'That's Such A Powerful Feeling': Pria Gokhale On Her New Children's Book 'Her Story Is Our Story'
“I think if we’re going way back to the beginning… we can start when I was a kid,” says Pria Gokhale, discussing the origin story of her recently released book Her Story is Our Story: A Children's Book for Young Women of Colour. “When I was young, I rarely saw a person who looked like me celebrated in my classrooms or printed in my history books or made into statues. And I genuinely believed for a long time that that was just because most women of color had not done anything notable. Obviously, I know now that that is not the case. And then as I got older I kind of realized that there was this gap in the media – it wasn’t in the accomplishments themselves.
“But my rationale became that representation is very much a luxury; people have more important things to worry about. And it took me a really long time to reframe my mindset and kind of understand that representation is something that women of color are entitled to – people of color, but especially women of color. Because it makes a very big difference in how we see ourselves and how other people see us.”
Gokhale, somewhat to her own surprise, found some inspiration in the social media world. “A year ago,” she says with a laugh, “I actually stumbled upon this Instagram account called ‘Brown History.’ And essentially it’s dedicated to telling all of these untold histories of South Asia.”
Inspired to find and share more untold stories, Gokhale started doing some research for what would become Her Story is Our Story. The goal for her was to craft the sort of educational children’s book that she wished she’d been able to read as a kid. The finished book spotlights ten women of color, but Gokhale says she had to exercise some restraint to keep it that length. “It would be an encyclopedia if it could be,” she says. “But I think what was important for me is to make sure that I found a bunch of women who were very diverse in not only their ethnic and racial backgrounds, but [also] the fields that they are in. It’s important to me for people to understand that women of color are not monolithic in any way – they’re interested in many different things and they come from many different places.”
Though Her Story is Our Story is primarily a book for children, Gokhale says she’d like for adults to read it too. “I think I want it to do different things for different people,” she says. “For young women of color, I want them to see themselves represented in something. That is why I wrote this. That is something that I didn’t experience and I think that’s such a powerful feeling. And then for other people, I think I want them to think critically. I really want my book, for older people, to kind of deconstruct this idea that people are worth celebrating simply because historically they’ve received the spotlight. None of these women have ever been in the spotlight. So, yeah, I think I want to teach older people maybe the value of representation just a little bit more.”