Today’s blog post is written by guest blogger Saadia Faruqi, author of the YASMIN series of early reader titles.
As a Pakistani American immigrant with a love of English literature, I’ve always found translations of stories a fascinating subject. I remember as a child watching a Pakistani movie dubbed into English, and as a teenager reading the Urdu translation of one of Rudyard Kipling’s poems. I always wondered how much in these instances was lost in translation.
At the same time I also marveled that these translations allowed so many more people to enjoy the stories. They opened up a whole different world of literature, culture, and storytelling to an audience that may not be aware of these things. While reading about a translated book in Urdu, I was very much aware that the story was definitely not Pakistani, from the foods to the dress to the environment. Rather than take away from the story, these things gave it an added layer of complexity that I thoroughly enjoyed.
That’s why I’m so excited that the first four titles of my early reader series YASMIN by Capstone Publishers is now available in Spanish. It’s funny in a way because this means the stories are now in three languages existing side by side. English, Urdu and Spanish. Yasmin calls her abuela “nani” and her papi “baba” which makes me smile because this code-switching is such a regular part of bilingual kids. This is how we live in the U.S. and around the world: a mixture of cultures and languages that influence each other and co-exist. My children as first generation Americans are growing up with this confluence of language and cultures, and so are millions of other children.
This co-existence is apparent in the classroom more than anywhere else. Students speak all sorts of languages, and in Texas where I live, Spanish is the most popular one. To have my YASMIN books in Spanish is an honor for me, because it will allow so many bilingual children to enjoy my stories. Yasmin’s adventures as exploradora, fashionista, pintora, and constructora are everyday adventures that readers will enjoy even though they may not be Pakistani. Yasmin is relatable to Hispanic kids as well as to Pakistani ones, and so many others.
I have every hope that these new books will create a bookshelf that is inclusive and welcoming. They will give a strong message to children in the classroom that their language and culture is nothing to be ashamed of, but to celebrate and share. They will encourage further understanding of my (and Yasmin’s) culture by Hispanic kids, and vice versa. They will show readers the many similarities that exist in all three cultures – Pakistani, Hispanic, and American – and how we all together make this nation the vibrant, interesting and rich place it is.
First Book is proud to help educators across the country build inclusive bookshelves with diverse books. Visit the Stories for All section of the First Book Marketplace to find our title recommendations for young readers.