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We asked some people who we know read a lot of Indian children’s and YA books to tell us about one (or more) really impressive book they read this year. We will be posting their replies over the rest of the month.

Devika Rangachari is a post-doctoral student of history and the author of several award-winning books.

Devika

We are thrilled that one of the books that Devika has selected is a Duckbill book, and we promise no arms were twisted–platypuses do not believe in list-fixing.

Talking of Muskaan by Himanjali Sankar (Duckbill) and Slightly Burnt by Payal Dhar (Bloomsbury), published more or less simultaneously, have not so much pushed the boundaries of accepted young adult Indian fiction as vaulted over them in decisive leaps. Homosexuality, the central theme of both these works, is handled with refreshing sensitivity and candour, assisted by liberal doses of humour. While Muskaan’s story unfolds through three parallel narratives in Talking of Muskaan, Komal, the protagonist of Slightly Burnt, narrates the entire tale. Between them, the books deal with a range of issues—the pressures of conformity, dealing with class distinctions and/ or related bullying, coping with outdated social norms, figuring out the meaning of true friendship and understanding oneself in the fullest sense of the term. And in them, Indian writing for adolescents has truly come of age.

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