For an equal world

Jyotsna Sreenivasan is the creator of a website that lists books aimed at creating gender equality
The website asks, “Are you looking for good books that help children to break through gender stereotypes and be true to themselves?” No, I’m not, but I’m certainly curious about a Gender Equality Bookstore (genderequalbooks.com). Log on and you can buy “from the complete Brave Girls and Strong Women booklist of over 80 exciting, empowering books for young people ages 2-17,” all from small publishers dedicated to creating a world of equality. Sure, we wanted school textbooks to be free of tiresome ‘Mother is cooking, father is reading the newspaper,’ ‘Selvi-is-a-nurse-Murugan-is-a-doctor examples’, but running a store that promotes stereotype-bashing, girl-empowering books is something else.For this, you need credentials – the kind Jyotsna “Jo” Sreenivasan, writer, editor, writing coach and creator of the website has. “I’ve been a feminist since childhood,” she said in an interview. “My first novel for children, The Moon Over Crete, is a time-travel adventure in which a girl travels 3,500 years back in time to ancient Crete, where women and men were equal.”Her award-winning novel Aruna’s Journeys, for ages 8-12, is about an Indian-American girl’s search for identity. Jyotsna’s written Ela Bhatt’s story for kids 10 years and above, fiction and non-fiction pieces for magazines, literary reviews and journals. She is a Phi Beta Kappa with an M.A. from Ann Arbor, Michigan and is founder of Awaz, a women’s group.What’s the website about? “When I put the website together several years ago, it seemed like people were getting interested in books with strong girl characters and women role models,” she said.Though there were quite a few books that portray girls as independent and capable, parents and librarians weren’t aware of those from smaller publishers. “It’s not that people aren’t writing or publishing such books — it’s just that they often don’t get much publicity.”Jyotsna’s website is an attempt to set this right. When you buy books for kids, you’d pick ones that are sensible, well written and perhaps with a pro-environment slant. Should you add gender to your thinking?”You could certainly add awareness of gender stereotypes when you consider which books to buy,” she agreed, but the quality of writing would be the over-riding reason. “There’s no point in buying a book that’s poorly-written, even if the author’s intentions are good.”She reads every book she hosts on her website and has rejected some “because I didn’t think the quality was high enough.” Source: The Hindu (Chennai)


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