Tag Archive | India

Karma, by Cathy Ostlere (fiction) – lost in her parents’ India during civil war

World Wednesday takes us from the prairies of Canada to the crowded streets of India as Maya travels to her parents’ homeland on a grief-stricken mission.

Instead of learning more about her Sikh and Hindu heritage or meeting family for the first time, she’s flung into the chaos, violence, and massacre that followed the assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984.

Look for this stunning verse novel at your local library or independent bookstore – you need to hear Maya’s story for yourself.

Book info: Karma / Cathy Ostlere. Razorbill, 2011. [author’s website] [publisher site] [book trailer]

Recommendation: At 15, Maya is taking her mother’s ashes home to India, back to the grandparents she’s never met, traveling with her father in 1984, far from Canada where she was born.

Unheard-of for a Sikh and a Hindu to marry in India of the 1960s! Disowned by her family, his family warning of spiritual disaster, Maya’s parents emigrate to Manitoba, where Bapu hopes to be successful and Mata prays for children and peace.

The aloneness that the prairie winds swirled around her mother finds Maya in the crowded streets of poverty-stricken New Delhi, as she tries to make sense of everything in her journal, her diary in verse.
Suddenly, India’s Prime Minister is assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards, and Hindus begin killing Sikhs in revenge. Bapu disguises himself and leaves Maya at their hotel while he tries to find a safe way for them to get to his hometown.

When rioters set fire to the hotel, Maya flees blindly into a city filled with mayhem, heading to the train station to go – anywhere. An accident, an attack, a fright, amnesia, a lost girl… Others continue telling Maya’s story when her own voice is no longer sufficient, as she journeys and drifts in confusion.

Can she find her voice again? Can she find her father? Did he really plan for her to marry someone here in India? How can she keep going, knowing that she left Mata’s ashes behind? This powerful novel in verse takes mature readers to a far land in a time not so distant, when civil war almost fractured India and its horrors threatened a young girl’s hold on reality. (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy courtesy of the publisher.

Read around the world (reflective)

We’ve circled the globe during July and the Ultimate Blog Challenge, highlighting books set in many countries (and eras).

The Grassland Trilogy reaches back beyond written history, showing the courage of young people trying to Escape the Mask, see Beneath the Mask, and go Beyond the Mask.

Cate of the Lost Colony traveled from the glittering court of Queen Elizabeth I to the desolate sand dunes of Roanoke in the New World, and Plain Kate, driven from her home by superstition, must search for answers down the river, into the mists.

Esty’s Gold took us from famine-stricken Ireland to the Australian goldfields in the 1880s, while The Reformed Vampire Support Group sticks together in today’s Sydney.

Online gamers in China, India, Singapore and the US are fighting For the Win and a fair chance at life.

Annexed and Briar Rose brought us perspectives on the Holocaust – the Netherlands, Germany, Poland – so many bitter sorrows, so many untold tales.

Modern-day Paris hides decades-old secrets in Die For Me, while in Montreal, Mira just wants her own today in Pieces of Me.

And we’ve just begun the Rivers of Time trilogy, as Lia and Gabi go back to 14th century Tuscany in Waterfall.

Oh, the photo up there? That’s me aboard the wooden sailing ship Southern Swan in Sydney Harbour in the 21st century. Ready for more great books in August?

For the Win (fiction)

Quick! Which of these is fictional (not real):
a) Online game playing as prison punishment?
b) online gamers forming a trade union?
c) Gold farming?

If you said (b), then you win! Cory Doctorow’s newest book delves into the world of gold farming, where some teens play online games to make a tiny bit of money to survive, not for fun. When they try to form a union so they can keep part of the “gold” that they win online instead of turning it all over to their bosses, both big business and their governments get angrily and mightily involved to protect their economic interests.

Make no mistake – in places where labor is cheaper than technology, real people are being forced into gold farming yet earning hardly anything, right this minute (like the Chinese prisoners noted above). And now scripted ‘bots can be set loose to play a low-level character on auto-pilot, earning a little gold, then repeating – lots of bots can equal a fair amount of pocket change, along with the risk of being discovered and banned from the game.

If you want to read the WHOLE book online, go here with Cory’s blessing. Yes, the author wants you to read his book online for FREE. That’s because Cory knows you’ll want to buy a copy so you can reread it, share it, and even remix it – yep, Creative Commons License. The guy is a genius! (seriously! I’ve read all his short stories and books online, then gone on to get the print books)

On World Wednesday, this fast-moving story takes you to China, India, Singapore, and the United States – who will really win?

Book info: For the Win / Cory Doctorow. Tor Teen, 2010. [author’s website] [author interview] [publisher site] [book trailer]

Recommendation: Playing games online all day, every day sounds like fun, doesn’t it? But for young people packed into smoky internet cafes in Singapore, Shenzen, and Mumbai, it’s a matter of survival.

People have discovered how to turn online “gold coins” and “magic gems” into real money, so the biggest online game worlds have larger economies than many nations, and youngsters in less-developed countries are recruited as “gold farmers,” playing online in teams and turning over their winnings to the bosses who hold their return-home tickets.

But what if the gold farmers organized, banded together for better working conditions? How does a kid from LA wind up in China to help the gold farmers unionize? And what happens when the big businesses who own the big online worlds strike back?

Meet young teens in China, India, and Malaysia who work as gold farmers to feed their families, who face violence from police and rival bosses when they’d rather go to school, who risk their lives to make a difference. This page-turner looks big, but reads fast, a techno-thriller that could happen tomorrow or might be happening today! 480 pages (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy courtesy of the publisher.

Saraswati’s Way, by Monika Schroeder (book review) – fleeing poverty, seeking wisdom

book cover of Saraswati's Way by Monika Schroeder published by Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young ReadersAs a school librarian living in India, Monika is writing from the heart. She’s seen too many children who must work instead of go to school, no matter how intelligent they are, because the debts of their family are so overwhelming. The orphans scavenging recyclables from the railway station trash are still there, despite the info-tech revolution sweeping their country.

The author’s book trailer gives us a glimpse of the grim reality and many obstacles that Akash faces as he struggles to get schooling in this luminous story leavened with hope.

Book info: Saraswati’s Way / by Monika Schroeder. Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, 2010. [author’s website] [publisher site]

My Book Talk: Akash’s talent for math can’t stop the drought in his village in India, can’t grow enough crops to pay back the money his family owes, can’t cure the fever that strikes his father. So he must leave school and the village at age 12 to work off their debt in the landlord’s stone quarry. Everything is fated, his family says – the heavens have control of earth, and we cannot change what is fated. But Akash prays to Saraswati, the goddess of wisdom, that someday, somehow, he will return to school to learn more math and English.

Akash finds that his hard work at the quarry only nibbles at the family’s debt, so he could work there until he was an old man before he paid it off. Not content that fate will keep him at the quarry forever, he sneaks onto a train bound for the huge city of Delhi where he could earn money faster.

The New Delhi train station is like a city itself – huge and crowded and noisy. Akash falls in with a group of orphan boys who collect bottles and boxes for money. Soon he meets up with people who want to help him and people who want to use his talents only to earn money for themselves.

Can Akash keep himself safe in Delhi? Can he survive and earn money for his family in honest ways, as his father taught him? Will he ever get to school again, or will he remain homeless and poor like so many other youngsters in his crowded country?

A fascinating story with too-real situations, you’ll root for Akash as he strives for wisdom, trying to follow Saraswati’s Way in his fight for survival. (one of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.