Laila Levenson has always been the baby of the family, but now with her older siblings, Mira and Krish, leaving home just as she starts secondary school, everything feels like it’s changing… can the reappearance of Nana Josie’s Protest Book and the spirit it releases in Laila, her friends and her local community, help her find her own voice and discover what she truly believes in?
A powerful chime rings through Laila’s mind, guiding her to walk the footsteps of the past on her way to discover her own future.
Tender Earth by Sita Brahmachari
‘A coming of age story for young protesters everywhere.’
Tender Earth is endorsed by Amnesty International UK because ‘it illuminates the importance of equality, friendship and solidarity, and upholds our right to protest against injustice.’
Guestpost by Sita Brahmachari
‘IF THE SOUL OF THE NATION IS TO BE SAVED YOU MUST BECOME ITS SOUL’
– CORETTA SCOTT KING
Coretta Scott King was an American author, civil rights activist, and wife of Martin Luther King
Tender Earth is set in our world today and, as in our world, social inequality and poverty affect all the characters in the story in one way or another. While Tender Earth is set in London, it could easily be any world city and the poverty experienced by these characters in their city impacts on others in different cities and countries too. My characters are connected in a global web.
Janu, Laila Levenson’s relative, is visiting London from India on a fundraising mission for the children in his orphanages. He writes this on his fundraising website Barefootblogger.com:
‘Like my own mother, many disabled children born into poverty are abandoned, often left on the street at the mercy of others who would exploit them. I walk barefoot for a future for every one of them.’
When Janu visits London he is shocked by the many faces of poverty he meets, from the homeless man on the underground he buys a cup of tea for, to the children who beg on the London Underground:
‘I really was not expecting to find this here, it’s just like back home. Perhaps I was naïve.’
There are some obvious signs of poverty that all my characters come into contact with, but there are also many aspects of poverty that characters attempt to keep hidden. When I was writing this scene in Tender Earth I felt deeply saddened, knowing that every day in schools across Britain children like Pari are going hungry. In this excerpt, set in the school lunch hall, Laila is angry that her friend Pari feels ashamed that she’s eating an out of date sandwich from a food bank.
Pari takes ages to finish her sandwich. Her empty packet’s got a big red sticker over it saying the sell-by date.
‘You should take that back. It was best before yesterday. Did it taste alright?’
I point to the label but Pari shrugs. ‘It’s OK. It’s not from here. They never go off on the actual day.’
She hasn’t got anything else to eat so I split my flapjack and hand half to her.
Pari turns the packet over so I can’t see the date anymore. I wish I hadn’t made a thing of it now.
When I was plotting the friendship journeys between my characters the word that kept emerging was ‘shame’. I don’t believe that the characters in Tender Earth who live in poverty should feel ashamed. Like Laila and Pari I don’t believe that we should accept that two young people, who live in the same community, and are in the same class at school, should have to live such different lives.
Does seeing and experiencing poverty in this country and throughout the world trouble you as much as it does Laila, Janu and their friends? If it does, click on these links that I looked at during my research… and consider converting thoughts into action and, as soon as you are legally able, VOTE for what you believe in.
Sita lives and works in North London with her husband, three children and a temperamental cat.
She has a BA in English Literature and an MA in Arts Education. Her many projects and writing commissions have been produced in theatres, universities, schools and community groups throughout Britain and America.
Tender Earth is out now!