Published: 12th August 2020
Here's why Lakshmi Iyer wrote a book about a curly-haired Tamilian girl
Lakshmi Iyer's book 'Why is my hair curly' is published by Red Panda. We spoke to her recently about her journey as an author and how she manages time despite being a mother of three
Two curly-haired women sat in their respective drawing rooms. Their laptops were on and kept in front of them. Defying all the barriers that timezones had created, they spoke to each other about a book titled Why is My Hair Curly?. I was one of these women and the other was Lakshmi Iyer, the author of the book. It was barely 6 AM in Pennsylvania. However, Lakshmi's early morning face was not like the one most of us would sport in the wee hours. She looked fresh, her hair was properly set and she beamed with excitement, talking about her maiden children's book.
Published by Red Panda, Westland's children's book publishing section, the book talks about a little girl named Avanthika who obviously has curly hair and struggles to tame it. Keeping that aside, Lakshmi tells me what prompted her to write this particular book. "Growing up in Chennai and Coimbatore, I remember my mother struggling to comb and braid my frizzy hair. She would tie it up with ribbons," she recalls. "But then, I would look in the mirror and see a hairy halo around my head all the time. There used to be tiny, frizzy strands of hair that would not get tamed. No amount of oil helped me do that," she says.
Lakshmi started working on the book in May 2019. Even though it took only 10 days to write, the birthing of the story took almost a year
Now, this is a relatable situation for all curly-haired women around the world. But then, a few years down the line, Lakshmi's house had a TV. Soon, she would eagerly watch the Sunsilk ads, where pretty women flaunted their silky straight hair. "I nursed a desire for that hair for a long time. Finally, in 2016, I got keratin treatment done. I had silky locks for almost two years," she says. But guess what! She hated it. "I did not feel like it was me," she says. That was probably Lakshmi's first baby step towards accepting herself the way she is — a theme that the book largely relies on. "These days, I find my youngest daughter, who is six, asking me why her hair is curly. Curly hair is just a facet here. This can be replaced with anything that sets you apart," she says.
The protagonist of the book is a Tamilian, like Lakshmi. One would find a fair number of Tamil words blended into the English sentences, giving one a true sense of Tamil culture. "I have two 11-year olds and a six-year-old. I struggle to find the right books for my daughters that tell them about people like us or the food that we eat. There's a distinct paucity of south Asian voices in our libraries. So, when I had the chance to write for children, I thought that I should write about this," she says. Lakshmi also tells us that her daughters call her Amma and not Mom when they're in pain and that their comfort food is always dosa.
Now, when does she write, considering she has three children to take care of and a banking job to do? She laughs and tells us her secret, "I write at night when they're asleep."
Reach Out: lgiyer.com