Though a large number of authors are writing gritty fiction for children across the country, for a large section of young readers, literature remains limited to Panchatantra, Amar Chitra Katha or global best-sellers such as Harry Potter.
Paro Anand, a prominent author for children and young adults, says it has been a struggle to bring the genre to the mainstream, and the fight still continues.
“There is a growing awareness that children’s literature is not a side show, it is in the mainstream now. I have been fighting this for a long time. In the beginning children’s writers were not even invited to big literature festivals.
“After much struggle, a separate tent meant for children’s literature was made a part of big literary festivals. But then it started off strictly for children. It was one of the only opportunities for children of less privileged backgrounds. Though it was great, but was very closed off,” says Anand.
The author says the fact that writers of children’s literature are not considered mainstream needs to change and demands more “prominent platforms for panels” to discuss the serious business of children’s literature.
Challenges to write for young adults
Paro lists out three reasons why it is a greater challenge to write for children.
“Firstly, you are writing in a state where for younger children at least, the person who buys it is not the end user. Parents or school libraries take this decision for them.
“The second challenge is that it is a very new territory to be known as Indian children’s literature. Even now when you go to a book store and ask for Indian children’s literature, you are guided to Panchatantra, Mahabharat for children. The shelf space that you get is also small,” says Anand.
The final challenge, she says is writing about new, difficult and gritty subjects including religion, sexuality or patriarchy, and then getting it past editors, parents, or even schools so that the book reaches children.
“When I had written the book, ‘No Guns at my Son’s Funeral’, we went back and forth about that title, because it was a dreadful title, especially for a younger audience.
“We had actually changed the title to ‘Kashmir the other side of Childhood’. But the night before it was going into print, I decided against it and we retained the original title. And it became the fastest selling book for young adults and teenagers,” she shares.
Despite calling it a challenging task, Paro loves the “danger” of writing for teens and young adults, calling them the “toughest audience”.
“Writing for teens and young adults — they’re the toughest audience, they are very critical. The moment they feel that you’re trying to teach them something; that’s it the book is shut, probably in the dustbin.”
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