Tag Archives For: India

20 Mar, 2017

Invisible Lives

/ posted in: General Invisible Lives Invisible Lives by Anjali Banerjee
on September 1st 2006
Pages: 280
Genres: Fiction, Magical Realism
Published by Downtown Press
Format: Paperback
Source: Library
Setting: Washington

Lakshmi Sen was born with a magical ability to perceive the secret longings in others. Putting aside her own dreams to help run her widowed mother's struggling Seattle sari shop, Mystic Elegance, Lakshmi knows exactly how to bring happiness to customers -- from lonely immigrants to starry-eyed young brides. And to honor her father's dying wish, she has agreed to marry a respectable Indian doctor who will uphold her family's traditions. But when a famous Indian actress chooses Mystic Elegance to provide her wedding trousseau, Lakshmi finds herself falling for the actress's sexy chauffeur -- all-American Nick Dunbar -- and her powers seem to desert her just as she needs them most. As Nick draws Lakshmi into his world, however, new dreams awaken in her, and she begins to uncover deeper, startling longings in her mother, her friends, her fiance, and even herself.

Goodreads

I was so excited to hear about this author.  I love light and fluffy books with magical realism.  A book set in a sari shop by an ownvoices author sounded wonderful.

Lakshmi Sen is visited by the goddess Lakshmi in utero and given a gift of being able to know what people want.  She is also made incredibly beautiful but is warned to hide that beauty for reasons that aren’t clear.  It is never really discussed after the first part of the story either.

She co-owns a sari shop with her mother.  She can tell what customers truly need when they come in.  She’s developing a reputation for it.  That draws a Bollywood actress to the store for her wedding outfits.  But Lakshmi’s gift disappears when she enters the store with her driver.

This is the where the book started to lose me.  The driver, Nick, is the guy we are supposed to root for in the story.  But he doesn’t seem to offer anything good to Lakshmi.  Just his presence is harming her.  She loses customers when he is around because she is unable to do her job.

There is colorism in this book.  An elderly customer comes in to the store and starts talking about how she uses skin lightening cream.   It could almost be dismissed as the fancy of a woman who is a ridiculous character but it isn’t pointed out as such.  Then later a woman is being described as ugly and part of the description is how her skin is so dark.  Later, the elderly woman from the shop is complimented and she says that the skin lightening cream is working.

Nick makes several casually racist comments to Lakshmi that aren’t commented on.  He invites her to meet his family.  He says that his sister would love to try on saris because she likes “ethnic clothes.”  I was like, “Excuse me?” but nothing is mentioned about it in the story.  Then when he gets there his mother “compliments” Lakshmi by telling her that she looks so exotic.  Yeah.  Then he all but orders her to forget about her trip to India to meet the man her mother wants her to marry.  On the basis of what?  They barely know each other and she’s supposed to give up all previous plans for him?  This guy seems like a control freak that she should get away from quickly.

The book never redeemed Nick for me.  It tried but he is still interfering with her work even though the book tried to spin it more positively.

Let’s count this one as an ‘I read it so you don’t have to’ book.

 

About Anjali Banerjee

I was born in India, raised in Canada and California, and I now live in the Pacific Northwest, in a cottage in the woods, with my husband and five rescued cats.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • Backlist Books
  • Books Set in North America
  • POC authors
21 Dec, 2016

Climbing the Stairs

/ posted in: Reading Climbing the Stairs Climbing the Stairs by Padma Venkatraman
on May 1, 2008
Pages: 256
Genres: Young Adult
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Setting: India
Goodreads

“During World War II and the last days of British occupation in India, fifteen-year-old Vidya dreams of attending college. But when her forward-thinking father is beaten senseless by the British police, she is forced to live with her grandfather’s large traditional family, where the women live apart from the men and are meant to be married off as soon as possible.
Vidya’s only refuge becomes her grandfather’s upstairs library, which is forbidden to women. There she meets Raman, a young man also living in the house who relishes her intellectual curiosity. But when Vidya’s brother decides to fight with the hated British against the Nazis, and when Raman proposes marriage too soon, Vidya must question all she has believed in.”


I’ve been a big fan of this author’s verse novel A Time To DanceClimbing the Stairs is a bit different.  This is a historical fiction book set in World War II.  Vidya’s father is a doctor who aids nonviolent protestors who are injured by British soldiers.  Vidya’s brother is concerned about the strategic value of India leading to a Japanese invasion.  He wants to enlist in the Army.  The rest of the family is horrified.  They are Brahmin and that caste does not traditionally join the military.  They especially do not join the British Army.

Vidya’s father believes in her dream to go to college instead of being married at a young age.  When he is injured and they have to move to his father’s home, all her dreams are forgotten.  Her family is treated as a burden.  Vidya and her mother are used as servants for the rest of the family.  Vidya gets permission to read in her grandfather’s library while she watches her newborn cousin.  Here she is able to help enhance her education while her world crumbles around her.

