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MY BINDI by Gita Varadarajan


by Gita Varadarajan ; illustrated by Archana Sreenivasan

Pub Date: Aug. 16th, 2022
ISBN: 978-1-338-59881-0
Publisher: Scholastic

An Indian American girl is initially reluctant when her parents announce it’s time to wear a bindi to school.

While Varadarajan’s author’s note states that many Hindu women and girls do not strictly follow the tradition of wearing the bindi—the red mark worn between the brows—there is no such flexibility in Divya’s house. Both Divya’s parents think it’s time Divya starts wearing a bindi, with her father adding that she’ll look “so beautiful.” But Divya fears that her classmates Sam, Sally, and Sania will make fun of her. Despite her palpable anxiety, Amma tells her that “the time has come,” and Divya chooses a bindi to wear to school. Her fears that her classmates will mock her don’t come to pass, and she comes to love the bindi and even gives a speech to her class about why. The book feels less like a story of a girl learning to embrace her culture and more a heavy-handed exhortation to do so—a startling choice given the increase in Hindu nationalism in both India and the Indian Hindu diaspora. Amma, who wears the bindi even while sleeping, insists that wearing a bindi is “what Hindu girls do.” Though the illustrations are appealing, Divya’s internal monologue about why she loves wearing the bindi is preachy, and the author’s note feels judgmental toward Indian Americans who prefer not to embrace certain traditions. Divya’s classmates are racially diverse; Sam is brown-skinned, Sally is light-skinned, and Sania is, like Divya, Indian American. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

This one can be skipped.

(Picture book. 3-7)