- Response to “Review of Contemporary English-Language Indian Children’s Literature: Representations of Nation, Culture, and the New Indian Girl” Bookbird 50.3 (July 2012) by Fawzia Gilani-Williams
I appreciate this opportunity to clarify the misunderstandings that have skewed Fawzia Gilani-Williams’s interpretation of my book and prompted her misguided conclusion that I deliberately excluded particular writers and texts, thus calling into question my findings.
Readers should be aware that I explicitly state the parameters of the study and my methodology in the Introduction (pages 2–6) and that throughout the discussion, I never generalize any findings beyond the 101 books in the sample group, thus ensuring the validity of the analysis.
It is also important to note that I provide both a clear description of the difficulty I encountered in sourcing and accessing the primary texts comprising the sample (due to limited print runs and poor distribution) (page 2) and an explanation for the focus on novels instead of other genres (page 3): the texts I studied were limited to those I was able to access, while I chose to focus on novels due to their potential to illuminate issues related to nationhood and national aspirations. I am saddened by the baseless accusation that I deliberately excluded Muslim writers; Gilani-Williams would have done better to join me in my repeated, emphatic questioning of the narrow, hegemonic, and often Hinducentric, portrayals of nation, culture, and gender within the body of texts that I examine—which is precisely the position I take in framing and supporting my argument throughout the entire book (see especially pages 4 and 178).
With this clarification of the parameters and focus of my discussion, I should also stress that I would welcome input from any readers, including Gilani-Williams, recommending novels “written by Indian authors living in India, the United Kingdom, and North America, and published for readers aged eight through eighteen, between 1988 and 2008” (Superle 2) that include the writers and content/themes she suggests I have excluded so that I can become familiar with these unknown and previously inaccessible texts. [End Page 102]
Michelle Superle’s response to my review indicates it has apparently become another example of that age-old problem of symbolic interactionism. In the spirit of sociological inquiry, I had raised the methodological issue of bias in sample representation, which was apparently and unfortunately misinterpreted by Superle as a “baseless accusation that [she] deliberately excluded Muslim writers.” Issues of bias in the sociology of literature are not personal attacks but merely its conventions. For the rest we nearly have a marriage of minds, but the question remains—how representative of India were these texts in their notion of a “New Indian Girl”?