AHIMSA

Foreword Reviews - - Spotlight Debut Fiction—Juvenile & Ya - HAN­NAH HOHMAN

Supriya Kelkar, Tu Books (OC­TO­BER), Hard­cover $18.95 (304pp), 978-1-62014-356-8 Writ­ing is youth­ful yet com­plex, and in­cludes won­der­ful de­scrip­tions of In­dia. Ahimsa is the story of a young In­dian girl, An­jali, whose mother has just joined 1942’s free­dom move­ment, up­end­ing her whole world and chang­ing her per­spec­tive.

An­jali is at the top of the caste sys­tem, though her par­ents are of the rare opin­ion that those lower in the sys­tem are not lesser than they are. An­jali’s best friend, Ir­faan, is Mus­lim—an­other rar­ity, in a time of con­flict be­tween Mus­lims and Hin­dus. These fac­tors help to set the ground­work for An­jali’s com­ing ac­tivism.

An­jali’s life is al­ready dif­fer­ent. Her mother quit her job work­ing for a Bri­tish of­fi­cer to join the free­dom move­ment, which is ded­i­cated to equal­ity in In­dia—no more castes. Dif­fi­cul­ties come; both An­jali and her mother strug­gle with the opin­ions of oth­ers in lower and up­per castes, as well as the threat of the law.

At ten years old, An­jali’s per­spec­tive is ren­dered well. She is not nec­es­sar­ily ma­ture yet, but she is a happy, in­sight­ful girl. When prob­lems arise, she is brave but also re­acts real­is­ti­cally. Fights among her peers and is­sues within the free­dom move­ment make her scared and of­ten con­fused, but she does not aban­don her val­ues or be­liefs.

An­jali ad­mirably adapts to new ideals, as when a friend in the lower caste sys­tem in­forms her that one of the move­ment’s ac­tions is ac­tu­ally hurt­ful; she lis­tens and changes for the bet­ter.

The writ­ing re­flects An­jali’s age, with a youth­ful but com­plex voice. It in­cludes won­der­ful de­scrip­tions of In­dia, pay­ing at­ten­tion to de­tails such as cui­sine and clothes.

Time is well plot­ted, mov­ing along quickly with no skips or awk­ward paus­ing. It is al­most a sur­prise to find how much time has passed near the end, since the pace does not slow. This is a story that is both eas­ily en­joy­able and hard to put down.

Fluid writ­ing and a de­light­ful, re­al­is­tic point of view make Ahimsa an en­joy­able pe­riod piece for young adults.

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