Climbing the Stairs by Padma Venkatramen
G.P. Putnam’s sons, 2008
If you’re looking for a strong heroine, fifteen-year-old Vidya meets the requirements. In British-occupied India during WW II, when Indian women were expected to marry and raise children, Vidya’s beloved father, her appa, promises her she can go to college. Her dreams for the future change in an instant when Appa is severely injured during a demonstration for Indian independence.
Vidya is forced to move from Bombay with her mother, her father and college-age brother Kitta to their uncle’s home in Madras. Here, relegated to hours of chores by her ungracious aunt, Vidya strains against the cultural rules and expectations regarding women. What will become of her dream? Will she still be able to go to college?
Vidya discovers her grandfather’s library in an upstairs room of her uncle’s home. But she has to defy tradition first.
The staircase stood silent and empty. But it was forbidding. The barrier between the two floors of the house was unbroken except at mealtimes, when the men descended into our realm. Only men used the stairs. If anyone caught me walking up them, what would Periamma do to me?
Vidya fights for her freedom as India fights for independence, and the author weaves together themes of freedom, war and violence vs. non-violence to create a wholly satisfying read.
Visit the book’s website for a wealth of background information and discussion guides.
Julia Ward Howe Boston Authors Club 2009 Award (young readers book of the year)
Bank Street College of Education Best Book of the Year
ALA/YALSA Best Book for Young Adults
Award-Winning Book Challenge Status: 8 /11