We are so excited to introduce you to Meera Sriram! She recently celebrated the release of her debut picture book in America, The Yellow Suitcase. All kids need to see themselves in books, and this text celebrates a bicultural child's journey from America to India as she reconnects with family.
Don’t be fooled by this nearly early reader- sized book. The Yellow Suitcase is a diverse, emotional picture book, led by main character Asha’s journey to honor her grandmother’s life in India. The amazing team of Meera squared, Meera Sriram and Meera Sethi, partner to bring life to the words and illustrations despite the topic of loss. Although thousands of miles hold main character Asha apart from her grandmother in India, there are plenty of traditions and special memories to highlight the impact of their relationship. The main connection, a yellow suitcase, normally hosts a gift exchange between Asha and Grandma. Grief turns to anger when Asha thinks there is no way for the gift exchange to continue. To her surprise, Grandma has left something special for her. The flat art perspective provides a brush-graffiti feel to the art at times, amping up the multicultural appeal in a unique way. Tear drop memory windows, tear-stained art, and tears-turned-to-flame offer additional glimpses into the stages of grief and cultural connections.
Like us, Meera reads picture books as mentor texts to learn more about great writing. It's always interesting to gather different perspectives on this process. Thank you, Meera, for joining us today, and also for writing this important story.
Do you utilize picture books as mentor texts?
Yes! I often turn to picture books to mentor me through a story idea. It could be to analyze plot (or story arc) or to see how to address a particular theme. I go back and read my favorite authors or look up new books to see how they navigated possible roadblocks.
How has reading picture books helped you discover who you are as a writer?
I read a lot of picture books. And very often, I’ll find myself gravitating towards certain types of stories. Then I make a list of more books in that category. When I read them, I usually discover what I particularly like about them. Sometimes I realize it’s the importance of the theme. Or maybe a particular author’s use of language or style of writing. Eventually I start identifying the story I truly want to tell. Reading Jacqueline Woodson taught me that quieter stories could be very powerful (and vice versa), even for a younger audience. Reading Allen Say stories, for instance, made me realize that I’m drawn to nostalgia, and many times I end up weaving that feeling or element into my narrative. Most importantly, when I read more, I’m inspired in so many different ways to tell my own stories.
Were there any particular mentor texts that inspired you in the creation of The Yellow Suitcase?
I did not read mentor texts while drafting or revising “The Yellow Suitcase” or specifically for this project. However, by the time I’d decided I wanted to tell this story, I had read several books that were centered around the theme of loss and grief (which is also the theme in my book) – titles like Boats for Papa, The Scar, and Sweet, Sweet Memory. Reading these books helped me in two ways: (1) they gave me the confidence to write on a difficult theme for young children (2) they pushed me to come up with an alternate way to treat the subject.Meera Sriram grew up in India and moved to the U.S at the turn of the millennium. An electrical engineer in her past life, she now enjoys writing for children, teaching early literacy, and advocating for diverse bookshelves. Meera has co-authored several children’s books published in India. THE YELLOW SUITCASE is her debut picture book in the U.S. She believes in the transformative power of stories and writes on cross-cultural experiences that often take her back to her roots. Meera currently lives with her husband and two children in Berkeley, California, where she fantasizes about a world with no borders. For more information visit www.meerasriram.com