For Novembers Mother Daughter Book Club from Girls Leadership.org, my daughter and I had the pleasure of reading Rickshaw Girl. Rickshaw Girl is a story of a young Bangladeshi girl named Naima who lives with her family in a struggling village. Her father earns the money for the family by driving a rickshaw. One of Naima’s greatest pleasures is cleaning her fathers rickshaw and making it look shiny and new for all of her fathers customers. She is also a talented artist and paints the most beautiful alpanas in the village. Naima wants to help her father earn money because he is always tired and works very long hours. However, this was not possible because she is a girl and according to their culture, girls do not work to earn money. They stay at home and fulfill household duties such as cleaning, cooking, taking care of the house, etc. Naima decides one day to drive the rickshaw herself but loses control of it and crashes her fathers beloved vehicle. What will she do now? Feeling sad and hopeless, Naima finds the perfect solution at the end of the story to help her family.
Both my daughter and I enjoyed this book because it helped us both understand the culture of Naima and how their world is different than ours. As a young girl, my daughter and I were able to discuss the financial struggles that Naima experiences with her family and why. Rickshaw Girl also sparked a great conversation about a woman’s role in many different societies and how our country differs from others in the world. Growing up in the US, it’s hard to understand the perspective of a character named Naima, but I think it’s up to us to educate our children about all different cultures and societies to increase awareness and overall acceptance of others and their differences.
- As you are reading the book, show your child images of a rickshaw and other various vocabulary that may be unfamiliar (e.g. alpana)
- Read a few chapters at a time and ask questions throughout the story. If your child doesn’t understand a specific concept, stop reading and talk about it.
- Inspire your child to create her own alpana by watching an instructional video.
- Discuss the differences between Naima’s fathers job and other jobs that men and women have.
- Compare the different roles of women in Naima’s world and our country.
I am thrilled to present this interview with Mitali Perkins, author of Rickshaw Girl. To learn more about Mitali and her other books that she has written, click here.
1. What inspired you to write Rickshaw Girl?
My husband and I went back to live in Bangladesh for three years and I rode in a lot of rickshaws during that time. While we were there, we learned how the lives of girls are changing for the better thanks to microcredit programs that provide money for female entrepreneurs. I wanted to write about that, as that change for the better is coming from within Bangladeshi communities, not as the result of outside aid and intervention from other countries.
2. What would you like young girls to learn most from your book?
I would want them to choose what they learn. A work of fiction leaves a lot of power in the hands of the reader. At the time of reading, the writer is not in the picture any longer and so the takeaway belongs to the reader.
3. What is your background and how did that influence your writing of the book?
Both of my grandmothers and my mother grew up in the villages of Bangladesh. My mother is a talented artist who learned to create alpanas as a girl. I was born in Kolkata and so Bengali culture is my own heritage.
4. If you can write a sequel to the book, what type of future do you see for Naima?
My daughter thinks that Naima will open her own rickshaw shop in her house with her families help.