Today, I’m honored to have Yali Books for an interview and a giveaway of one of their recent YA releases. If you haven’t heard about Yali Books, I featured them in a previous post highlighting independent presses that promote diversity. Yali Books continues to do excellent work in Children’s Literature and I hope this interview will bring attention to the important and necessary work they are doing.
Their giveaway package includes: a copy of The Sorcerer of Mandala, a bookmark (word search puzzle), a visual folding puzzle, and a tree ornament for the holidays!
Please follow them on Twitter to stay updated on their work and projects. If you have children, do consider getting one of their books to offer your children a window into South Asia they may not otherwise get to see. Or read some of the books for yourself!
RDB: Thank you for doing this interview with Read Diverse Books! Please introduce Yali Books to readers who may not have heard of it and describe its mission and values.
Yali Books is an independent publishing venture founded by author Kala Sambasivan and illustrator Ambika Sambasivan. Yali was created with an idea of giving readers a glimpse into the intricate culture and history of South Asian countries – India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Maldives – through unique stories that highlight our shared heritage. We began our journey with Bye, Bye, Motabhai!, an illustrated adventure tale that follows an ambitious camel who sets off from Ahmedabad, India, with the dream of becoming a racing superstar in faraway Dubai. Bye, Bye, Motabhai! was chosen as an Honor Book by the South Asia Book Award in 2014.
As our imprint grows, we are seeking to showcase new talent in South Asian writing and illustration. Together, we would like to open a window to this incredible region and invite the world to look in.
RDB: What kinds of stories does Yali Books want to tell about South Asia?
At Yali, we want to celebrate the vast diversity of South Asia through storytelling and artwork. We look for narratives with universal themes that would connect with a wide variety of readers. At the same time, we would like to tell authentic stories, ones that showcase genuine differences in culture and perspectives.
Finally, we are partial to tales that exude joy and whimsy – we love making our readers laugh!
RDB: What does diversity in literature mean in a South Asian context? Is it similar to what western readers have come to know or are there distinct differences?
At its core, diversity in literature is about making space for marginalized voices, both in western and South Asian writing. In the United States for example, the focus has been to develop quintessential American narratives with diversity in character representation. The goal is to make stories with non-mainstream MCs an integral part of the all-American narrative.
In the South Asian context, however, we don’t have many overarching or unifying narrative themes. Even within a country, regional differences in language, religion and history have resulted in metanarratives that would be unknown outside a small community or geographical area. For those voices that have been historically marginalized, a lack of representation is an erasure of their entire worldview. In the face of growing nationalism in the region, there is a real need to seek out and celebrate these unique viewpoints and stories.
The We Need Diverse Books movement has brought some serious and high profile attention to lack of diversity in children’s literature. Do you think the publishing industry is well on its way to solving its diversity issue or is progress happening too slowly?
The WNDB movement is shining a bright spotlight on the lack of diversity within the industry and this, we believe, is a critical first step. However, addressing diversity in publishing is a fairly complex issue as it involves change within and without. We think it will take some time before diverse books are not viewed as niche publications that are only relevant to a small segment of readers. In some ways, it is disheartening that a very wide range of books are lumped together under one tag, whose value is defined purely by the fact that they are not mainstream.
We also feel that for the movement to flourish, we need readers to be exposed to titles published by smaller/indie houses – stories that larger imprints would deem as being too risky or offbeat. A shout-out to diverse book bloggers who have been exceptionally supportive of small presses!
Your most recent release, The Sorcerer of Mandala, is a fun and quirky YA fantasy. Tells us a little about it and let us know why we should all be excited to read it!
We are really excited about our newest book, The Sorcerer of Mandala! It is our first full-length novel aimed at young adult readers. It also stands out for being a humorous take on the fantasy genre, built using elements of Indian mythology – a kind of desi Discworld story. It features an oddball cast of characters as they set out to defeat a puzzle-loving sorcerer and his minions. Readers get to work out some devious little riddles, logical conundrums and math problems as they make their way through the book. Puns, puzzles, demons and talking horses – it is THE South Asian nerd fantasy of the year!
Yali Books was founded in 2012. Please share some of the challenges and successes Yali Books has had over the last few years.
We began as a one-book publishing house with the beginnings of an idea of what we wanted to achieve as an imprint. We submitted our first book, Bye, Bye, Motabhai! for the South Asia Book Award on a whim and were absolutely floored when they picked our book as one of the honor awardees for 2014. This award built our confidence as a publishing house and gave us wings.
Year 2015 onward, we have begun growing our family of authors and illustrators. We are thrilled to have published our first acquisition, The Sorcerer of Mandala, this year. We have signed on a set of gifted authors and illustrators for 2017. We are honored to have these folks work with us.
We are proud to have established partnerships with three indie retailers – Kitaab World, Indian Moms Connect and Collectivitea – to promote South Asian literature. Indies unite!
We have scaled up our operation in a very short span and are currently juggling a crushing workload with the help of a small team of volunteers. Attracting and creatively compensating talented people is something we are grappling with at the moment. And as with many small publishing ventures, we run on a tiny budget. Raising money to fund all our current and future projects is an ongoing challenge. To the diverse book community, we would appreciate any and all advice on growing our imprint, do drop us a line!
What should we expect to see from Yali Books in 2017 and beyond?
We have some really great books lined up for 2017 – two beautiful picture books, a poignantly sweet graphic novel, the third book in our early reader series, and a gorgeous adult coloring book. Next year, we will also be stocking our in-house store Studio Yali with art prints, activity kits, handmade collectibles and games. We can’t wait for the new year to dawn!
In the long term, we hope to continue to learn and grow every day, guided by our deep love for books.
As indie publishers, we believe we have the unique responsibility to bring odd, quirky and the really strange tales to life, ones that a more commercially-minded publisher would be afraid to touch. Our greatest reward will always be the spontaneous laughter of a young curious reader.
The Sorcerer of Mandala
by D Kalyanaraman
Be careful what you wish for!
Long, long ago or just a year ago – depending on when you read this – the Astu Devas wake up and grant the absurd wishes of two citizens of Orum, leaving the town isolated from the rest of civilization.
It is now up to Vikram, his reluctant fiancée Ponni, and his friends, Kalla, a thief, and Bana, an aspiring playwright, to steal a fabled blood jewel and save Orum. Oh, did we mention the jewel hangs around the neck of the demonic goddess, Rakta Katteri, guarded by her devotee, the terrifying Sorcerer of Mandala? Come, enter a portal to an enchanting new world!
A quirky fantasy novel suitable for ages 14 and up.
_Add on Goodreads_
Giveaway! Open to U.S. / Canada Residents. Ends 12/6/2016
Thank you for reading. Enter your email below to receive frequent updates from RDB!