on diversity of cultural experience & ganesha's sweet tooth
One of the things I love about my country, Trinidad & Tobago, is how thoroughly and incredibly multicultural it is, on so many levels. Not only are most of us who are from there multiracial, the country celebrates its diversity on a national level: there are public holidays not just for Christian celebrations like Christmas and Easter, but also Muslim ones like Eid and Hindu ones like Divali. In fact, in recent years, I've noticed that many Trinidadians celebrate all of these holidays, including sharing in the food and wearing traditional clothing, regardless of whether they actually grew up in that particular religion or culture. It's one of the things I most miss about living in Trinidad; it's also one of the reasons that our daughter goes to the school that she does: she has friends from far more countries and cultures at her new school than she ever would at our neighbourhood public school.
In other words, diversity of cultural experience is very, very important to me and my family.
So when Chronicle Books asked me to take a look at one of their newest children's stories, Ganesha's Sweet Tooth, even though I don't usually write about kid products here on Chookooloonks, I honestly couldn't resist. I always love the idea of children's books making different cultures come alive -- and the fact that it is illustrated and told by Sanjay Patel, an animator and storyboard artist for Pixar (think A Bug's Life and Cars 2), makes all the more awesome.
(Besides, Divali was this week, and I'm missing seeing diyas all over my neighbourhood like we used to in Trinidad, so reviewing a book about Hindu culture seems like the perfect way to work though my homesickness, don't you think?)
Ganesha's Sweet Tooth isn't a retelling of the Hindu legend, but more of a re-imagining, with the addition of various plot points to make for an incredibly vivid story. Like, how Ganesha has a magical mouse for a best friend, and a weakness for the Indian sweet, laddoo -- a weakness that leads to his downfall:
Ganesha is horrified and embarrassed by his broken tusk, but luckily meets the great poet Vyasa, who asks Ganesha to transcribe an epic poem, the Mahabharata (and this part actually is part of the Hindu legend). Ganesha agrees, and learns that what he thought was broken and flawed is actually beautiful.
(Huh. Sounds like the same lesson from another book I know.)
Unsurprisingly, I loved this book. It's beautifully illustrated (as you would expect from a Pixar animator!), and the story is really very sweet. I read it together with Alex, and while it's too young for her (despite the fact that it's marketed to 5-9 year olds), she loved the story too. I imagine that younger children -- say, 4, 5 or 6? -- would love having this read to them as they looked at the amazing pictures. And I've no doubt that it will whet their curiosity about Indian and Hindu culture -- and as is probably clear to you by now, I think curiosity about other cultures is always a good thing.
Because the book is too young for Alex, I'll be sending my copy with love to my brand new godson; however, I've got some good news: if you enter the promo code GANESHA on checkout at Chronicle Books, you'll get 20% off of the book at checkout! The offer is good until December 10th. (It would make a great kid's gift for the holidays, is what I'm saying.)
But that's not all!
Chronicle has also offered to do a giveaway of a copy to one lucky commenter! So let's make this a bit fun: leave a comment below telling me (a) where your family/ancestry is from, (b) where you live now, and (c) what culture you most self-identify with. I think it would be really cool to see the diversity of cultures who visit here at Chookooloonks, don't you think?
I'll go first: I was born in Trinidad (like my parents and their parents before them -- before that, my ancestry is predominantly West African, Indian and Chinese, although there's even some European in there, I'm told). I spent my early childhood and teenage years in Trinidad, but I've lived in the United States for the greater part of my life, and live here now. Even given this, and the fact that I love my adopted American home very much, I will always feel culturally Trinidadian, and self-identify as Trinidadian. (I even unknowningly slip into a Trini accent whenever I'm angry, as both Marcus and Alex will confirm.) I amTrini to de bone, as we say. :)
Now you. I can't wait to meet you. (And I'll announce the winner on Sunday. Good luck!)
According to Random.org, congratulations go to Peranting, who said, "My heritage is mostly German and Scottish - my mom's parents' names were Studebaker and McKuras, and my dad's heritage is mostly English I think. My husband is a mutt, with a Finnish name, a German mother (grandma was a war bride), and a father who grew up in Panama." -- Congrats, Peranting! Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, so I can get your snail mail information to send you your book!
After 3 weeks, I never heard from Peranting, so I'm afraid I'm having to choose a different winner. Thanks again to everyone for participating!
In the spirit of openness, this post was sponsored by Chronicle Books. That said, my opinions in my posts always are and remain my own.