I really enjoyed this book.  It is a short book but sets the time and place well.  There is a true conflict between appreciating and supporting the British defense of India against the Japanese while still fighting against the British subjugation of Indians.  There is conflict between traditional ideas of a woman’s place in Indian society and the desire to have a different life.

Important Spoiler about the Dog

Vidya has a dog at the beginning.  It is known that her uncle hates dogs.  I had to put the book aside for a bit because I just knew something bad was going to happen to the dog when they had to move in with the uncle and grandfather.  I can’t handle something bad happening to dogs.  Nothing does though.  He gets a good home.  They even visit him later and he is doing well.  The dog is fine.  Carry on reading.

 

About Padma Venkatraman

Padma Venkatraman was born in Chennai India and currently lives in the United States. She has a doctorate in oceanography. Her debut novel was published in 2008.

14 Jul, 2016

The Marriage Bureau for Rich People

/ posted in: Reading The Marriage Bureau for Rich People The Marriage Bureau for Rich People by Farahad Zama
on June 11th 2009
Pages: 293
Genres: Fiction
Published by Putnam Adult
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Set in India
Goodreads

It is a universal problem. A man retires and immediately starts driving his wife crazy. What to do? Open a marriage bureau on the front veranda, of course.


Mr. Ali is was a government clerk.  Now he runs a marriage bureau.  He advertises for matches for his clients in the newspaper.  He keeps files with the special requests of people seeking spouses.  Do you need someone from the same caste?  How tall or short?  Will your wife be expected to live with her mother-in-law? Hindu, Muslim, Christian?

A photo posted by @dvmheather on

When the business takes off, he needs an assistant. Mrs. Ali finds a local woman, Aruna, to help out. She’s perfect. She’s unmarried because her family can’t afford a wedding and she is working to help the family finances.

This book is very simple on the surface. It is the stories of the people who come to the marriage bureau and the story of the Ali family. The style of writing reminds me of Alexander McCall Smith’s No.1 Ladies Detective Agency.

This book is very good at providing a look at the attitudes towards arranged marriages in India in different religious groups. What happens if people want to work out their own marriage? How do the Muslim and Hindu neighbors interact?

If you want a book that immerses you in a slice of life in an Indian coastal town, this is a good read.

3flower

07 Jul, 2016

The Mango Season

/ posted in: Reading The Mango Season The Mango Season by Amulya Malladi
on October 26th 2004
Pages: 229
Genres: Fiction
Published by Ballantine Books
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Set in India
Goodreads

Every young Indian leaving the homeland for the United States is given the following orders by their parents: Don’t eat any cow (It’s still sacred!), don’t go out too much, save (and save, and save) your money, and most important, do not marry a foreigner. Priya Rao left India when she was twenty to study in the U.S., and she’s never been back. Now, seven years later, she’s out of excuses. She has to return and give her family the news: She’s engaged to Nick Collins, a kind, loving American man. It’s going to break their hearts.


Priya is horrified to realize that she considers India differently now than when she left. It is too noisy and chaotic.  She is scared to eat food in the market without washing it first.  She also can’t fit easily back into her family.  Now she sees the racism and misogyny that she grew up with and considered normal.

She knows that her family will probably disown her when she admits to loving a foreigner.  She isn’t going to tell them that she’s been living with him for two years.

Things come to a head during a few days at her grandmother’s house to make mango pickle. Her entire extended family is there. She sees how horribly everyone treats her unmarried aunt and the woman of the wrong caste that her uncle married. Her mother and another aunt spend the whole time in a power struggle. When Priya starts speaking her mind she throws her family into an uproar.

This book made me nervous.  I knew that at some point Priya’s family was going to try to arrange a marriage for her.  So I did the unthinkable.  I read the last chapter to see how it ended.

 

I knew if it was up in the air for me that I would rush through the book to find out. This is a book that should be savored more than rushed.

“I looked at all the women in the room and wondered if behind the facade all of us wore for family occasions we were strangers to each other.

I was trying to be the graceful granddaughter visiting from America but my true colors were slipping past the carefully built mockery of myself I was presenting.  Maybe the masks worn by the others were slipping, too.  Maybe by the end of the day I would know the women behind the masks and they would know me.

I tried once again to talk to Ma but she shunned me and I concluded that she didn’t want to look behind the label:  DAUGHTER, and didn’t want me to look behind the label:  MA.  If she wouldn’t show me hers, how could I show her mine?”

When discussing her grandfather:

“The man was a bigot, a racist, a chauvinist, and generally too arrogant for anyone’s liking, yet I loved him.  Family never came in neat little packages with warranty signs on them.”


I saw this video just after I finished the book and it fit the story perfectly. I laughed at loud at the line about chapati.


