This is the true story of young Harish Kumar who lost his parents and had to support his little sisters, following his love of and gift for traditional dance to become the beloved Rajasthani drag performer Queen Harish, defying the gender conventions of middle class Indian life and growing up to dance with Bollywood stars, to marry, and to have two children of his own.
This picture book biography in verse follows the life of beloved Rajasthani drag performer Queen Harish, known as the Whirling Desert Queen of Rajasthan. Lit by an inner fire and propelled by a family tragedy, Harish defied the gender conventions of middle class Indian life, battled discrimination and intimidation, and eventually grew up to dance with Bollywood movie stars and on stages across the world.
Jyoti Gopal’s rhythmic phrases evoke the particular sounds and beats of the music Harish danced to, and capture the passions and conflicts of his life. The poignant and inspiring tale is interpreted by internationally acclaimed Rajasthani artist Svabhu Kohli in kohl-black lines and shapes and brilliant jewel-like colors.
Ryoti Rajan Gopal is the author of American Desi and My Paati's Saris. Growing up, she lived in Thailand, Indonesia, Myanmar, India and China. She now lives in New York, in a quirky old Victorian in Yonkers, with her husband, where they raised their two daughters. Her favorite place in the house is the wrap around porch where she loves to gather with family or friends, read, write and drink coffee.
Svabhu Kohli is an visual storyteller. His practice focuses on the intersection of magical realism, conservation and art as a medium to understand our relationship with the universe and its complex life forms. He has illustrated for Google Doodle, The Guardian and GQ. The Desert Queen is his first book for children.
[STAR] “Vibrant, kaleidoscopic illustrations inspired by the desert environs and the textiles, architecture, and artwork of the city of Jaisalmer capture the joyful dancer's whirling and swirling movements… Lyrical poetry mirrors the sounds and beats of the local folk music and complements the dreamlike visuals. Evocative and electrifying.” – Kirkus Reviews (starred)
“A love letter to gender fluidity, accompanied by stunning art full of vibrancy and warmth.” – Betsy Bird, Fuse8
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