An Indian-American candidate running for South Carolina’s governor seat in the United States, was recently attacked with racial slur by a state lawmaker who called her a “raghead”. The daughter of Sikh Punjabi immigrants, she was the target of a type of verbal abuse that, sadly, is still commonly directed against ethnic groups that wear turbans or headdresses. The Sikh turban, or dastaar, an article of faith and spiritual significance, has become known all over the world as the most distinct identity of Sikhs, but most people don’t know what wearing it and what being a Sikh really means.
Explain the meaning of his turban is exactly what the young boy in the picture book A Lion’s Mane sets out—and succeeds—to do. Winner of a 2010 Skipping Stones Honor Award in the “Multicultural and International Awareness” category, A Lion’s Mane is the first title by Canadian Saffron Press, a new independent publisher whose goal is to promote awareness of our global world by publishing books that foster positive self-identity in children. Written by Navjot Kaur and illustrated by Jaspreet Sandhu, the book takes children on a journey around the world and toward better understanding by using the boy’s flowing red dastaar as the thread that connects him to others. The story begins with “I have a lion’s mane and I’m different, just like you. Do you know who I am?”, a question that is repeated throughout the book, and proceeds to reveal to readers the strength the boy derives from “having a lion’s mane” and “being a Khalsa Knight.” The journey takes us to various times and places— the Middle Ages, Ancient Iran, India, China, and more—all the while pointing to similarities between those cultures and values and the boy’s own. (To see a trailer of the book, click here.)
Educating our youth about the real meaning of the Sikh turban can help pave the way to ending haressment that stems, for the most part, from preconceived ideas and stereotypes. Kudos to Saffron Press for providing our children with this authentic and important story, and for reminding us that we all share a common, precious humanity.
The book’s press release packet lists the following websites where children can learn more about Sikhism:
Nathalie Mvondo recently wrote about the book on her blog Multiculturalism Rocks!, where she said: “A Lion’s Mane will be part of something special on Multiculturalism Rocks! soon.” Hmm… I wonder what sort of special treat Nathalie has in store… I encourage you all to keep your eyes peeled!