In Celebration of Languages: The Story of a Pumpkin, a traditional tale from Bhutan in Nepali and English

A high point of 2017 was an invitation to New Hampshire Humanities Connections staff to do a presentation with the extraordianry Jessie "little doe" Baird who has worked to reclaim the Wampanoag language on Cape Cod. We spoke on a panel called "America's Languages: Innovation in Heritage Langauge Education" with Johanna Watzinger-Tharp who described her research at the University of Utah on dual language immersion. NHH Connections part of the program was the story of our creation of a bilingual book featuring the Nepali language. Our panel was organized by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences whose research indicates the importance of heritage language education for students who speak other languages than English at home. 

Here is a description of New Hampshire Humanities' work to create an English-Nepali folktale and its reception by New Hampshire's Nepali-speaking Bhutanese community. “Our elders will read this story and remember their young lives and imagine returning to their homes. Our young people will ask many questions about how life used to be in Bhutan when parents and grandparents told folk stories to the children.The Bhutanese Community of New Hampshire was pleased to advise New Hampshire Humanities in the creation of this bilingual tale. We hope it enriches and supports the lives of ethnic Nepali Bhutanese people in our new home.”

Tika Acharya, Executive Director 
Bhutanese Community of New Hampshire 

The Story of a Pumpkin, written by Hari Tiwari with illustrations by Dal Rai, is the culmination of a two-year project conducted through New Hampshire Humanities’ adult literacy program, Connections. Connections supports new readers in English from a wide range of countries through book discussion programs offered in collaboration with adult literacy classes. Nepali-speaking Bhutanese people are the largest refugee group in the state.  New Hampshire Humanities began a project to create a bilingual book to support literacy skills for this largest group and celebrate their Nepali-Bhutanese language and culture. 

Through a collaborative process with Nepali-speaking Bhutanese storytellers, artists, teachers, interpreters from the Bhutanese community, transcribers and adaptors of the Nepali text, a folklorist, a book designer, and a children’s book writer, The Story of a Pumpkin was produced. Through offering the bilingual tale, New Hampshire Humanities seeks to honor the oral culture of their newest neighbors while drawing on a fresh way to use books to build a linguistic bridge among communities.  

New Hampshire students are reading the book and responding in imaginative ways to tell and record their own stories. The bilingual tale is available in New Hampshire in bookstores and to communities around the U.S. on Amazon, distributed by the University Press of New England. 

For more information please see:
“Receiving a Golden Garland; Folktales as Gifts Across Cultures”
by Jo Radner in Local Learning, The National Network for Folk Arts Education 

Story of a Pumpkin blog https://storyofapumpkin.wordpress.com/I’m Your Neighbor Books. For more information about the Connections program, visit www.nhhumanities.org.

By Terry Farish, Connections Coordinator