Every so often I like to suggest a contemporary world literature text or YA book that I think would be a fabulous addition to your World Literature curriculum. Today, I am focusing on The Girl and the Goddess! Not only would this work well in a World Lit curriculum, but it would also be a wonderful fit for a Mythology class as well! Let me tell you all about this beautiful book.
First, the summary…
It is difficult to nail down a genre for this book. It’s kind of like if Magical Realism and free form poetry had a baby and that baby also decided to have a few of its own personality quirks. It takes you on a journey with the protagonist, Paro.
Paro is a young, Hindu girl from Kashmir when we first meet her and Partition quickly changes everything in her life. We follow her family to Deli. On top of the normal hardships they were facing, Paro is sexually assualted in a bizarre and never shares this with anyone.
Paro suffers in silence with what has happened and struggles to make friends in her new school. Fast forward a few years and she develops feelings for another Hindu girl. They have a brief moment of happiness together and then their world blows up. Due to the laws in India, this is an extremely serious issue and Paro is sent away to Kashmir to stay with her grandparents. In this space she discovers that she and all the women in her family have a divine connection and deep intuition that they can use with Taro cards. It is also in this time that she is able to think about what she wants/needs in life.
Paro decides to move to England to attend a university for the arts and where she can be openly bi-sexual without fear of the law of social pressures. However, she does confront some racism. Despite this, she makes some deeply special friendships and healing.
Here’s where the Magical Realism aspects come in. In times of great need, a different Hindu goddess comes to visit Paro and teach her a lesson through a story. Some teach her about her own strength. Some teach her about hypocrisy in the Hindu culture surrounding sexuality. Some teach her what she needs to follow her path.
I know I mentioned poetry. Some parts are told through completely free form poetic style and some portions (largely the stories the goddesses share) are in normal pros. Every now and then there is a poem that rhymes. It was intriguing and I personally have never read anything like this format before. It is also peppered beautifully with ink drawings.
The Pros Of Teaching This Book
So many! There is just so much you can discuss with this book: Partition and its affects that are still felt to this day, Hindu culture, Hindu religion, bigotry and racism, The Hero’s Journey, and sexual assault just to name a few.
The Cons Of Teaching This Book
Obviously, anything involving sexual assault should have a trigger warning. The assault itself is not graphic; it reminds me of how Laurie Halse Anderson covered it in Speak. However, as in Speak, a large portion of this book surrounds around the PTSD of what happened, and even that has been too much for some previous students of mine.
All in all, I LOVED this book. I can’t wait to go back through it and start creating some resources to accompany it. Have you read it yet? Are you thinking of adding it to your own curriculum or classroom library?! I’d love to hear your thoughts as I don’t personally know anyone yet who has read it!