Talking about our bodies, one page at a time7 min readReading Time: 5 minutes
\Your Body is Yours – say that aloud. Of course we know that our bodies are our own, but what does it mean to actually be aware of it? This is what Yamini Vijayan and Aindri C explore through their book, ‘Your Body Is Yours’. Not only does it create conversations around bodies, consent and safe touch, the book also breaks down these confusing topics for young adults, especially those between the ages of 8-12 years.
Your Body is Yours is a picture book from Pratham Books.
About the Team
<< Yamini is a writer and editor based in Bengaluru. At the moment, she’s on an entrepreneurial pursuit.
>> Aindri is an illustrator who has been working with children’s media since 2006.
About the book:
Your Body is Yours is about bodies, consent and safe touch. It was created with the intention of starting open and healthy conversations around our bodies, especially since there is so much awkwardness and embarrassment around it.
Breaking down the complexity?
Yamini: I began by reading on safe and unsafe touch, and there’s a fair bit in terms of articles and studies. I also spoke to some experts who have been working with survivors of abuse as and those raising awareness around touch. Once this was done, I had to think about how I wanted to communicate this to a child. After much thought, I decided to use a direct and conversational tone. It was important to me that my reader isn’t spoken down to and at the same time, go away from the book feeling hopeful and empowered.
Aindri: Yamini was resolute about having everybody represented in this book which was really inspiring. One of the challenging aspects for me was to convey consent to the reader in a visual way. In the beginning, we designed a personal boundary for each character in the shape of a patronus (guardian shield). In order to show harassment, we would focus on breach of this personal boundary.
Making the story relatable:
Yamini: I did struggle with the tone of the book. I wasn’t entirely sure how to dive straight into consent and the reality that there might be people who won’t respect your boundaries. Which is what led me to talking about the body in a general way: about different kinds of bodies, how each one’s body is unique and the way it changes over time. In India, we rarely talk to young adults about their bodies. So, I was really thankful to have an opportunity to do that. With the kind of silence that exists, every conversation around consent matters.
Yamini: I feel that it’s crucial to have conversations about our bodies, consent and safety right from a young age. Of course, this has to be done in an age-appropriate and sensitive manner. We have to do this with openness, empathy and without embarrassment. These conversations have to be had both in schools and at home. We have to also ensure that a safe space is created so that everylne feels free to express their thoughts and ask questions as well.
Aindri: It is vital that young people are given the tools to be able to make decisions regarding their bodies. This has a direct positive impact on self-confidence and communication skills in young people. For me, it took a long time to articulate myself because I didn’t have these tools, but now I see an explosion of creative work – from games, comics, children’s picture books and films.
Quick five with Yamini and Aindri
Yamini’s favourite books for children
- Ammachi’s Glasses by Priya Kuriyan (Tulika)
- Anand by Rajiv Eipe (Pratham Books)
- The Princess With the Longest Hair by Komilla Raote & Vandana Bist (Katha)
- Phiss Phuss Boom by Anushka Ravishankar, Jerry Pinto & Sayoni Basu & Vinayak Varma (Duckbill)
- Actual Size by Steve Jenkins
Aindri’s favourite illustrators
“I am currently obsessed with Ghibli fan art. One of my favourite illustrators is Jillian Tamaki whose work I feel combines line art, water colour washes and character designs. My favourite part of This One Summer that she wrote and illustrated, is two tween girls having a refreshingly mature conversation about unwanted pregnancies.”
Most challenging part of the book:
Yamini: Deciding what to include and what to leave out was the most difficult aspect of writing for me. For instance, I was told about the violation of children through photography, which is fairly common now with phone cameras everywhere. Safety is such a vast topic that I had to tell myself not to digress from the essentials. This is when it helps to have good editors.
Partnering with Pratham Books
Yamini : The book has been created for any (and every) young reader and I do hope that it’s widely distributed. What Pratham Books does wonderfully is to create wide access to these books by making them affordable, digitally available (for free) and available in multiple languages.
Working on children’s literature…
Yamini: I have one children’s book coming out soon which will be published by Pratham Books. The story explores ideas like guilt and forgiveness.
Aindri : The best part about children’s literature is that the subject matter is not solely meant for children, but anyone can access it. I am hopeful that more publishers, writers, illustrators, mediums will emerge.
Would you like to read this book? You can get it at https://store.prathambooks.org/productDetails?Your-Body-is-Yours-english
(Trailblazers 2.0 is a bi-monthly column where we feature inspiring adults who are doing great things, in their own way)
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Images: Yamini Vijayan