Saturday, April 25, 2020

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 70: Author Mitali Perkins

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Mitali Perkins and I chat about her classic novel, RICKSHAW GIRL, its uncertain and difficult path to publication, its steady rise to prominence, and the new film based upon it. We also talk about the ups and downs of her career writing for children, cultural differences and code switching, the benefits of rereading favorite books, the benefits of arranged marriages, my discomfort with Nicholas Spark’s emotionality, flying saucers, Pennywise the Dancing Clown, and more. Note: This was recorded before the quarantine for COVID-19, so we don’t discuss it.

Mitali Perkins has written many novels for young readers, including You Bring the Distant Near (nominated for the National Book Award) Rickshaw Girl (a NYPL best 100 Book for children in the past 100 years, film adaptation coming in 2020), Bamboo People (an ALA Top 10 YA novel), and Tiger Boy, which won the South Asia Book Award for Younger Readers. She currently writes and resides in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Daring and determined, teenaged girl Naima longs to earn money for her poor Bangladeshi family, but her unrivaled artistic talent is of little use. When her father grows gravely ill, Naima feels she has no choice but to leave her small village for the bright lights of Dhaka.

In the big city, Naima finds the same the economic, societal, and gender pressures faced by most young girls in Bangladesh. She cleverly disguises herself as a boy and takes the difficult job of a rickshaw puller.  When her gender is revealed and her livelihood vanishes, Naima finds an unconventional – and transcendental - solution to her problems. Based on the acclaimed novel by Mitali Perkins.

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