Sadness, hurt, anger. Letter after letter beginning, “We regret to inform you…” I felt sad because it felt like my hard work was all for nothing.

Interview with Sailaja Joshi

Kate Anderson-Song Head Interviewer

Introduce yourself! 

My name is Sailaja Joshi, and I am the CEO and Founder of Mango & Marigold Press.

Introduce Mango and Marigold Press—what is your mission, and how did it begin?

Mango & Marigold Press is an award-winning independent publishing house that shares the sweet and savory stories of the South Asian experience. 

What is your background? How did you get into publishing?

With the impending birth of my first child, I was searching for books about my Indian culture. Upon reading the few stories that existed, I realized that many of them were inappropriate, or worse, insensitive.

Knowing the power of representation, I decided that I would not raise my daughter in a world where she wouldn’t see herself on the cover of a book as the hero. So with my sister and a close friend, we set out to change home libraries. The first book we released was Hanuman and the Orange Sun. And WOW, did we see some magic with kids seeing themselves firsthand. 

Since we were founded in 2015, the state of diverse books has improved, but there’s still a long way to go to close this diversity gap. In 2018, 50% of books depicted white kids, and 27% featured animals or others, leaving the remaining 23% to be divided between characters of diverse backgrounds. We are a company dedicated to closing this diversity gap, and we won’t stop!

How have you adapted to life during the COVID-19 pandemic? How has your work changed during this time?

Ha, life has totally changed for me. I work full time in addition to running Mango and Marigold Press. That in itself is a lot, however adding in managing two kids during a pandemic, their school, keeping a house running, and all that is…really overwhelming. I still work as much as I can but am often interrupted by two small ones.  

What would you say is your biggest accomplishment? Personally and work-wise? 

Oooh! What a question. For me, helping to challenge and change the face of publishing has been a huge accomplishment. And personally, I think raising wonderful kids. 

What do you look for in the stories you publish? In the illustrators you hire?

We typically work with own-voice authors and acquire our scripts year-round. In our books, we look for strong, South Asian protagonists and stories that highlight the South Asian experience. 

Who inspires you? Do you have any role models in your life? 

This is a tough question—I don’t really have one person in mind. I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit. I am so inspired and encouraged by other entrepreneurs who see something that needs to change and create a solution for that problem. I love reading about others who are doing their part to change the world for the better! 

If I was pressed, I feel really grateful to have wonderful role models in my own family. From my mother, my father, and my sister, I deeply indebted to them for modeling what it means to be compassionate, kind, and driven by equality. For my husband, who has a power with the written word and always models by putting others before himself. 

What do you think are the biggest challenges South Asian women face today? 

That’s an incredible question. I think for many of us, it is healing generational traumas, unlearning the colonial mindset that we’ve lived in, and then creating our own path. 

What is your favorite comfort food/treat? 

Ha! It can change. But honestly, it’s probably a butter dosa, made extra crispy, by my mom—eaten after doing some hard work. 

What advice would you give to your younger self? 

To save my money. To write more. And to believe in myself.

What is next for you and Mango and Marigold Press?    

We’ve had an…eventful year, you could say this past year. We not only changed our name but launched our first middle-grade book, our first anthology series in partnership with Brown Girl Magazine, our first young adult book with Gayatri Sethi, and many, many picture books. 

OH, MAN! SO MANY INCREDIBLE THINGS!!! I still cannot believe that this year we will be celebrating the sixth anniversary of Mango and Marigold Press. Stay tuned as we have a lot of wonderful scripts coming out, and I’m so honored to be a part of that wonderful, exciting process. I also love how so many amazing new Desi mompreneurs have come onto the scene, and it makes my heart so so happy to see us paving such a wonderful path forward for our children.

I would like to see my team change the world. No, that’s too proud and broad. Or actually, on second thought, not too proud. I truly believe that there is so much power in literature to create meaningful conversations about diversity at all ages, and this will change the world!

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Sailaja N. Joshi is a design thinker, intersectional feminist, mother to two, a bibliophile, an entrepreneur, lover of bold, modern design, diversity activist, and an aspiring dog owner.

A Massachusetts native, Sailaja grew up a voracious reader. From Leo the Lop to Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and Amelia Bedelia, she loved every book she read. If you were to ask her today what her favorite book is, she’d likely say either the Harry Potter series OR The Tao of Pooh. It really depends on the day.

She has always been interested in exploring multicultural generations and loves using those skills in new and exciting ways as the CEO and founder of Mango and Marigold Press. Mango and Marigold Press is an award-winning independent publishing house that shares the sweet and savory stories of the South Asian experience. Founded in 2014, the company has produced fourteen books across four different product categories and been featured on the Today Show, Us Weekly, People Magazine, The New York Times, the Washington Post, and so much more.

In 2019, the company unveiled its #1001DiverseBooks initiative. With this program, Sailaja has committed to raising the funds to donate 1001 new, diverse books to literacy nonprofits bridging the accessibility gap within Children’s Literature. Community members can sponsor books for just $10 and, through this program, ensure that every child has access to high-quality, diverse kid’s lit. The company launched the initiative with its 14th book Finding Om and reached their goal of raising funds for 1001 books in just five short days. The company’s mission has expanded to not only bridge the diversity gap in children’s literature but also improve the accessibility of diverse children’s lit in underserved communities.

Her ambition is to have Mango and Marigold Press be an active participant in the field of multicultural children’s literature, moving forward with the belief that we need diverse kids lit for all kids in a diverse world. When she’s not working to change the face of children’s publishing, she can be found hanging with her two adorable children at the park or at circus class (really, that’s a thing).


IG: @mangoandmarigoldpress

Twitter: @MMPress_


Head Interviewer

Overachiever Magazine was started by Rehana Paul in October of 2018 to give a platform to all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities.

Our name is poking fun at the stereotype that all Asians are overachievers, especially Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. It’s also in recognition of all of us who have had no choice but to be overachievers: managing societal expectations, family obligations, and educational opportunities, all while fighting the patriarchy.

We have grown since then, putting out bimonthly issues (we are contributor powered: apply to write for our next one!), and weekly reviews of culture, and news that is important to us.

You can find announcements, more news, and get to know our staff on social media: give us a follow, and learn how you can get involved today!

We do not claim to speak for all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. We are just here to give them a place to speak for themselves.

We hope you’ll join us.

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