4flower

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24 Feb, 2016

Inclusive Chick Lit and Bollywood Confidential

/ posted in: Reading Inclusive Chick Lit and Bollywood Confidential Bollywood Confidential by Sonia Singh
on June 28th 2005
Pages: 240
Genres: Fiction
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Set in India

After seven years of slogging through film roles too embarrassing to mention, twenty-eight-year-old struggling L.A. actress Raveena Rai has finally been offered a lead! A potentially career-making turn in a major Hollywood epic, perhaps? A meaty part in a serious drama with Oscar® written all over it? Not! To Raveena's great dismay (and her mother's delight) she's flying off to India to star in a new Bollywood extravaganza.
Oh well, a lead is a lead, after all. Never mind that it's a million humid degrees in Bombay, the Los Angeles of the East; that she has to live with a wacko distant uncle who sleeps under furniture and is the most stressed-out wannabe swami on the continent; that her director is a lecherous hack and his movie has the potential of being the very worst flick ever made anywhere! At least Raveena's leading man is the supremely sexy Siddharth, Bollywood's biggest star. But while their on-screen chemistry is electric-hot, off-screen the arrogant hunk treats her with total disdain ... or, worse still, ignores her.

Goodreads

 

Sometimes you just need something mindless to read.  This has happened to me twice in the past few months.  The first time I was mentally tired from being at a conference and needed something light and fluffy to read.  The second time I had the flu.  The second time I was on a self-imposed POC authors only challenge.  I didn’t know who to read.  I didn’t have a list of POC authors who write chick lit who immediately sprung to mind.  All I could come up with was Terry McMillian but I’ve read all of her books.

I search Listopia on Goodreads and came up the Inclusive Chick Lit list.  There are a lot of interesting sounding books on here.  The only one that I was interested in and was immediately available for download from my library’s website was Bollywood Confidential.

It served its purpose admirably.  I passed a flu addled afternoon reading about an Indian-American actress attempting to adjust to living and working in India.  It was funny and cute.

Here are some other books from this list that I’m interested in.
The Sari Shop WidowThe Sari Shop Widow by Shobhan Bantwal

 

“Since becoming a widow at age twenty-seven, Anjali Kapadia has devoted herself to transforming her parents’ sari shop into a chic boutique, brimming with exquisite jewelry and clothing. Now, ten years later, it stands out like a proud maharani amid Edison’s bustling Little India. But when Anjali learns the shop is on the brink of bankruptcy, she feels her world unraveling…”


Becoming AmericanaBecoming Americana by Lara Rios

 

“Ever since an article about Lupe Perez ran in the UCLA paper, she’s become the poster child for the American Dream: East L.A. bad girl who slashed cop makes good! She goes to school full-time, works in the food court, and volunteers at a center for at-risk teens. Against all odds, Lupe has turned her life around. The thing is, she never asked for all this attention. Now, her professor wants her to write a gigantic thesis about what Americanization means to Mexican immigrants-and she’s not even sure yet what it means to her.”


Pastries: A Novel of Desserts and DiscoveriesPastries: A Novel of Desserts and Discoveries by Bharti Kirchner

 

“Sunya Malhotra, a young American woman whose parents had migrated from India, is the head baker and owner of Pastries, a warm and cozy bakery in Seattle. Sunya loves baking and has transformed her fabulous cakes and tarts into delicious works of art. The success of her beloved bakery is put in jeopardy, however, when a chain bakery threatens to open up down the street from her. To add to her misery, Roger, her hip, Japanese boyfriend has left her for a “perfect” Japanese girlfriend and her mother has just become engaged to a man Sunya detests. Sunya hasn’t yet reconciled to the mystery of a father missing since her birth. Even a new relationship with a hot, young film director who is in town to cover the 1999 World Trade Conference, can’t help Sunya with her biggest worry – she has lost her touch for baking.”


Midori by MoonlightMidori by Moonlight by Wendy Nelson Tokunaga

 

“Too independent for Japanese society, Midori is a young woman who has always felt like a stranger in her native land. So when she falls in love with Kevin, an American English teacher, she readily agrees to leave home and start a new life with him in San Francisco—as his fiancée. Kevin seems to be the perfect man. That is, until he dumps her for his blonde ex, who Midori never even knew existed. With just a smattering of fractured English, not much cash, and a visa set to expire in sixty days, Midori realizes she’s in for quite a struggle. Unable to face the humiliation of telling her parents she’s been jilted, she decides to go it alone, surprising even herself as she proves she will do almost anything to hang on to her American Dream.”


The Village Bride of Beverly HillsThe Village Bride of Beverly Hills by Kavita Daswani

 

“After an arranged marriage in her native India, Priya moves with her husband to California, where they share a house with his parents. Playing the traditional daughter- in-law role, she’s expected to clean, cook, and —because she doesn’’t immediately get pregnant—find a job as well!
But the job, at a glossy Hollywood gossip magazine, isn’’t at all what Priya’’s in-laws had in mind for a traditional Indian wife. She soon finds herself with a secret life that she must hide from her disapproving new family.”

 

Do you have recommendations for light books by POC authors?

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