Day 8: Kaluti

Across the first month of 2020, Sophie Baggott is sharing her thirty favourite books by women from across the world. Find out more about her project to read women writers from every country worldwide here.

One of the most anticipated books I’ve read since moving to Australia was this 36-page book, Kaluti, by Shazia Usman. I came across Shazia’s writing through my colleague at the International Women’s Development Agency, who suggested it’d be a fantastic choice from Fiji’s literary scene… She was not wrong! This is an important book for children, and I hope it’s read as widely as possible.

A one-of-a-kind book

In a nutshell: This empowering book for children tells the story of a 10-year-old girl, Zia, who is forced to confront colourism when her aunt refers to her as ‘kaluti’ – a derogatory term used by Fijian-Indian people to describe those who have dark skin.

To pluck out a line“Maybe I am not important to anyone because I am dark”

If I had to choose one image: After hearing herself dubbed ‘kaluti’ for the first time, Zia borrows her father’s phone to look up the word and her response is heart-breaking.

Sharing a thought: The book also subtly raises the notion of traditional gender norms in childhood – whereas Zia’s aunt forbids her daughter to be in the sun, fearing the idea of darkening skin, she allows her son to do as he wishes.

Fact: I was lucky enough to interview Shazia for International Day of the Girl, and learned that her inspiration for the book came from seeing girls go through what she had when she was their age; she describes the book as a love letter to her younger self and other brown girls out there.

If you’d like to read Kaluti, visit here.

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