STRONG AS FIRE, FIERCE AS FLAME


India, 1857

Meera’s future has been planned for her for as long as she can remember. As a child, her parents married her to a boy from a neighboring village whom she barely knows. But on the eve of her thirteenth birthday, her husband is killed in the riots following an uprising of Indian soldiers. Meera’s father insists that she follow the dictates of their fringe religious sect: end her own life on her husband’s funeral pyre.

Risking everything, Meera runs away, escaping into the chaos of the rebellion. But her newfound freedom is short-lived, as she is forced to become a servant in the house of a high-ranking British East India Company captain.

more …

India, 1857

Meera’s future has been planned for her for as long as she can remember. As a child, her parents married her to a boy from a neighboring village whom she barely knows. But on the eve of her thirteenth birthday, her husband is killed in the riots following an uprising of Indian soldiers. Meera’s father insists that she follow the dictates of their fringe religious sect: end her own life on her husband’s funeral pyre.

Risking everything, Meera runs away, escaping into the chaos of the rebellion. But her newfound freedom is short-lived, as she is forced to become a servant in the house of a high-ranking British East India Company captain. Through her work, she gains confidence, new friends, and new skills. But one day, Meera stumbles upon the captain’s secret stock of ammunition, destined to be used by the British to continue colonizing India and control its citizens.

Will Meera do her part to take down the British colonists and alert the rebellion of the stockpile? Or will she stay safe and let others make decisions for her? How much fire must a girl face to finally write her own destiny?

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  • Lee & Low Books
  • Hardcover
  • February 2021
  • 324 Pages
  • 9781643790404

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About Supriya Kelkar

Supriya Kelkar is a screenwriter who has worked on the writing teams for several Hindi films and one Hollywood feature. Her books include Ahimsa; Strong as Fire, Fierce as Flame; American as Paneer Pie; and That Thing About Bollywood, among others.

Praise

“Child marriages, sexist ideologies, and the terrors of colonialism are just a handful of subjects Kelkar scrutinizes through the lens of a teenager in the thick of it. Meera’s transformation from a complacent girl to embracing her spirited convictions is nothing short of inspiring.” —Booklist

“[L]aced with twists, turns, and reveals that are both surprising and riveting. . . . An absorbing story about a strong girl living during tumultuous times.” —Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions

1. The first lines of the book are “My father taught the village boys right outside our little earthen home, but I wasn’t a boy, so I didn’t get to learn. That didn’t stop me from trying, though.” What do these lines tell us about how things are in Meera’s life? What do they tell us about Meera’s character?

2. To “other” someone is to treat or think of a person or a group of people as alien to oneself or one’s group. What are some examples of othering in the book?

3. Meera has a very complicated relationship with Memsahib. In what ways does Meera find comfort in Memsahib? How does Meera’s thinking change when she realizes what Memsahib really thinks of the South Asian people whose land she is colonizing?

4. Meera cares deeply about the caged koel, Lal, at the Keenes’ bungalow. What do you think Meera feels when Lal flies away from his cage? How do you think he has changed her?

5. What are Meera and Bhavani’s strengths and weaknesses? How does Meera’s friendship with Bhavani challenge her? How does it change her over the course of the story?

6. What do you think the title, “Strong as Fire, Fierce as Flame” means?

7. How does Meera feel about her sister-in-law, Sheela, when she first sees her? How does Meera feel when she first runs into Sheela at the market in Indranagar? How is that different from Meera’s interaction with Sheela the next time they meet at the market?

8. What does Ravi’s kite mean to Meera? How do you think she feels when she flies it?

9. What does the word “decolonize” mean to you?

10. Why do you think the author chose to include such a detailed historical note at the end of the book?

11. Look at the cover. What symbolism do you see there?