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Often parents talk about whether classic children’s books should be rewritten when they are obviously offensive in today’s environment. So, it was interesting for us to meet with YA author, Karuna Riazi who recently published the retelling of the Sacred Garden. In this episode of Kitabi Qisse, Karuna talks about the need of decolonizing our writing and creating brown stories that we can connect with.


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Not unsurprisingly, classic children’s books are fraught with colonial themes. So, authors finding their voice and retelling some stories is refreshing. We get to question the narratives, and build stories from a more contemporary, and often, just perspective.

Karuna Riazi on retellings of classic children’s books

As a former teacher, Karuna also offers tons of tips for young readers to find their way to reading books. Luckily, we now have a range of books in various different formats, and many upcoming South-Asian stories. These not only allow for readers to choose what they prefer, but by diverse representation, they tell stories where the young readers feel seen. This is a far cry from classic children’s books that often did not feature much diversity. The future is diverse, and thus bright!

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Kitabi Qisse is a mini-interview series where we talk to desi authors and creators about their book inspirations. If you or someone you know should be a part of this series, drop us a note. Interview shorts are also shared on our Instagram page here.

About YA author, Karuna Riazi

Karuna Riazi on retellings of classic children's books

Karuna Riazi is a born and raised New Yorker, with a loving, large extended family and the rather trying experience of being the eldest sibling in her particular clan. She holds a BA in English Literature from Hofstra University, an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Hamline University, and is an online diversity advocate and educator.

Karuna is the author of The Gauntlet (S&S/Salaam Reads, 2017), The Battle (S&S/Salaam Reads, 2019), Ghostwriter: The Jungle Book (Sourcebooks Wonderland/Sesame Workshop, 2019), and A Bit of Earth (HarperCollins/Greenwillow Books, 2023). More about Karuna here.