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On My Bedside Table

On My Bedside Table

The ‘On my bedside table’ series – Maya Angelou and Judith Kerr

During this lockdown people have tried to find their own ‘happy’ – be it music, gardening, exercise or like in my case books. Call it escapism or working your own grey cells, books have always helped me do away with all the white noise and focus on the journey with the protagonist. And I have recently had the privilege of walking the dusty paths of Arkansas during the days of segregation with Mary Angelou and the cobbled footpaths of glamourous Paris with Judith Kerr.

‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ is part of Maya Angelou’s autobiographical work describing her childhood in racially divided heartland of America during the 30s. I loved the simple narrative of the times seen through the naïve eyes of a little girl who despite the momentous times she was living in was more worried about being picked on and making friends like any other child. It is a wonderful coming of age story which despite the trials faced through childhood forms a rare and sustaining bond with literature.

Judith Kerr, well know for her endearing book The Tiger Who Came to Tea, chronicled her childhood through another momentous slice of history – Nazi Germany during the 30s. ‘When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit’ is the first book in her autobiographical work describing their escape from pre-Hitler Germany, to Switzerland, through Paris finally reaching London. Little Anna, the character portraying. Judith as a child, misses her big home in Berlin and is annoyed for getting measly gifts for her 10 th birthday while her brother Michael had been treated to a lavish spread for hitting his double digits.

As an adult living through a pandemic with a child on the cusp of teenage, these books were most apt to read under the current circumstances – not just for their inherent innocence but for their message of strength, endurance and a better tomorrow.

-- Written by Sonali Deshpande --