“Raised by Ragdolls” is a memoir written by teen activist, artist, and journalist Anya Thakur. She works to empower and uplift communities as founder of GirlUp Dallas, a UN Women organization, and a MetoWe partner with ArtRising, which provides arts enrichment to underprivileged communities and creates diverse programming for South and East Asian women. Hosting education, self-defense, and language and literature classes to empower rural women in Delhi, Mumbai, and Munipur, and humanitarian efforts with Myna Mahila, which empowers women in rural India through health education, her women’s advocacy promotes UN Women’s mission to ensure a fair and equitable future, and she has traveled throughout the United States and India to speak for girl’s education and empowerment.
A personal memoir on my journey of growth, exploring my culture, diversity and passions, and cultivating my identity and a love letter to my parents —
Many Asian Americans can recount how they were brought up by tigers, saber-toothed and sharp-clawed with viridescent eyes of jade and ruler-straight stripes. These tigers, otherwise known as parents, may have cultivated them to play the piano, to study to achieve, and were fiercely protective, but ruthless disciplinarians.
I was brought up in a house of ragdoll cats where drawing on the walls meant I was given a pack of color pencils and a sketchbook, bad grades meant an opportunity to impart wisdom on making mistakes and learning from them along with a comforting hug, and my mother prepared warm garlic naan breads and golden bowls of broth dusted with kisses of turmeric and spice for consolation.
Under our roof was where I would write the stories I wished to read and imagine girls like me as warrior princesses and heroines, armed with katana swords, brilliant ideas and bold words, and iron shields. I’d sketch until my pencil was worn down and it was past midnight but my mind was alive and buzzing with excitement and ideas.
It’s also where I realized my accented and nervous, at times stuttering English may sound broken to others, but was beautiful to us, that my stories could be shared for all girls of color, and decided if I wanted to see diverse portrayals of Asian Americans and women in media, I would have to be the one to tell their stories and champion representation.
I will hide and cry, make all the mistakes, and make them again until I learn and grow. But the freedom to stand on my own empowered me to share my words, to be a voice for ELL (English Language Learners) students and minorities, and to embrace my mistakes and obstacles as opportunities. From enlisting teens in underserved parts of my community to join GirlUp Dallas to hosting leadership and self defense workshops for girls in rural India and partnering with MetoWe to teach arts classes to those in need through creating ArtRising, I’ve done what intimidates me, but ultimately excites me and is right.
Rather than tigers holding the bird down under its paws, my parents were the house cats who set it free to and nudged it to explore, my mother’s familiar voice whispering “my brave cat” in Hindi as I faced down challenges, found my identity, and fought for myself and others to be seen. And by, at first tentatively, spreading my wings until they were fully irradiated by sunlight, I found my passion for advocacy through the arts, writing and storytelling and my way with their incredible support, but ultimately all on my own.