Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Loved to Pieces . . . with Mitali Bose Perkins!

How Anne Shirley Fends off the Culture Bullies 
by Mitali Perkins

I’m reading Rainbow Valley again during my annual Avonlea binge. I discovered Anne Shirley and the other books by L.M. Montgomery when I was 11, and have read them every year since then. This year I need Anne big time. Life is stressful – I’m launching young adults and caring for elderly parents, my body is aging, and I’m suddenly invisible when I walk by the sort of men who used to infuriate me with catcalls and whistles. I’m glad they don’t notice me these days, but … well, you get my drift.

I knew moving from girlhood to womanhood would be hard. I watched my two older sisters and realized that both the culture of our origin (Bengali) and North American culture shove a girl’s gender-free identity behind her sexuality once she becomes a woman.

Growing up with Anne convinced me that I—my true self—could survive the move to womanhood. Despite the constraints experienced by women in Canada during the early part of the century, Anne retained a strong sense of self as she matured. Oh, she changed, no doubt about that. She married, had children, left childish ways behind. But when the talkative orphan in Anne of Green Gables grew up to become the chatelaine of Ingleside, she kept the same sense of humor, the same delight in nature, the same independence of thought through seven books. 

She was still Anne, and I clung to that.

If my fictional friend could move into the adult world without losing herself to the Culture Bullies who sought to define her only by her sexuality, I, too, might be able to retain my true identity. Like Anne, I could stride bravely into womanhood. 

And so I did. 

Now I’m midway through a woman’s journey, far from my teens and in the stage where cultures try to shove a woman’s true identity—and her sexuality—behind her age. How I wish the fifty, sixty, seventy, or eighty-something version of Anne were around to reassure me through the next transition, just as she did years ago: “Your body will change. People might treat you differently. But hey, look at me. I made it. I’m still Anne.”  

Happily, the Anne-up-to-about-age-40 can still work her magic. Her familiar company (along with a few lemon drops or Sweet Tarts) brings the same comfort, bringing me down a notch at night so I can slip into sleep. After all, I’m still Mitali, my true self, safe, strong, and sound, no matter how the Culture Bullies try to push me around.
Mitali Bose Perkins ( has written ten novels for young readers, including Rickshaw Girl (chosen by the New York Public Library as one of the top 100 books for children in the past 100 years) and Bamboo People (an American Library Association's Top Ten Novel for Young Adults, starred in Publishers Weekly as "a graceful exploration of the redemptive power of love, family, and friendship.") Her newest, Tiger Boy (www.tigerboy.orgCharlesbridge). is a Junior Library Guild selection, and forthcoming is a picture book, Gifts for Abuela, published by FSG/Macmillan. Currently she resides in the San Francisco Bay Area and is a lecturer at Saint Mary's College of California.
twitter: @mitaliperkins

by Mitali Perkins, illustrated by Jamie Hogan
Charlesbridge, April 2015
ISBN 978-1580896603

Junior Library Guild Premier Selection!

"Set in the lush Sunderbans natural region of Bengal, this quiet, gripping tale emphasizes the deep but often fragile connection that exists between humans and nature ... Young readers will revel in the vivid action and suspense surrounding Neel and his sister Rupa’s quest to locate the tiger cub." — School Library Journal (starred review)
by Mitali Perkins
Charlesbridge, 2012
ISBN 978-1580893299 

★ "A graceful exploration of the redemptive power of love, family, and friendship." — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"With authenticity, insight, and compassion, Perkins delivers another culturally rich coming-of-age novel." School Library Journal (starred review)

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