Do you know who M. S. Subbulakshmi (Madurai Shanmukhavadivu Subbulakshmi) was? She was a woman of India that broke gender barriers, had a powerful voice, and used it for justice and peace. Subbulakshmi was a young girl in India when girls had little options. A passion was signing, and she would sing whenever she could.
And in She Sang for India: How M. S. Subbulakshmi Uses Her Voice for Change you see how she would use her singing to show her love of her homeland, people, and culture. We see how Suma Subramaniam researched a woman who would use this voice to bring peace to her people, making people pay attention, and allowing her to perform in places that at one time people would leave if a woman was performing. She would go on to perform in movies, release albums, and more. So, you could say, yes, she did a little singing. Nothing big. You know, just to bring awareness to the plight of her people and her culture. (When I was a child I was arguing with my sister, reading and just being selfish compared to this powerhouse of a person!)
The details of her story unfold on the pages and are supported by the boldly colored and details of Shreya Gupta’s illustrations. These images are seriously bright, bold, colorful, and amazing. Detailed to show even the smallest part of her life, they tell the story in ways the text could not, while complimenting and supporting the text. Everything about the book is poetically formed. The story is romantic, and realistic, but it is also done by someone with great respect for their subject.
Who is the audience for this book? For certain the older child. This is not a usual book with “action and adventure” but a biography. Therefore, at least five and up would be the best bet. However, the seven and up would get much from it. The picture book format, however, might turn off some readers. It would be a good, but longer, read aloud. It could work for world history, history of India or women’s history. Music lovers of all ages will appreciate the look at a musical culture many westerners might not be familiar with.