Sheetal Sheth is an acclaimed actress known for her provocative performances in a wide range of memorable roles on film and television. She served in President Clinton's AmeriCorps and is currently on the advisory board of Equality Now and an ambassador for The Representation Project.
You are an accomplished actress, what led you to write Always Anjali, a picture book for children?
Telling stories is what I love to do- I've just been doing it through a different medium. But in this case, my purpose crossed disciplines organically. When I was pregnant with my first child, I was dismayed at the lack of representation in kids literature. I didn't see enough children's books that featured kids of color just living their life. Most of the ones I found were centered around a cultural holiday or an event. I thought we are never going to feel like we are part of the fabric of the mainstream unless we are the heroes of stories where we are doing 'normal' things.
Was the story in Always Anjali inspired by something you experienced in your childhood? Did you feel you had a unique experience growing up Indian in America?
It was several fold. It draws from my experiences, my friends' experiences, my adult experiences, the conversations of the day, the lack of inclusion across all media that seems to tell our kids that their experiences aren't worthy...
The illustrations in the book are beautiful! What was the process of creating Anjali? What were the main considerations you had in mind for her?
Ah thank you! Our illustrator is Jessica Blank. She is so talented and when my publisher, Bharat Babies, showed me her work, I was immediately drawn to her. It was so exciting to see her bring Anjali to life. We had several conversations about the tone of the book and details about what Anjali should look like. It was a true collaboration of sharing inspiration boards and ideas and sketches as Jessica created her. We were committed to taking the time to get her right. There is a lot of nuance and easter eggs throughout the book itself that reference a type of Indian American household very much like the one I grew up in.
You mention Always Anjali is the first in the series. Can you give us a sneak peek of what’s next for Anjali?
Ah, I wish I could! All I can share at the moment is that Anjali is a character that I think you will enjoy more and more as you watch her handle life as it's thrown at her! :)
What were some of your favorite books growing up?
I loved a variety of things but I distinctly remember being obsessed with mythology and legends. I also loved the Amar Chitra Katha comics.
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