South Asia Book Award Committee Announces 2017 Awardees and Honorees

The 2017 SABA Award Committee is delighted to announce the Award and Honoree books for this year!

2017 South Asia Book Award

Maya by Mahak Jain; illustrated by Elly MacKay (Owlkids Press, 2016). The loss of her father and a blackout in her Indian city combine to distress Maya.  Her mother’s bedtime tale of a legendary banyan tree kindles the child’s imagination, bringing her comfort and soothing memories of her father.  Alluring illustrations of the lush dream landscape and animals Maya visualizes will engage readers. (Grades K-3)

What Elephants Know by Eric Dinerstein (Disney-Hyperion, 2016). In the Nepalese Borderlands, twelve-year-old orphan Nandu realizes his destiny as a “mahout” (elephant driver). Through a vivid jungle setting and Nandu’s first-person narration, this story reveals the rich diversity of the natural world and the connection between humans and animals. (Grades 4-7)

2017 Honor Books

Book Uncle and Me by Uma Krishnaswami; illustrated by Julianna Swaney (Groundwood Books, 2016). Do you think kids can really make a difference?  Yasmin Kader is usually pretty wrapped up in her own world, but when some very terrible events happen, she pulls herself out, up, and into action!  Will new Mayor Samuel save Book Uncle’s book stall?  Find out in this exciting story for middle-level readers! (Grades 2-4)

A Long Pitch Home by Natalie Dias Lorenzi (Charlesbridge, 2016). A little Pakistani boy’s heartwarming and humorous tale of adjusting to life in America where so much is different from his home country yet so much is similar. Family, friends, baseball, new holidays, and plans for helping his father come home soon keep Bilal busy as seasons change and America becomes home. (Grades 3-6)

2017 Highly Commended Books

The Boy and the Bindi by Vivek Shraya; illustrated by Rajni Perera (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2016). In this celebration of gender and cultural differences, a young South Asian boy becomes fascinated with his mother’s bindi, the red dot commonly worn by Hindu women, and wishes to have one of his own. Rather than chiding him, she agrees and explains its cultural significance, allowing him permission to be more fully himself. (Grades PreK-3)

When Bholu Came Back by Kavitha Punniyamurthi; illustrated by Niloufer Wadia (Tulika Press, 2016). Did you know that camels can be excellent problem-solvers?  When Bholu Came Back shows us just how much a camel can care for his owner and a difficult “situation.”  The Taparia Camel Safari business can always use one more camel, so come along for the ride in this fun story for very young readers. (Grades PreK-3)

One Half from the East by Nadia Hashimi (HarperCollins, 2016). Obayda, a 10-year-old girl in modern day Afghanistan, is shocked when her family informs her she must become a bacha posh, a girl dressed as a boy,  and called Obayd. When her friend, Rahim, is suddenly forced to go back to being a girl, Obayda chases a rainbow to keep the freedom she has experienced. (Grades 4-8)

Rani Patel in Full Effect by Sonia Patel (Cinco Puntos Press, 2016). Rani Patel feels like an outsider. Not only is her family the only Indians on a remote Hawaiian island, but her father has left the family for a younger woman. The only arena in which she feels alive is participating in the island’s underground hip-hop scene as an MC. Rani’s raps tell the story of a strong Indian woman, even though her love life with an older man and memories of a past tragedy threaten to bring her down. Will her rhythmic rhymes give her the strength to confront these demons? (Grades 9-12)

The 2017 South Asia Book Award Ceremony and Presentation will be held in Lansing, MI, in conjunction with the Michigan Library Association Annual Conference, October 18, 2017. 

