The Big Five (+1) in YA: Hinduism
After last month’s cornucopia of choices for Christian fiction in YA, I’m back to choosing from a small pool of books with this month’s focus on Hinduism in YA. In fact, two of the books I’m going to discuss don’t even meet my criteria because they are technically historical fiction, but pickings were slim.
As I was reading the novels for this post, I was struck by how, in each one, Indian culture is tightly entwined with the Hindu faith, making it tough to delineate the two. I’ve been expecting to find this tangle of religion and culture since I started writing these posts, but these books presented me with my first real struggle in figuring out which of the characters’ motivations were from religion specifically and which were from culture in general.
Lemonade Mouth by Mark Peter Hughes
While this novel doesn’t focus on Hinduism, one of the five main characters (Mohini Banerjee) is Indian, and both her parents are practicing Hindus. Mo also follows the Hindu faith, although as I mentioned above, it is hard to tell which of her thoughts and actions are based on the religion itself and which are based on her family’s culture. A talented bassist, Mo becomes part of the school’s musical band of misfits as they set out to become the winners of the annual holiday talent show.
Maya Running by Anjali Banerjee
This novel, set in Canada in 1978, focuses on Maya Mukherjee, the only Indian student in her Manitoban middle school. When Maya’s incredibly beautiful Cousin Pinky comes to visit from India, Maya’s life turns upside down. To set things right, Maya prays to the Hindu elephant god Ganesh, the Granter of Wishes, and she gets exactly what she wishes for.
Karma: A Novel in Verse by Cathy Ostlere
Written in verse, Karma is a moving story that definitely breaks my historical fiction rule, as the historical context of the novel is crucial to its plot and character development. The main character is called by two names: Jiva, the name written by her Sikh father on her birth certificate, and Maya, the name her Hindu mother calls her every day. Before Maya’s birth, her parents immigrated to Canada from India to escape the intense disapproval of their marriage as a Sikh and a Hindu. However, when her mother dies, Maya travels with her father back to India, and they land in the middle of the bloody events that followed Indhira Gandhi’s assassination in 1984. As is the case with all good historical fiction, I learned so much about the history and culture of India, including the Hindu faith.
A few more interesting facts about these books:
- Two of the books are set in Canada and are written by Canadian authors.
- In all three books, the main Indian character is a girl who is the only Indian at her school.
- In all three books, the main Indian character is seen as exotic and desirable by a male classmate.
(No idea if any of that means anything, but it was striking.)
What books have I missed? I know there are a few more out there; which ones are worth a read?
— Whitney Etchison, currently reading Shadows by Ilsa Bick