By Jenny Chen
Local Author Sana Sood wrote the book Diwali: A Cultural Adventure in 2013 and it went on to get rave reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.com. We talked to Sana about her process and what diversity means in children’s literature.
Asian Fortune: How did you get the idea to write this book?
Sana: I wrote this book while on maternity leave from my corporate career, as a way to introduce my young son to Diwali, often called “The Festival of Lights.” My husband and I were both born in India, but raised in very different religions and cultures. For our son’s first Diwali, we wanted to get him a bright, fun book to teach him about it. I went looking for one, and found of options out there already, but none that captured the essence of Diwali in a way that would tell him how the festival came to be, while at the same time, teach him what we can learn from it about being truthful, courageous people – universal lessons from both of our backgrounds. Diwali isn’t about just the one day, or about one culture, it’s also about carrying very important morals with us throughout our lives — morals which are not bound to any one religion, but to humanity as a whole.
Asian Fortune: Who did you intend this book to be written for?
Sana: This is a children’s book intended for children up to 8 years old. It’s not just a book on Indian culture, meant for Indian children. Rather, it is a story that teaches children across cultures the importance of being a good and truthful person. The story of Diwali itself is an incredible one, and I’ve told it purely in rhymes to appeal to a young audience. Also, my mother, an extremely talented artist, has illustrated the book in stunning watercolors – making it an even more fun experience for kids.
Asian Fortune: Did you discover anything surprising in the process of writing the book?
Sana: Writing this book has been an immensely fulfilling and growing process. From as far back as I can recall, I’ve wanted to be a writer, but I was always too busy making a living, to actually live my dream. It was only when I had my son that I took time off from my career, and decided to stay home with him and to write this book. Without a doubt, it’s been the best decision of my life. No matter how exhausted I am from, what sometimes feels like, an endless day of picking up blocks and changing diapers, I always have the energy to stay up a few extra hours and do something related to my writing. Being a full time mommy and writer has opened up a whole new life to me – I get to talk to interesting people like you, I get to unwind by responding to emails from people who’ve enjoyed the book, and I get endless inspiration from my son to write more books for him, and for all other children. So in that sense, I would say I was surprised to find how fulfilling this path could be!
Asian Fortune: Any thoughts on diversity in children’s books?
Sana: There is tremendous diversity in children’s books! I’ve read to my son since he was a tiny little baby in my arms, even though his life at that point was drinking milk and sleeping! I’ve been able to find books for him on all sorts of stories, featuring both children who look like him, and also those that represent children from all over the world. I would love for my son to grow up appreciating stories from different cultures, and books from all walks of life are a wonderful way to start him on this journey.
Asian Fortune: Any other projects in the works?
Sana: In my head, yes! It’s gotten a bit difficult for me these days to find time to write, with a 2 year old at home, and another on the way this summer! But I have notes scribbled all over my home and in my phone for the day I have a few hours to myself and can put pen to paper in a more formal way.
Asian Fortune: What was the best part of producing the book?
Sana: The best part of producing this book was that my mother (Rubina Hoda) illustrated it. She is an immensely talented artist, and has painted each of the pictures in this book in gorgeous watercolors. At the time, my mother was living in Istanbul, so we would Skype everyday about what I’d written and what our vision was for the book. She’d come online the next day with these beautiful, bright paintings that breathed life and energy into my book. I’ve always been very close to my mother, and working on this book with her has been an incredible experience – I would awkwardly describe a fuzzy concept I had in mind — she would intuitively know exactly what I wanted, and translate it into a picture in the most stunning, effortless way. People have been raving about the art in this book, and it truly does make my book far more exciting than it would have otherwise been.
Excerpts from author Sana Sood’s book:
To get a copy of the book, you can visit www.mydiwalibook.com, amazon.com or at Barnes and Nobles and the World Bank bookstore in Washington, DC.