Title: The Boy and the Bindi
Author: Vivek Shraya
Illustrator: Rajni Perera
Publisher: Arsenal Pulp Press, 2016
Themes: gender non-conforming, non-binary, bindi, Indians, lgbtqia, Pride, gender identity, South Asia, belonging, identity
Have you seen my Ammi’s dot?
It’s a bright and pretty spot.?
This story showcases a young Indian boy’s fascination with his mother’s bindi, the red dot commonly worn by Hindu women. Rather than chastise her son, she teaches him about its cultural significance and doesn’t flinch when he asks for one himself. Wearing it allows him to joyfully explore and express his difference.
Why I like this book:
I went on a search for more diverse picture books to review during the Pride month of June and was so happy to discover one with South Asian characters. Many young children grow up with the belief that “bindis are for girls”, this book may help open their eyes to a different reality. Though I think it is important to note that historically, bindis have been worn by men as well as women, and in some regions of Asia they still are.
The Boy & the Bindi is about the relationships between a boy and his mother, his family, his culture, his friends, his gender, and social norms. This book sharing the meaning of the Bindi in Indian culture is a celebration of ethnic diversity as well as diversity in gender expression in a non-white cultire, which is very welcome
Whats a bindi What does it do?
My bindi keeps me safe and true.
This would be a great addition to any elementary classroom. The vivid illustrations depict the young boy’s creative internal imagery when discussing the bindi’s significance and cultural meaning. The author is also careful not to generalize the child’s experiences related to gender, religion, or culture by using a first [person POV and internal dialogue (less common in picture books). This is a great text to encourage and support diverse students who are exploring their gender identity. My only small critique is that some of the rhyming is a little forced, which detracted somewhat from the initial reading pleasure for me. If you are reading this out loud, I suggest you do a dry run through first.
With older students, you could encourage a discussion of what are typical binary or other gender expression symbols in their cultures.
Each week a group of bloggers reviews picture books we feel would make great educational reads. To help teachers, caregivers and parents, we have included resources and/or activities with each of our reviews. A complete list of the thousands of books we have reviewed can be found sorted alphabetically and by topics, here on Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.