Friday, May 02, 2008

Apples and Mangoes: Marc Aronson's nonfiction title, The Real Revolution

I'm delighted to use this post to launch a new recurring topic in this blog: Apples and Mangoes. In it we'll look at books for children and young adults about South Asia or the South Asian diaspora. We'll pick books that bring together elements most people don't think of as belonging together, or books that push the boundaries of the existing literature. We'll also discuss topics of interest related to the South Asian presence in literature for young readers. Some of the books, although not all, will be by writers of South Asian origin. They will include fiction and nonfiction, and titles across the age range, picture books through YA. No question--apples and mangoes make a terrific fruit chaat!

For now, I'd like to start the Apples and Mangoes conversation by writing about a stunning nonfiction book, The Real Revolution by Marc Aronson. Here's Cynthia Leitich Smith's interview with Marc Aronson.

The third book in a trilogy, The Real Revolution is an account of the American Revolution for young readers, but it begins not with Washington as we might expect, but with Robert Clive. Aronson writes with vision and foresight and yet always manages to keep in mind the young reader. He trusts his readers, and it shows. The book fills in the blanks so often left gaping in traditional histories. For example, Aronson juxtaposes Tanaghrisson’s gamble in Ohio with Siraj-ud-daula and the Black Hole of Calcutta, and we start to see that patterns of colonization, and of the responses of the colonized, can and should be compared across continents. Daniel Boone’s pressing of the Proclamation Line is another example, placed side by side with Clive’s declaration, “We must indeed become Nabobs ourselves.” And the economics of it--why don't we teach that to children? Or to more adults, for that matter. Aronson lays bare the story of lines of credit, extending from Scottish tobacco merchants to Virginians, all resting on the inflow of loot from India to England that drove up the stock of the East India Company. Even the illustration captions offer unexpected insights and fascinating slants on the material presented. Here is nonfiction with a voice, and that voice speaks directly to a global view of history that we see all too rarely. This is a jewel of a book, worth reading and rereading.

The other two books in Aronson's nonfiction trilogy are Sir Walter Ralegh and the Quest for El Dorado and John Winthrop, Oliver Cromwell and The Land of Promise.

Guest bloggers for future Apples and Mangoes posts will include:

Anjali Banerjee, author of Maya Running and Looking for Bapu (both from Wendy Lamb Books/Random House) and a forthcoming middle grade novel.
Pooja Makhijani, author of Mama's Saris (Little, Brown, 2007; Random House India, forthcoming). Full-time, she works at Sesame Workshop where she oversees educational content for several international co-productions.
Mitali Perkins, of Mitali’s Fire Escape, author of Rickshaw Girl and Monsoon Summer.

Watch for posts by these writers and others.


  1. Thanks for mentioning The Real Revolution -- I have been tracing many more links between India and America, from 1600 to the present. From the Thoreau-Gandhi connection, to Rahmmohan Roy's influence on the Unitarians in New England to the strange way the American Civil War influenced cotton growing in India, the two lands have had deeper connections than we often realize

  2. Very true. Lots of people make the connection between Gandhi and MLK but the Thoreau connection is largely forgotten. Another American with an interesting connection to Gandhi was a man from Pennsylvania named Samuel Stokes. He was the first (maybe only? not sure) American to have been jailed in the Indian freedom movement. He's also credited with introducing systematic apple cultivation in India. Fascinating stuff.

  3. After reading your posting, "Apples and Mangoes" I went out and purchased Marc Aronson's books. They are filled with historical information, but more importantly he creates connecting threads throughout the world showing the whole picture as well as the cause and effect momentum. As an educator, I will be using these books in my social studies curriculum to broaden the minds of my middle grade students into analyzing exploration etc... in a more global perspective. THANKS for sharing.

  4. Tina I agree. His books are insightful and they show a respect for young readers, because they seem to be saying, It's complicated but hey, I trust you and I know you'll be able to live with ambiguity, with questions.