28 Dec / The Boy & the Bindi by Vivek Shraya, illustrated by Rajini Perara [in School Library Journal]
A young boy, curious about his “Ammi’s dot … a bright and pretty spot,” innocently asks, “Why do you wear that dot?/What’s so special about that spot?” His mother crouches to eye level so he can touch her forehead as she explains, “It’s not a dot…. It’s not a spot, it’s a bindi!” As for the why, her simple response resonates: “My bindi keeps me safe and true.” When the boy receives his own golden bindi – his mother’s is red – he connects with generations past and is inspired to embark on a journey of empowered discovery.
Indian Canadian musician/filmmaker/writer Vivek Shraya (God Loves Hair) makes her picture book debut with gentle rhymes and warm whimsy, amplified by Toronto artist Rajni Perara’s richly hued illustrations. The author, a transgender woman, deftly explores difference and self-acceptance, the subversion of gender expectations, and the power of “making sure I don’t hide/Everything I am inside.”
While acknowledging the bindi’s significance to the boy’s own family, Shraya seems to purposefully avoid discussing its historical/religious meaning or the possibility of cultural appropriation. Imparting an important lesson on inclusivity and individuality, this multicultural, intergenerational story of young agency is a timely acquisition for all libraries.