Law School Doctoral Candidate Cynthia Farid Receives ILS Law and Society Graduate Fellowship

Cynthia Farid is a doctoral candidate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School. Her research interests include a range of topics including legal history, legal theory, human rights, constitutional law and law and development. Prior to her current role in UW-Madison, Cynthia has professional experience working in legal practice as well as international development work comprising a range of human rights and rule of law programming with NGOs, INGOs, think tanks, and legal rights organizations. Having completed her bar in the UK and Bangladesh, she graduated with an LL.M from Cornell University. More…

Nelson Institute Graduate Student Vaishnavi Tripuraneni Receives AIIS Joseph W. Elder Fellowship in the Social Sciences

Vaishnavi Tripuraneni, a graduate student in the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin, was awarded a junior fellowship to carry out her project, “A Political Ecology of Agrarian Debt: Crop Choices and Smallholder Livelihoods in South India.” Ms Tripuraneni is the recipient of the Joseph W. Elder Fellowship in the Social Sciences. View the full list of fellows here.

Former UW-Madison Visiting Professor Elaine Fisher Publishes “Hindu Pluralism”

In Hindu Pluralism: Religion and the Public Sphere in Early Modern South IndiaElaine M. Fisher complicates the traditional scholarly narrative of the unification of Hinduism. By calling into question the colonial categories implicit in the term “sectarianism,” Fisher’s work excavates the pluralistic textures of precolonial Hinduism in the centuries prior to British intervention. Drawing on previously unpublished sources in Sanskrit, Tamil, and Telugu, Fisher argues that the performance of plural religious identities in public space in Indian early modernity paved the way for the emergence of a distinctively non-Western form of religious pluralism. This work provides a critical resource for understanding how Hinduism developed in the early modern period, a crucial era that set the tenor for religion’s role in public life in India through the present day.

Read more about the book on the Luminos website

UW Alumna and FSU Professor Kathleen Erndl Passes Away at 63

Kathleen M. Erndl, 63, of Tallahassee died suddenly Sunday (2/19/17) at her home. Born at the Naval Air Station at Patuxent River in Maryland, Dr. Erndl, a beloved professor and noted South Asian religious scholar, was an Associate Professor at Florida State University. Her love of South Asian culture began with her travel to Sri Lanka during her sophomore year at New College of Florida. She conducted research and traveled in India frequently, receiving the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship, Fulbright-Hays, and NEH Fellowship. She authored, Victory to the Mother: The Hindu Goddess of Northwest India in Myth, Ritual, and Symbol (Oxford, 1993), co-edited, Is the Goddess a Feminist? The Politics of South Asian Goddesses (NYU Press, 2000), and published articles on Sakta traditions, spirit possession, women’s religious expressions, methodology, and gender issues in Hinduism. Her teaching excellence gave her the Advanced Teacher of Year Award at FSU; she was also faculty advisor to the FSU Indian Students Association. Her knowledgeable and sincere influence touched students, colleagues, and friends globally.

Read the full obituary here.

CSA and SASLI receive UW-Madison Educational Innovations Grant

The Center for South Asia and the South Asia Summer Language Institute are pleased to announce that our project was selected for a UW-Madison Educational Innovations grant of $10,000! This support will supplement costs associated with designing an Elementary Hindi blended course in Canvas and PressBooks. The development of these blended course materials, led by UW-Madison SAFLI Hindi-Urdu Language Coordinator Sarah Beckham, will enhance student proficiency outcomes by creating a flipped classroom experience in which learners acquire and apply foundational knowledge in a distributed learning environment. This approach maximizes face-to-face interaction with instructors in the target language to produce integrated learning outcomes. In collaboration with the Blend@UW initiative, this course will be piloted during the SASLI 2017 summer program and be further developed to create open-access training resources and materials for instructors.

UW-Madison Anthropology alum Michael Youngblood Publishes “Cultivating Community: Interest, Identity, and Ambiguity in an Indian Social Mobilization”


In Cultivating Community, anthropologist Michael Youngblood explores the creation of political meaning and the construction of collective identity in an agrarian social movement in western India. The book’s core questions are fundamental to understanding mass movements anywhere: Where do movement ideologies come from and what makes them compelling? What motivates diverse groups of ordinary people to rise together in common cause? How can we make sense of individual actors when their participation appears irrational and against their own interests?