Ritu Weds Chandni was one of the most beautiful children’s books I’ve ever read. It was a heartbreaking yet inspiring story about a young person–not yet exposed to the hatred and bigotry of the world–defending her cousin’s happiness and “non-traditional” marriage to her girlfriend. It revealed a lot of the hatred present in the South Asian community towards the LGBTQ+ community while simultaneously presenting a hopeful message that our generation can be the ones to pave the way for present and future love and acceptance for everyone, no matter their sexuality. One of the things I loved the most about the story was the interweaving of the pictures and the text, and how they both portrayed that it was not the Indian wedding customs themselves that were unaccepting of such a union–since Ritu and Chandni were participating in them with full vibrancy–but rather many prejudiced members of the community, which is an important distinction to make. This was the first time I had seen an LGBTQ+ marriage depicted in a South Asian setting, and it made my heart so happy to have the experience of reading this book, especially knowing that young people right now are growing up reading it too. As the author notes, it is important to recognize that same-sex relationships have only recently been decriminalized in India (in 2018, less than 3 years ago), and a marriage like the one depicted in the book would not even be legal at this time in India–which is a big part of why telling a story like this is so significant.
Little Ayesha is all excited for her favorite cousin Ritu’s wedding. She can’t wait to dance in the baraat ceremony! But not everyone is happy that Ritu is marrying her girlfriend Chandni. Some have even vowed to stop the celebrations. Will Ayesha be able to save her cousin’s big day?
This vibrant book sets the story of a same-sex couple struggling to gain acceptance against the colorful backdrop of an Indian wedding.Ritu Weds Chandni by Ameya Narvankar
What I liked:
- How despite being a children’s book, there was discussion about the conflict between the supreme importance of tradition in Indian culture and the struggle to fit into that culture when your identity does not seem to fit into traditional values.
“The tradition has always been for the room to bring the baraat to his wedding. I’m not sure if everyone will be pleased to see Ritu leading the process today.”Ritu Weds Chandni by Ameya Narvankar
- There was a beautiful depiction, both through illustration and text, of how Ritu and Chandni participated in the traditional Indian wedding ceremony and related traditions.
“The procession slowly wound its way through the neighborhood. People peeked out of their homes. They had never seen a bride lead a bharaat before.”Ritu Weds Chandni by Ameya Narvankar
I found this to be an accurate reveal of how it is not the Indian/South Asian culture and its traditions that are odds with an LGBTQ+ couple, but the community and their prejudiced and bigoted opinions
“Ritu’s house was decorated with garlands of fresh marigold flowers. All the guests had gathered in the courtyard…But something was amiss…She couldn’t find her cousins Tanya and Rohan, or her Deepak bhaiya and Tara bhabhi. Even her grandparents weren’t there yet.”Ritu Weds Chandni by Ameya Narvankar
- The illustrations!! They were absolutely gorgeous. To read more about my friend @brindas.bookshelf’s analysis of the illustrations, check out her post being published the same day as this one here!
This book was, simply put, incredible, and something absolutely everyone should read. The author puts it best:
“To change society’s mind, we need to appeal to people’s hearts, To do this, we need more people to hear our stories.”Ritu Weds Chandni by Ameya Narvankar
More books for young readers featuring South Asian LGBTQ+ experiences, as recommended by the author of When Ritu Weds Chandni!
Have you read When Ritu Weds Chandni? What did you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts/opinions/feelings about this book down below!
Thanks so much for reading, and have a wonderful rest of your day <3