cover image Lioness of Punjab

Lioness of Punjab

Anita Jari Kharbanda. Yali, $22.99 (202p) ISBN 978-1-949528-71-8

Debut author Kharbanda crafts a riveting historical tale in this reimagining of the life of a Sikh warrior known as Mai Bhago (1670–1720), set in early 1700s Jhabal Kalan near Amritsar. Though Bhago is now a figure of Sikh legend, she was born Bhag Bhari and raised by a traditional family. From a young age, Bhag knew she “would not accept my fate as a woman,” especially while her uncles and male cousins went off to battle against the Mughal empire, most never to return. Throughout her life, she struggles to reconcile her self-imposed duty to protect her people with her yearning to be a good daughter. She soon persuades her father to teach her how to properly wield a weapon and, despite her insistence that she doesn’t want to conform to traditional expectations, marries. As war continues to ravage her people, Bhag comes into her own, intertwining her seemingly separate desires to bravely combat injustice. While the battle sequences are thrillingly wrought, it’s the narrative’s careful focus on Bhag’s development of her vocation; her relationship with her husband; and her community’s willingness to grow and change with her that proves thought-provoking and inspiring. An author’s note concludes. Ages 14–up. Agent: Jennifer Lyons, Jennifer Lyons Literary. (Sept.)