Keralites will know the above image is from the Malayalam movie ‘Pranchiyettan and the Saint’, in which the protagonist Pranchiyettan is disheartened by the nickname that has befallen on him since he was a child. St. Francis of Assisi, who has materialised from the statue in the church where Pranchiyettan has visited to relieve his worries (Malayalam movies are really cool!), asks him ‘What’s in a name?’ and continues to convince him that your identity is not solely linked to your name.
Yes, a name is only a part of your identity. But you should be able to hold that part with pride and joy.
My maiden surname was Eluvathingal. For me, that name is a switch that floods light on memories, faces of my grandparents, aunties, uncles and cousins and transports me back to fun gatherings, sorrow, drama and joy alike. That name is the bond that links me to family and place– my belonging. My Dad’s old colleagues in Melbourne, finding Eluvathingal too hard to pronounce would address him as ‘Hell-of-a-thing’ instead, because obviously that was an easier mouthful than learning how to say ‘Eluvathingal’. However, this occurred in the late 80s and times have changed.
Don’t think that time changes by itself though. It is when intolerance is called out, respect demanded, and stories shared that we travel forward into better times.
I’m sure the following books have played an important part in pulling the world into shape. Click on the image to read more about these books.
To this wonderful mix of ‘name books’ I humbly add my own – The Boy Who Tried to Shrink His Name, beautifully illustrated by Michelle Pereira and published by Hardie Grant Children’s Publishing, Bright Light imprint, 2021.
When Zimdalamashkermishkada starts a new school, he knows he’s got to do something about his long name. When no amount of shrinking, folding or crumpling works, he simply settles for Zim – but deep down, it doesn’t feel right. It’s not until a new friend sees him for who he truly is that Zimdalamashkermishkada finds the confidence to step boldly into his long name.
A warm and uplifting story that encourages young readers to celebrate their individuality, and shows how no-one should ever have to shrink themselves down to fit in.
These are only a selection of many name books that exist in children’s literature. Why are there so many stories written around pronunciation and acceptance of ones name? It is because, while names are only a part of our identity, our names are an important facet that make us shine, enriching us with meaning, culture and a whole lot that we hold dear to us.
Today in Australia we celebrate Harmony Day, which is held every year on March 21st and coincides with the United Nations International Day for Elimination of Racial Discrimination. By reading books and sharing stories we celebrate cultural diversity, inclusiveness and belonging.
What books will you be reading this week?