Published on January 14, 2022 at 9:03 p.m.
Anjali is a girl who is not afraid to take on challenges. She won’t let them stop her from achieving her goals.
She looks a lot like Sheetal Sheth, author of the picture books that started with “Always Anjali” and the second in the series, “Bravo, Anjali!” (Marigold and Mango Press, 21 pages, $14.76).
Sheth is also an actress and producer. Among the many films she has appeared in is “Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World” (2005) by writer-director Albert Brooks. She has won several acting awards at film festivals, including Best Actress for “The World Unseen” (2007).
She appeared on the television shows “NCIS: Los Angeles” (2011) and “Bluebloods” (2013) and did voice acting for the animated series “Family Guy” (2016) and “Brickleberry” (2012).
She is co-producing and starring in the upcoming film, “Hummingbird,” which is in post-production.
Sheth, who lives in New York with her husband and two daughters, was born in Phillipsburg, NJ. She moved with her family to the Lehigh Valley and attended Liberty High School, where she participated in student government, the debate club, and was a member. of the National Honor Society. Her father Rashmi and mother Rekha live in Hanover Township, Northampton County.
Sheth says that Anjali and her adventures are a fusion of herself, her daughters and her friends.
Anjali’s books, aimed at readers aged four to ten, have the distinction of having a South Asian hero.
“When I was pregnant with my first child, I noticed there was no such thing. There were only books about things like a vacation or a trip to India. They didn’t reflect the world we live in,” Sheth said in a phone interview.
“We don’t celebrate Diwali all year round. We play sports, have dinner with our parents and go to school.
“There are more books about animals than about people of color in children’s literature. I wanted to write about everything that everyone has in common.
In Sheth’s book, “Always Anjali”, Anjali is angry at her unusual first name when she tries to buy a personalized license plate for her bike. The other kids laugh at her name, until she learns to accept it and be proud to be different.
Sheth says that when she started her acting career, many producers expected her to change or modify her name. She says inclusion has improved for young people today:
“Things are one hundred percent better, but we still have a long way to go.”
In “Bravo, Anjali”, the young girl pursues her dream of playing the tabla. Hand drums are traditionally played by men. She overcomes jealousy and fear by losing herself in the performance.
The titles of Sheth’s picture book series will feature consecutive letters of the alphabet. The next one is “Anjali Can”. Each book tells an independent story.
The stories in the first two books deal with empowerment, bullying, relationships, and understanding. “I want my books to be fun and entertaining, but with something extra,” Sheth says.
“My writing is closest to what I think,” she says. “Anjali is evolving. I will get to know her better and understand how she lives things.
Sheth is enthusiastic about how young people have responded to her books. “I can talk with children about real things. It’s amazing the questions that first year students ask themselves.
The Anjali book series is likely to cover a variety of themes, some of which have rarely or never been covered in children’s books before. In a way, this reflects Sheth’s adventurous acting career, where she often portrayed unusual people who don’t fit into mainstream society.
“I seem to be drawn to certain types of stories, often dealing with marginal people. I’m always on the lookout for something new,” she says.
“Literary Scene” is a column about authors, books and publishing. To request coverage, email: Paul Willistein, Focus Editor, [email protected]
CONTRIBUTED PHOTO Sheetal Sheth, author of picture books that began with “Always Anjali” and the second in the series, “Well done, Anjali!”