If you’ve been following me for a while, you know I don’t normally review picture books. It isn’t because I don’t love them. I grew up on books, and I have so many fond memories of picture books. But I never saw the representation I wanted from them growing up. Looking back on them, I identified a lot with animals in picture books, or the ones with Chinese representation. However, the representation where I was represented, didn’t feel authentic, it felt just a little too colorful, and they often didn’t deal with the daily struggles I had growing up.
Always Anjali is wonderfully illustrated. It has a design that is truly charming. What I enjoyed most was the theme behind Always Anjali. It can be hard growing up in a culture that doesn’t think of you. One of Anjali’s main struggles is finding a license plate for her bike that says her name. I struggled with this all the time growing up. My name wasn’t particularly difficult, it was just never there. And even if it was, it was misspelled. None of that even touched upon the fact that the cultural significance of my name was never honored or even understood. It flies under the radar.
So Always Anjali is an inspiring story about difference, embracing your own difference, and reacting with love. Anjali has the opportunity to lash out, but instead she chooses to make her name her own – her difference her own. Don’t just take my word for it, the end pages pages are full of praise from CEOs, authors, and writers. They all talk about the difficulty of growing up in a culture that never made space for you and with our names it appeals to something essential about us.
Always Anjali is the picture book I needed when I was growing up. It is the picture book I needed to give me the strength to embrace my differences instead of hiding them. I spent a lot of my years growing up, trying to be like everyone else, to erase the parts of me that stared out at me in the mirror. But I’m so glad that those growing up now have the words, the picture books, and the representation needed to start a conversation, to give them the chance I didn’t have growing up. You can find Always Anjali on Goodreads.