Heroic Narrative

Neela Vaswani, who won the Grammy for Best Children’s Album, on Malala’s message of peace and finding the emotional truth of the story.

Written by Suanshu Khurana | Updated: February 12, 2015 12:01 am
Neela Vaswani, grmmys Vaswani at the Grammys.

New York-based Neela Vaswani was dressing Armani models, ripping tickets at movie theatres, was a stage manager, a secretary, an ice-cream truck driver, and a prop girl before she turned writer. But one thing that she never factored in was a Grammy. At the Staples Centre in Los Angeles, on Monday, Vaswani won the golden gramophone for the Best Children’s Album for her narration of I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up For Education And Changed The World by Patricia McCormick and Malala Yousafzai (Hachette Book Group USA).

Vaswani is not a professional musician. But at the Grammys, she beat famous children singer duos Okee Dokee Brothers and The Pop Ups; “kid hop” musician Secret Agent 23 Skidoo; and children’s music band Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could. “I’m so happy about being a part of furthering Malala’s message of peace and education for all children, regardless of gender and economics,” she said in an email interview. She is the author of a short story collection Where the Long Grass Bends and a memoir titled You Have Given Me A Country and winner of the American Book Award, the O Henry Prize and an Audie Award.

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Born to a Sindhi doctor father and an Irish-American mother, who is a teacher, Vaswani lived in various states in the US and around the world, on doctor swaps and teaching tours.

The audio book had Vaswani poring over every article, interview, and clips of video available on the Pakistani Nobel Prize winner. “I wanted to understand Malala, as a real and complex person and Malala, the heroine and public figure. It was important to get to the emotional truth of her story. I worked on my accent, too, though once in the studio, I had to tailor it for Western audiences,” says Vaswani.