Meera Ghanshamdas is the manager at Moon Lane Ink CIC, a social enterprise dedicated to raising equality of access and representation in children’s books.
She is passionate about driving forward change and progressing the conversation with regards to diversity and inclusion and has spoken publicly at various institutions and conferences about the subject.
Born in Hong Kong, she has lived in five countries, across three continents, before settling to live in London. Meera has a BA (Hons) in Fine Art from Central Saint Martins.
Here, Meera takes some time out to share her favourite funny Young Adult books, which could help provide you with some inspiration in preparing your submissions for our National Comedy Award ....
“I would like to read something really funny”. The teenager speaking to me is around five foot nine, of Asian heritage, and radiates confidence, “and please do not suggest When Dimple Met Rishi, it is not my thing. I prefer my rom with a lot more com”. She goes on to tell me that though she is out and proud, she does not mind reading about heteronormative relationships as long as the book does not take itself too seriously and makes her laugh, “really laugh!”
It is a challenging request. Young Adult titles can be equally exciting as they are beautifully written, with authors who are not afraid to tackle difficult issues. And YA is not only for teens, for many adults it is their genre of choice. Words that come to mind with respect to the genre are adventurous, thought-provoking, unconventional, and revolutionary. But humour often goes amiss.
Much like film, books that get the balance right between thought-provoking and witty hit that sweet spot of great comedy and reach a wider audience. Yes, No, Maybe So by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed, is a funny and engaging story. The book follows Jamie Goldberg and Maya Rehman, two childhood friends who are reunited the summer before their senior year of high school when their parents gently encourage them to spend a few hours a week canvassing for their local party candidate. The book addresses Islamophobia, Anti-Semitism, and activism, but is also a rom-com with a lot of heart and laughs.
Camp by L.C. Rosen is a recently published fantastic summer read. The book is set at Camp Outland, a camp for queer teens, and actively opposes toxic masculinity. Camp Outland is a place where teens are free to be themselves, away from the outside world where they might have to sometimes hide who they really are. Randy the main protagonist is smart, funny and fabulous. The book is great for all teenagers; a reminder to readers that self-discovery is a journey, sometimes steeped in lies, but you get there in the end.
I love a book which explores an unusual hobby, hearing the passion in which people describe what they are into is contagious. In Boys Don’t Knit by Tom Easton, you guessed it, Ben Fletcher makes an unexpected discovery - he actually loves knitting. After a peculiar incident regarding a lollipop lady and a bottle of Martini & Rossi, Ben is forced to take up community service and a hobby to avoid the Young Offender's unit. The result is a hilarious story involving complex knitting patterns and delving into the unknown world of competitive knitting.
Each book provides something different while still being humorous. The last book I would add is Diary of a Confused Feminist by the stand-up comedian Kate Weston. Feminism has become a difficult word not just for teenagers, but for women in general. Kat wants to be a good feminist but does not know exactly what that is. The book navigates feminism, both past and present-day, role models, the challenges of feminine hygiene, and mental health all with humour and wit.
Enter your comedic writing and comedic performance submissions to the Louise Rennison National Funny Award 2020 here. Entries close August 31st 2020.