[DiverseKidLit] “I am not just a cleaner woman. I am an artist” in Dulari Devi’s “Following My Paint Brush”

Myra here.

Our theme for today’s Diverse Children’s Books linkup is Favorite Diverse Author or Illustrator. Who is your must-read author or must-see illustrator? (The theme is only a suggestion. Diverse posts on alternate topics are always welcome.)

What Is #DiverseKidLit?

Diverse Children’s Books is a book-sharing meme designed to promote the reading and writing of children’s books that feature diverse characters. This community embraces all kinds of diversity including (and certainly not limited to) diverse, inclusive, multicultural, and global books for children of all backgrounds.

We encourage everyone who shares to support this blogging community by visiting and leaving comments for at least three others. Please also consider following the hosts on at least one of their social media outlets. Spread the word using #diversekidlit and/or adding our button to your site and your diverse posts.

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We hope this community will grow into a great resource for parents, teachers, librarians, publishers, and authors! Our next linkup will be Saturday, 15 October and on the first and third Saturdays of every month.

Upcoming Theme

Our theme for the current linkup is Favorite Diverse Author or Illustrator. Themes are a suggestion only; all diverse book posts are welcome. If you’re interested, you can start planning now for our upcoming themes …

  • October 15th linkup: We will continue the Favorite Diverse Author or Illustrator theme.

Most Clicked Post from Last Time

Our most-clicked post from the previous #diversekidlit linkup is KitaabWorld’s Bilingual Picks. This great round-up post includes bilingual favorites in a range of Asian languages, including Hindi, Bengali, Tamil, and Urdu. There are also links to more titles and more languages at the end of the article.

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Following My Paint Brush

Art by: Dulari Devi Text by: Gita Wolf based on Dulari Devi’s oral narrative
Publisher: Tara Books, 2011
ISBN: 9380340117 (ISBN13: 9789380340111) Literary Awards: South Asia Book Award Nominee for Grades 5 & Under (2012)
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

Tara Books consistently publishes books that I am in awe of, and this one is no exception. The story appears to be a seamless collaboration between Gita Wolf and Dulari Devi as the former documented the latter’s narrative, juxtaposing it with Dulari’s distinctive art.

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I am an artist, but I wasn’t always one. This is the story of how it happened. 

When I was growing up, I did all kinds of work. My family was poor. I’m the little girl you see in this picture, walking with my mother. We worked in the rice field.

Over the past several weeks, we have featured (will be featuring) the picturebook biographies of Monet, Matisse, snapshots from the lives of Picasso and French female sculptor Camille Claudel (for my upcoming Monday reading). For #diversekidlit today, I thought it is fitting to share an alternative pathway to art, a different narrative where art is a form of redemption, and provides a heightened sense of empowerment.

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It was when Dulari started working as a cleaning woman for a female artist that things began to change for her. First, she made use of materials that are freely available in her environment: mud, which she transformed into a bird. Dulari was so in love with this act of creating that she found the courage to ask her artist-employer if she can be her teacher, and the artist said yes.

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Soon enough, Dulari mastered the rules of painting as she tirelessly drew scenes from her everyday life, transforming the mundane and the prosaic to luminous pieces.

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These narratives show me that Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic only managed to show a different kind of reality in her latest book on creativity: art isn’t simply decorative or an ornament of the soul, as she pointed out. For people coming from disadvantaged communities (something that Gilbert may have very little knowledge of, as much of what she wrote about in her book comes from a position of unexamined privilege) – art can be a subversive act. It can even be life-saving, a statement of one’s identity or a representation of silenced voices, a source of redemption, and ultimately, freedom and empowerment.

#DiverseKidLit is Hosted by:

Want to be notified when the next #diversekidlit linkup goes live? Click here to join the mailing list. Interested in joining as a host or an occasional co-host? Contact katie at thelogonauts.com.

(Never participated in a linkup before? Please click here for a more detailed step-by-step.)

Get #DiverseKidLit Recommendations on Pinterest!

We’ve started a new group board on Pinterest to highlight all the amazing posts and resources for Diverse Children’s Books. Please consider following the board for even more great books!

  1. That title is electric! I love the artist’s art and the illustrators so much!

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  2. That is a really neat story! 😀

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  3. Following My Paint Brush is an amazing story and introduced us to a whole new art style. Dulari Devi’s story is so inspiring!

    #DiverseKidLit

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  4. Tara Books is entirely new to me, I’m looking forward to discovering more of their inspiring books!

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  5. Tara Books is so beautiful! I’ve bought and read a few of their books but have not yet seen “Following My Paintbrush.” Thanks for this inspired choice!

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