Shelly Anand ’08 is a labor rights lawyer in Atlanta. Her debut children’s book concerns an Indian American girl who becomes aware of her upper-lip hair (mooch) and hair everywhere. When Laxmi worries about whether she’s normal, her parents inspire her to start a mooch revolution! Laxmi’s Mooch is the book I wished for as a child, so I hopped onto Zoom to meet Anand.
What made you want to write this book?
I was on maternity leave with my daughter, and one of my good friends, Sonya Khan ’99, called. Her daughter was in kindergarten and came home crying because some girl made fun of her mustache. She was like, “What am I going to do? I’m not going to take her to Ruby Auntie’s salon!” I was like, “Yeah, we’re not gonna wax our infants.” I remember getting teased myself and how painful it was. I didn’t want that for our kids.
Is this book for the bullies, too?
Yeah. I hope white girls read this book and learn acceptance and that they have a mooch just like Laxmi. I hope we can encourage kids to come from a place of love and curiosity rather than meanness.
How did you and your agent, Saba Sulaiman ’09, meet?
I’ve known her since she was a first-year at Wellesley. We actually met at Harvard. We used to go there to watch the India–Pakistan cricket matches. Saba’s a very loving, supportive person. If any Wellesley alum wants to get her advice, she will give it. That’s just the type of person she is, especially when it comes to writing. I sent [the manuscript] to her and she was like, “I really love the concept. We need this.”
Your illustrator, Nabi Ali, did an incredible job.
I had seen his art even before the book got picked up. I was doing some activism in Decatur, Ga., around getting this Confederate monument removed and he had done a depiction of the Hindu goddess Durga. Instead of killing a demon, she’s on top of a Klansman. I was like, “This is my identity right here.”
Any advice about writing for children?
If you have young children in your life, pay attention and listen to them. What’s going on with them? What questions are they asking? What are things you wanted to know when you were a kid?
I Love My Body Because comes out in summer 2022, co-written with Naomi Ellenson, who’s Hannah Ellenson ’08’s sister!
Ashraf is a television writer who has a cool mooch, too. See her “Endnote” of this issue.