Das debuts with illustrations done in a distinctive Indian style paired to a brief meditative text—part memoir, part artist’s statement, part rumination—on women’s personal journeys.
Sparked by a workshop assignment, the artist recalls her own childhood and, on a certain train trip, encounters with two young women. One travels alone to find work; the other, disabled but composed in the face of jeers, sells fruit from a cart. Centered on each spread (and sometimes losing a little in the gutters), the art, done in the Mithila folk tradition, offers large, often multiple scenes of, mostly, women in flat-perspective rural or urban settings, delineated in wavy lines and contrasting patterns. Though strongly stylized, the activities in which these figures are engaged are easy to identify, and they range from traditional farm or domestic work to riding a scooter, painting, using a computer keyboard or just sitting in quiet thought. “A girl’s life is hard,” Das reflects. “If you dream for a moment, you’re asked why you’re twiddling your thumbs.…No one lets you forget that you’re born a girl, not a boy.” Still, she takes heart from the two chance-met women and ends with: “I want to be brave, and different.”
“We’re all in this together,” Das writes, “lost, but not quite.” Older, Western children and teens may well feel they’ve found an unexpected comrade. (afterword on the art) (Picture book. 11-16)