My Paati's Saris by Jyoti Rajan Gopal and Art Twink

Happy, happy Tuesday! I'm honored to welcome Jyoti Rajan Gopal and Art Twink to Watch. Connect. Read. to celebrate their JOYFUL picture book, My Paati's Saris. I wrote the words in purple, Jyoti wrote the words in black, and Art wrote the words in orange. Thank you, Jyoti and Art Twink! 

My Paati’s Saris tells the story of a young boy who finds comfort in his grandmother’s saris – whether he’s wrapped in their colors for dress-up or clutching their folds for comfort. As he spends his day with her, threading flowers for garlands, shopping at the local market, helping in the kitchen, or celebrating at a wedding, we see the tenderness and love between them. For him, each of his paati’s saris is a story, holding beloved memories of the past and promising exciting possibilities for the future. In her warm embrace, he is connected to his traditions and at the same time, released to explore, dare, BE.

Art Twink’s illustrations are brilliant! The level of detail that Art Twink has brought to each page is mind-boggling and they have elevated this story in ways I could not have even imagined. The colors! The colors! There’s a rich, vibrant, glorious palette of colors that is just so perfect for a book about saris. And there is so much to linger over on each page, whether it’s the details on a sari border, the different nose rings Paati wears, the adorable cat that pops up on every page, the signs on shops written in Urdu, Hindi, Tamil, Bengali, Telugu, English…..even the intricate designs of an insect’s wings as it perches on a flower. Each page is an invitation to discovery. Most of all, I am in awe of the love and affirmation that glow on each page.

Turmeric, cumin, pepper are a few of the iconic Indian spices, a must-have for every Indian kitchen. For me, their aromas are synonymous with feelings of comfort, nurture and a sense of being home.

Just like the little boy helping his paati in the kitchen, I remember summers spent in my paati’s kitchen, grinding coconut for her in the giant stone mortar and pestle she used before she owned a blender, and snapping the ends of green beans. The fragrance of her sambar would waft through the house, and the crack and pop of mustard seeds just before she added them to the sambar was our signal that soon, we would be feasting!

Jyoti Rajan Gopal’s manuscript for My Paati’s Saris depicts the existence of gender expansive expression in South Asia, specifically Tamil culture, outside of western and colonized influences. In the story I saw my own Baba who told me of his mother letting him play dress-up in Saris - my own Baba who gave me space to explore my gender. Though struggling to fight for queer acceptance is a reality across all cultures, My Paati’s Saris shows an equally true narrative where acceptance is not a question. It’s a warm story that affirms the existence of queerness in South Asian culture across generation. Celebrating that gender expansiveness is as integral to South Asian culture as the clothing, food & family.

My Paati’s Saris illustrations were a joy to create. I love indulging in bright, maximalist, and dynamic scenes - and there’s so much opportunity for that in the details of the sari’s as well as in the bustling activity of an Indian market, wedding, and home. Creating the concepts was a dive into my own childhood memories of visits to my grandparents’ home in Bengal, which helped me tell the story from a child’s perspective. Aside from my own experience, I got to research and explore sari designs & artistic traditions, especially those from Tamil Nadu, the home of Jyoti and the book’s main character.

Picture books are where children learn just how expansive the world can be. For children to see a plethora of different experiences - ones mirroring their own or entirely new ones- inspires an excitement & inquisitiveness about how unique we all are. Storytelling is the way we communicate, especially intergenerationally, and it brings me joy whenever I see stories that have been told in whispers being shouted out loud.

Congratulations, Jyoti and Art Twink! 

Jyoti Rajan Gopal is a writer, mom and Kindergarten teacher. Growing up, she lived in Thailand, Indonesia, Myanmar, India and China. Twenty-seven years ago, she moved to New York and she now lives in Yonkers in a quirky old Victorian, with her husband and two daughters. Jyoti writes stories that speak to her heart, that reflect her multiple identities, that she wishes her daughters had growing up, that she wishes her students had now. When not writing or teaching, she loves to work in her garden, dance hip-hop and swing, and explore the many New York State park trails.

Art Twink grew up drawing critters they thought up to comfort themselves and their friends, and that mission continues to this very day. For Art Twink, art is for creating community and safety in a world that offers very little of either. After 6 years of working in graphic apparel design for brands like Disney, Marvel, Nintendo, and Star Wars, Art Twink is well versed in the technical and commercial world of visual art. However, Art Twink is a storyteller at heart. As a trans artist of color, they carry on the tradition of telling stories that inspire, validate, and comfort people and creatures in hard times as a trans artist of color.

Look for My Paati's Saris on November 8, 2022. Pre-order a copy HERE.

Penguin's Description: 

Another exciting day with Paati begins with a host of fun activities done in preparation for tonight’s party; threading flowers into garlands for decoration, going to the market, and helping her in the kitchen with the scent of sambar in the air.

Through it all the boy finds comfort in Paati’s sari, whether he’s wrapped in its colors for dress-up or clutching its folds for comfort. Each sari holds a story—ones that speak to him, but most important of all they allow him just to be.

With joyful text by Jyoti Rajan Gopal and dazzling art by Art Twink, My Paati’s Sari is a commemoration of how clothing can convey tradition and individuality, and connect us to both our families and ourselves.


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