She Sang for India: How M.S. Subbulakshmi Used Her Voice for Change

Farrar. Nov. 2022. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780374388744.
K-Gr 3–Kunja Subbulakshmi sings with her grandmother, mother, and sister as they play the violin, tambura, and veena. Her brother plays a mridangam. Her instrument is her voice, and this takes place at home, for in early-1900s India, she is not allowed to sing in public. So Subbulakshmi breaks some rules to perform at small festivals. Then she makes an album. It takes time and persistence for her to break down barriers, until the day when an illustrious academy that had rejected her finally allows her to perform. History is truly made when Ghandi asks that she sing for India’s freedom. This true story will fascinate and charm children who will wonder that the simple act of a girl singing is not permitted. The author does not gloss over the hardships. The illustrations with colorful backdrops and historical details show scene after scene of Subbulakshmi in a closed-eye, beatific state of singing; these are very moving at first though do become repetitive. In a very few pages the book covers India’s tumultuous and sorrowful path to independence, a bittersweet depiction that may launch discussion of the costs of freedom. Back matter includes information about Carnatic music, a glossary, time line, and bibliography.
VERDICT A wonderful biography for every collection.

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