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Diversity in Youth Literature with Padma Venkatraman: PCL READS Author Talk

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PCL OnlineRoom
Monday, October 4, 2021 - 6:00pm to 7:00pm
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Providence, RI 02940

The author Padma Venkatraman joins us virtually to discuss diversity in youth literature as well as her new book BORN BEHIND BARS!


About this event

We are thrilled to welcome back the RI author Padma Venkatraman for a talk about diversity in youth literature and to celebrate her fifth novel, Born Behind Bars. Don’t miss out on this extraordinary talk as Padma shares information about diversity, class distinctions, and resources for parents, students and the community as a whole. As a special bonus, she will also be highlighting National Make a Difference Day which is the third Saturday in October.

In a starred review from Kirkus, BORN BEHIND BARS is described as a “compelling novel [that] develops at a brisk place, advanced by evocative details and short chapters full of action. A gritty story filled with hope and idealism.” ALA Booklist, in its starred review, described BORN BEHIND BARS as “An optimistic and earnest tale of the power of hope and the gift of family in all forms.” The print edition is available to check out from our catalog.

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Padma Venkatraman has led diversity efforts at URI, served as chief scientist on research vessels in Germany, directed a school in England, worked in a laboratory at Johns Hopkins University, and obtained her doctorate in oceanography at the College of William and Mary before becoming a full-time author. Her fifth novel, BORN BEHIND BARS, which is a Junior Library Guild selection and has thus far received starred reviews from Kirkus and ALA Booklist, is another gripping story set in Chennai, India, featuring a boy who's unexpectedly released into the world after spending his whole life in jail with his mom. Her previous novels, THE BRIDGE HOME, A TIME TO DANCE, CLIMBING THE STAIRS and ISLAND'S END were also all released to starred reviews and gained several awards and honors. Born in India, Venkatraman was sworn in as a citizen of the United States in Rhode Island, which is now her home.



Kabir has been in jail since the day he was born, because his mom is serving time for a crime she didn’t commit. He’s never met his dad, so the only family he’s got are their cellmates, and the only place he feels the least bit free is in the classroom, where his kind teacher regales him with stories of the wonders of the outside world. Then one day a new warden arrives and announces Kabir is too old to stay. He gets handed over to a long-lost “uncle” who unfortunately turns out to be a fraud, and intends to sell Kabir. So Kabir does the only thing he can–run away as fast as his legs will take him. How does a boy with nowhere to go and no connections make his way? Fortunately, he befriends Rani, another street kid, and she takes him under her wing. But plotting their next move is hard–and fraught with danger–in a world that cares little for homeless, low caste children. This is not the world Kabir dreamed of–but he’s discovered he’s not the type to give up. Kabir is ready to show the world that he–and his mother–deserve a place in it.



Do you have questions about the author talk? Contact Lee Smith at . Amy Rosa is on maternity leave—we’ll welcome her back soon!

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Lee Smith
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