Former educator empowers girls with diverse stories of inspiring Indian women

“When girls of color don’t see themselves in the books they read and the curriculum they’re taught, they grow up thinking they don’t matter.”

ATLANTA, GAThis Women’s History Month, celebrate and inspire a new generation with this beautifully illustrated rhyming compilation of biographies. “Shakti Girls” (March 6, 2023, Shakti LLC) is a collection of poems illustrating the stories of 13 unforgettable, powerful Indian women that reflect the diversity of India and its diaspora.

The book includes representations of over 10 different industries, such as women in science, politics, math, activism and sports. Indian women have been breaking ceilings and ushering in powerful change for decades, and “Shakti Girls” takes the opportunity to celebrate that with girls and women of all ages.

Inspired by her time as a girls’ school educator, debut author Shetal Shah dreamed of seeing bookshelves filled with stories of women that looked like her. Knowing how important it is for girls and children of color to learn about leaders of similar identities, Shah aims to bring awareness of groundbreaking women from India through her writing that will delight and inspire others to strive beyond any limit. 

Empowering words in Hindi and motivating messages are woven into each verse to affirm each young reader’s identity and self-esteem. A short glossary of English and Hindi words is provided on each page to enhance the experience with uninterrupted reading, as well as activities to empower one’s inner shakti.

“Shakti Girls”

Shetal Shah | March 6, 2023 | Shakti Girls, LLC | Children’s Nonfiction 

Hardcover | 9798986954509 | $17.99

Paperback | 979-8-9869545-1-6 | $13.99


SHETAL SHAH grew up to the sounds of Bollywood and the delicious smells of her mother’s Indian cooking in the suburbs of New York City. As a second-generation Indian-American, Shetal hoped to one day see more stories of girls like her fill the shelves of local bookstores. 

A former educator, Shetal taught world history in all-girls schools where she was reminded how curriculum and literature inclusive of women from diverse backgrounds can have a positive impact on girls’ self-esteem, identity development and belonging. Shetal also developed and led numerous educator workshops, presenting at national conferences covering topics on pedagogy and diversity and inclusion. 

Shetal currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband and her two young boys while pursuing her writing and mission to bring diversity to bookshelves with stories that inspire. “Shakti Girls” is her inspiring debut.

Follow Shetal on social media:

Facebook | Twitter: @ShetalWrites 

Instagram: @Shetal.Shah.Writes and @Shakti_Girls

In an interview, Shetal can discuss:

  • Her experience as a former girls’ school educator and school administrator, where she facilitated faculty on topics of diversity and inclusion in curriculum and presented on such topics. 
  • The importance of showing diversity in children’s literature and diversifying curriculum to bring visibility to all students.
  • Being a second-generation Indian-American and her experience growing up in America, as well as her experience now that she is raising two children of her own.
  • How motherhood and teaching at an all-girls school propelled her to write “Shakti Girls.” 
  • Why she chose to include each of the thirteen well-known Indian women that reflect the diversity of India and the desire that they will empower young Indian girls, especially to see themselves in areas of science, politics, math, activism, sports and more!

An Interview with

Shetal Shah

1. What inspired you to write Shakti Girls

My own experience growing up in the U.S. with little to no representation of my heritage and identity in books, media and curriculum, and then realizing as an educator and a mother raising the next generation of Indian-Americans that there was still not enough representation, especially of Indian women, inspired me to write “Shakti Girls.” I reached a point in my life where I too was yearning for inspiration from strong women that looked like me and had similar stories to mine; stories that would inspire me into the next chapter of my life. I wrote “Shakti Girls” just as much for myself as I did for the next generation to feel empowered to step into their authentic selves and defy the notion to fit a mold. 

2. Why did you choose the women and the stories that you chose for this book? 

When I started to plan the book, I knew that I wanted to incorporate women from a variety of backgrounds and industries to reflect the diversity of the Indian diaspora but also the talent within it. Some of these women have been part of my own personal journey and a source of inspiration to me for a long time, like Jhumpa Lahiri whose book “Interpreter of Maladies” I read when I was in high school. I wanted to pay homage to these role models by including them in the book. And some of these women I came across for the first time when conducting research for “Shakti Girls,” but immediately became drawn to their stories and what they represented. 

3. What do you hope readers – children, parents and educators – will take away from this book? 

I hope “Shakti Girls” inspires families and their children to feel empowered while developing a broader view of the world. I hope readers walk away from the book knowing that anything is possible with passion and persistence. They can imagine new possibilities and spark new ideas while embracing their authentic selves. I hope that readers will understand that regardless of where we come from, we can make a difference and achieve great things.

4. How did you go about researching for this book, and what was it like to write with a rhyme scheme in mind? 

It started with design thinking, a pedagogical strategy and approach I taught as an educator, to help students design projects that solved a real world problem. Once I moved past the ideate phase, I formulated questions from my own genuine curiosity and dug into what I wanted to learn, as well as what my children and those in my target audience suggested I research. Once I got a good sense of what questions to ask and answers to look for, I started to read articles, biographies and websites and listened to and watched interviews and podcasts to really get a sense of each woman and her story. Learning about the lives of these women was incredibly fulfilling and empowering! Writing in rhyme scheme was definitely a challenge! I initially wrote all the poems in prose, so that I at least had a working draft to start with that had the content I wanted to include, and then decided to brush up on my rhyming skills with workshops and online tutorials. It’s a lot harder than it looks! After endless rounds of clapping, counting syllables, and singing the poems while dusting off my thesaurus, I finally reached a level of satisfaction. 

5. Will there be more Shakti Girls books? Who would you include?

Absolutely! There are so many stories of inspiration the world needs to learn about. I want to include more women from history, like Jhansi Ki Rani and Ahilyabhai Holkar, as well as include representation of nonbinary and LGBTQ+ trailblazers in future editions of “Shakti Girls.” There are many unsung she-roes and trailblazers to be inspired by! 

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