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Sheth, Kashmira

Sheth, Kashmira

Personal

Born in Bhavangar, Gujarat, India; immigrated to United States at age seventeen; married; husband's name Rajan (a civil engineer); children: Rupa, Neha (daughters). Education: Iowa State University, B.S. (microbiology). Hobbies and other interests: Traveling, cooking, reading, gardening, yoga, walking.

Addresses

Home—Madison, WI.

Career

Author and scientist. Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection, Madison, microbiologist. Also teaches Indian dance to children.

Awards, Honors

Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award, 2005, and Paul Zindel First Novel Award, both for Blue Jasmine.

Writings

JUVENILE FICTION

Blue Jasmine (novel), Hyperion Books (New York, NY), 2004.

Koyal Dark, Mango Sweet (novel), Hyperion Books (New York, NY), 2006.

My Dadima Wears a Sari, illustrated by Yoshiko Jaeggi, Peachtree (Atlanta, GA), 2007.

Keeping Corner (novel), Hyperion Books (New York, NY), 2007.

Sidelights

Kashmira Sheth is the author of such highly regarded young-adult novels as Blue Jasmine and Koyal Dark, Mango Sweet, as well as the picture book My Dadima Wears a Sari. Born in Bhavangar, India, Sheth often incorporates her memories of her homeland into her works. "My own journey from India to America and the need to tell that story in order to come full circle with the immigrant experience was a catalyst for my writing," the author stated in an interview on the Debbie Michiko Florence Web site. "I believe it is emotionally exhausting to leave one country and make a home in another. Writing about it has made me a stronger person."

Sheth came to the United States at age seventeen to attend Iowa State University, where her uncle taught. After graduating with a degree in microbiology, she landed a job with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection. Following the birth of

her daughters, Sheth developed an interest in children's literature and began recording her life experiences. The author recalled that she was influenced by stories from the Indian epics Ramayana and Mahabharata, as well as by a letter she received from a relative describing his childhood in India. "It made me think that writing can make a difference," Sheth told Marla C. Maeder in the Capital Times. "He described everything in detail—of the spring coming, how kids would eat the tender leaves of the mango trees and make their tongues turn purple. It was very inspiring."

Sheth published her debut work of fiction, Blue Jasmine, in 1994. Blue Jasmine, which garnered the Paul Zindel First Novel Award, concerns twelve-year-old Seema Trivedi, who must adjust to U.S. culture and customs after her family moves from India to Iowa City. Seema's relationship with Mukta, a poor and often misunderstood playmate in India, helps the youngster overcome her difficulties with a bully at her new school. "Sheth deftly traces the stages of her heroine's emotional development and her expanding perspective of the world," a critic in Publishers Weekly observed, and a contributor in Kirkus Reviews described the work as "a realistic emigration story told with empathy and sincerity."

Set in Mumbai, India, Koyal Dark, Mango Sweet centers on sixteen-year-old Jeeta, a free-thinking high schooler who considers the traditions practiced by her mother, including arranged marriages, to be restrictive and sexist. When Jeeta falls for Neel, the cousin of her new friend, they enter a clandestine romance to avoid the disapproval of Jeeta's parents. "This first-person narrative is a lush and loving exploration of coming of age," noted School Library Journal critic Kathleen Isaacs, and Mary Beth Cecchini, writing in Papertigers.org, remarked, "Sheth has created an earnest work that captures the familiar struggle to bridge modern culture with conservative tradition."

A woman explains the many and varied uses of her favorite garment to her granddaughters in Sheth's picture book My Dadima Wears a Sari, "a sweet story about tradition and the power of imagination," wrote Papertigers.org contributor Kristen Daniel. "Stories portraying Indian or Indian American families are rare for this age group," noted Booklist contributor Gillian Engberg, the critic praising the "continuous, loving exchange" between the family members in Sheth's story.

Keeping Corner, a work of historical fiction, is set in 1918 India. The novel is based on Sheth's great-aunt, who became a child widow during this epoch in history. The novel concerns twelve-year-old Leela, whose husband dies unexpectedly, requiring her to stay indoors, or "keep corner," for one year. Inspired by her older brother and her female tutor, both disciples of Mohandas Gandhi, Leela becomes an advocate for social change. "This powerful and enchanting novel juxtaposes Leela's journey to self-determination with the parallel struggle" of the Indian people to achieve independence from Great Britain, observed a critic in Kirkus Reviews.

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, August, 2004, Linda Perkins, review of Blue Jasmine, p. 1937; April 1, 2006, Jennifer Mattson, review of Koyal Dark, Mango Sweet, p. 37; March 1, 2007, Gillian Engberg, review of My Dadima Wears a Sari, p. 90l October 15, 2007, Gillian Engberg, review of Keeping Corner, p. 46.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, July-August, 2004, Hope Morrison, review of Blue Jasmine, p. 483.

Cooperative Children's Book Center, August, 2004, Kathleen Horning, review of Blue Jasmine.

Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2004, review of Blue Jasmine, p. 497; October 1, 2007, review of Keeping Corner.

Publishers Weekly, August 23, 2004, review of Blue Jasmine, p. 55; May 1, 2006, review of Koyal Dark, Mango Sweet, p. 65; November 5, 2007, review of Keeping Corner, p. 65.

School Library Journal, August, 2004, Lee Bock, review of Blue Jasmine, p. 128; April, 2006, Kathleen Isaacs, review of Koyal Dark, Mango Sweet, p. 148; June, 2007, Alexa Sandmann, review of My Dadima Wears a Sari, p. 124.

Voice of Youth Advocates, August, 2004, review of Blue Jasmine, p. 225.

ONLINE

Debbie Michiko Florence Web site,http://www.debbimichikoflorence.com/ (February 1, 2008), Debbie Michiko Florence, interviews with Sheth.

Kashmira Sheth Web log,http://kashmirasheth.typepad.com (February 1, 2008).

Papertigers.org,http://www.papertigers.org/ (May 1, 2007), Kristen Daniel, review of My Dadima Wears a Sari; (July 1, 2007) Mary Beth Cecchini, review of Koyal Dark, Mango Sweet.

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