. Shubh Ratri Dost/Good Night Friends is a sleepy time tale where little can learn the name of animals. #WeNeedDiverseBooks https://t.co/gIsIb4OL8u pic.twitter.com/TmjlYZpcAT
— Bharat Babies (@BharatBabies) March 13, 2018
Oona Sura: Since our last interview, how has Bharat Babies evolved? Have your goals shifted?
Sailaja Joshi: I think, if anything, our goals have strengthened. We’ve realized just how much our message resonates with not only the South Asian community but minority communities overall. We’ve realized that parents, want to raise culturally literate global citizens. They want their children to not only hear stories from their own culture, history, and heritage, but they also want to expose them to new ones. That’s amazing. Our mission now is not only to share the stories of South Asia but to do so in a way that helps to uplift that community.
Oona: You spoke with me recently about the desire to branch out and include more represented cultures within the South Asian diaspora. Can you please elaborate on that?
Sailaja Joshi: YES!!! We are so thrilled at this opportunity to share the stories of not only South Asia, but it’s diaspora. This means sharing stories of the Indo-Caribbean community and Indo-African. It means thinking about the stories of the Muslim, Sikh, and Buddhist community. It means thinking about families that have multicultural heritages and sharing their stories. For us, we want to tell the stories through communities, so we look for members of those communities to help share these stories. This can come in the form of becoming an author with us, or illustrators, or sometimes even as cultural advisors. We love being able to hear from the community and reflect their lived reality.
Oona: Along with all the positive messages that South Asian communities give to our youth, do you feel like your books will possibly explore issues surrounding colorism, classism, and religious intolerance in a certain capacity?
Sailaja Joshi: I think our books provide an opportunity for caregivers, parents, and children alike to have conversations surrounding differences in a safe, accessible way. It provides parents with language so they can talk about communities of colors in a way that children can understand. Our books provide jumping off points for children, where they can ask questions. While our books explore issue surrounding colorism and religious intolerance in an accessible way.
Oona: What are you excited about most for 2018?
Sailaja Joshi: Man, we have some amazing books coming out this year. Every time we get an opportunity to sign a new author, new illustrators it is an opportunity to expand our reach and help children all across the world see that every child can be the hero. With our crowdfunding campaign going strong, 2018 is promising to be an amazing year!