Sailaja Joshi was pregnant with her first child when she realized she wanted her baby to have access to books that accurately and appropriately reflected her Hindu culture. However, none of the books she found achieved those goals. Children’s books didn’t mention Diwali. They didn’t feature Indian names. They didn’t talk about Eid or discuss how people celebrate Ramadan in a way that kids could see and understand.
Joshi, a sociologist, became worried that her child would grow up in a world where they would have a hard time retaining their culture. She contacted her sister and her best friend. They started their own company, Bharat Babies and began writing their own children’s books taking matters into their own hands!
We had the opportunity to speak with Joshi and learn more about about how and why she created Bharat Babies and how you can get your hands on one or all of her inspiring books.
The Teal Mango: How did you come up with the concept for this company?
Sailaja Joshi: In the spring of 2013, I was on a mission to complete my baby registry in preparation for the arrival of her first child. Inline with my “library” themed baby shower, I went on the hunt to find books about Indian culture that I could share with my newborn daughter. What I saw in the marketplace was a lack of diversity. Any books that did happen to talk about India were often developmentally inappropriate, culturally inaccurate or worse, culturally insensitive. I refuse to live in a world where my daughter wouldn’t see herself, so I created Bharat Babies with my little sister and best friend. Now, three years later the company has bootstrapped the funding to produce ten book across four product categories. The company is driven by the mission to produce diverse kids lit for a diverse world.
TTM: What is your latest book?
SJ: Our latest book is called “Always Anjali” and is written by actress Sheetal Sheth and illustrated by Jessica Blank. We’ve also published “Amal’s Eid”, “Amal’s Ramadan”, “Ganesh and the Little Mouse”, and more. You can get a complete list on our website.
In “Always Anjali,” Anjali finally gets the bike of her dreams on her birthday; she and her two best friends are excited to get matching license plates with their names on it but Anjali can’t find her name. There’s Amy, Betsy, Chris, but no “Anjali” name plate. To make matters worse, she gets bullied for her different name, and is so upset she demands to change it. When her parents refuse she is forced to take matters into her own hands. She eventually winds up learning to celebrate who she is and carry her name with pride. This is a timeless story about appreciating what makes us special and honoring our differences.
TTM: How do you vet authors to write for you?
SJ: We LOVE hearing from members of the South Asian community who want to share their stories. We have a pretty intense vetting process and work as a large team when it comes to developing both scripts and illustrations that reflect the communities experience.
TTM: Tell us about some of the projects you work on under Bharat Babies?
SJ: Some of the major projects we currently have in the works include more board books, audio books as well as more early readers. We are SO incredibly excited to bring these stories to life.
TTM: We understand you have a current crowdfunding opportunity, can you tell me about it? Why is it important?
SJ: We are an independent publishing house, which means we have little to no outside investment. The plus side to this independence is we can tell some amazing stories. The downside is we need capital in order to print books. This crowdfunding campaign is vital in helping to ensure that Bharat Babies can continue to do the work it needs to do over the next year. This means more board books, illustrated book, books in multiple different Indian languages, audio books and so much more.
TTM: Who is your target audience?
SJ: It’s interesting, if you had asked me this question two years ago, I would have said South Asian Parents. While they are still our demographic today, our audience has expanded much more. We’ve realized that many parents in today’s world are looking to raise a generation of culturally literate global citizens and our books help with that.
TTM: Where can people find the books?
SJ: The best place to buy our books is direct from us via our website www.bharatbabies.com. When you buy direct from you help us to keep more money in our pocket, which is so important. You can also visit your local children’s store or independent bookstore. Finally, we’re on Amazon, but please we prefer our audience buy direct from us.