IS IT THE SAME FOR YOU?
Written by Neha Singh
Illustrated by Priya Sebastian
Seagull Books 1/7/2020
24 Pages Age 8—14
Genre: Children’s Picture Book, Fiction
Themes: Menses, War, Girl’s Puberty
“The day they found my brother with a blood stain, I found one
on my kurta too, but no one noticed my blood stain.”
Thus begins the story of a young girl in Kashmir as she goes through the turbulence of adolescence in her conflict-ridden world. While larger issues of terrorism, violence, and death engulf the hearts and minds of all those around her, she struggles to come to terms with her changing body and all that it entails. Left alone to deal with her constant questions, she experiences despair and loneliness but also shows resilience and hope in the faint knowledge that maybe it is not very different for all young girls around the world: “Is it the same for you?” she asks.
With powerful yet sensitive illustrations by Priya Sebastian, which infuse the story with a universality, this beautiful volume is a tender attempt in imagining the different strands of a young life in Kashmir—a place where the inner conflicts of voiceless, adolescent girls are often overshadowed by the political, religious, and military conflicts that are now a constant in everyday life. (from front jacket flap)
“The day they found my brother with a blood stain, I found one on my kurta too, but no one noticed mine. I feel hungry all the time these days.”
”Why I like Is It the Same for You?
Is It the Same for You? The young girl in this story finds blood on her clothes the same day her brother finds blood on his clothes. He bleeds from injuries suffered fighting a war, which brings his mother’s immediate and prolonged attention, including all of the next day as she takes part in protests against the conflict. At home, alone, the girl must deal with puberty and the start of menses, while living in Kashmir, without a voice, options, or support. Is It the Same for You? is her very personal story, yet in many ways it is also a universal story young girls around the world can relate to.
The unnamed girl is not quite a woman and no longer a girl. What is she, then? The fighting in Kashmir takes up the hearts and minds of the people, causing something as normal as puberty to arrive unnoticed by the women in her family, especially mom. Yet the law notices, and requires her to wear a scarf over her hair. A soldier notices too. He places his hand on her breast and lingers. She wants to scream, but remains quiet.
Later, she can share her “deepest darkest secrets” with the night sky. Sometimes touching her “new, growing body” she finds it is “full of surprises, happy ones, scary ones,” just like the surprises in her town; some happy, some scary. One evening her mother lays her head in her daughter’s lap and falls asleep. Feeling grown-up, the girl hums a lullaby, “like a mother” would. Other times, the young girl feels she is shrinking and no one can see her any longer.
The story, tenderly wove with often conflicting emotions are beautifully envisioned by Priya Sebastian’s art. Like the text, the art of this girl can feel intrusive. Other times, readers may identify with the illustrations, as if it is telling their story. A girl’s body grows in wondrous ways but, to a young girl all alone, it can be scary. She has growth spurts; hair in new places; odor that sometimes accompanies the new hair; mood changes (sometimes inappropriate, like laughing when others are crying—and not understanding why she does this); maternal feelings; increased hunger; and others many of which are personalized to the young girl.
The illustrations are both haunting and beautiful. Most are of the young girl as she relates her experiences and feelings. We see black and white portraits of her lying on the ground, hugging herself, or looking in a mirror and seeing herself in a woman’s scarf (or not seeing the woman she is becoming). The only additional color is red; her new scarf, a few accents, and the explosion of bombs so close they can be heard. We see the young girl’s scar-pocked legs and wonder what they feel. The images can be dark and moody reflecting the girl’s moods, yet always tastefully created.
To walk away from this poignant story without your own conflicting feelings seems tantamount to reacting cruelly. Mothers with daughters will hopefully see this as a lesson, one that teaches not to ignore your child’s puberty or place something above it in importance. The young girl wonders one thing: “Is it the same for you?” She is hoping not to be truly alone.
There is a note from both Neha Singh & Priya Sebastian, most notably from the author who explains why she wrote on this particular subject. Do not let this page slip past you. It is worth your time to read.
Illustrations Rendered in black and white, with “restrained use of color,” in charcoal and pastels.
Available at Amazon
IS IT THE SAME FOR YOU? Text Copyright © 2019, 2020 by Neha Singh. Illustrations copyright © 2019, 2020 by Priya Sebastian. Published by Seagull Press/The University of Chicago Press, New York, NY.
Copyright © 2020 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved
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