"Climbing the Stairs"

Written by Padma Venkatraman

“…Climbing the Stairs is the coming-of-age story of a young feminist
who witnesses both violence and peaceful resistance in India
during the WWII era…
Venkatraman achieved her goal of interweaving threads of Indian
culture, diverse religious beliefs, feminism, war and peace into a compelling story…”

-Publishers Weekly, “Flying Start”


"But later that night, I felt a hunger that had nothing to with food. Inside me was an emptiness that cried out for Raman, an emptiness that even the promise of college could not fill." (229) Climbing the Stairs by Padma Venkatraman tells the story of Vidya, a fifteen year old girl from present day Chennai,India who has now been forced to move into her grandfather's extremely conservative house with her mom, brother, and brain-dead father. I recommend Climbing the Stairs by Padma Venkatraman for purchase because the plot is very intreging, the characters are relatable to the students, and the content connects to Ridgeview's curriculum.
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Ridgeview Charter School is an IB school, meaning we continuously teach curriculum from many different perspectives . Climbing the Stairs takes place during the World War 2. The book is centered around India's strive for independence which is not usually taught in middle schools in America. This will allow students to see the war from another perspective while learning about another important part of history.
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You may think that because the main character lives in India , students will not be able to relate to her, but students will find that the problems the protagonist faces such as, deceased parents (51), evil family members (71), and school (78), relates to them in some way. The protagonist also exemplifies many IB Learner traits such as risk-taking, inquiring, and being principled which will encourage students to strive to be such IB Learners.


In the book, Climbing the Stairs, Vidya watches her father being brutally beaten by the British police during a non-violent protest. Because her father cannot work, and women in India did not have enough education to get a job, her family has to live in a very strict house with three different generations leaving all of their friends in Madras. She quickly becomes aware of all of the responsibilities and minimal rights she has such as "...make sure the milk man didn't deceive us and mix water in the milk...after that I had to pick the flowers for morning prayer." (78) she also had to prepare and serve food to the men (serving them first) and take care of her baby cousin. None of the women were allowed to listen to the news radio, go outside without a man, or go to the forbidden second floor, where the men lived. Vidya finds that the only way she escape the bitter reality of her new life is through books. Every evening she sneaks into the forbidden upstairs library to read. These elements make the book very interesting, which will keep the students' attention.

Marina Beach

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In conclusion, Climbing the Stairs is a great book to add to the Ridgeview Library. The book encourages students to be IB Learners, while connecting to Ridgeview's curriculum. The protagonist is also relatable to most students and the plot is very interesting, which will keep the students' attention. Ultimately, I strongly recommend this book for purchase.


Venkatraman, Padma. Climbing the Stairs. New York: Speak, 2010. Print.

"Climbingthestairsbook." Climbingthestairsbook. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2014.

"Hindu Religious Holiday Calendar for 2013 & 2014." Hindu Festivals. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Feb. 2014.

"Sunrise at Marina Beach, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India." Panoramio. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Feb. 2014.

"My Personal Grassroots Movement | Flyingnotscreaming." Flyingnotscreaming. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Feb. 2014.