ARC Review: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

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When Dimple Met Rishi

Pub. date: May 30th, 2017
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Format: E-galley
ISBN: 9781481478687 
Source: Author

Thanks so much to Simon Pulse and Sandhya Menon for providing me this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

Summary: 18-year old Dimple Shah is more than ready to start university, to catch a break from her mother talking ad nauseum about the importance of finding an “Ideal Indian Husband.” So it’s almost a miracle that her parents are letting her attend a summer program for web developers. Rishi Patel is your Bollywood romantic, and eager as all hell to find his future wife, preferably set up by his parents. The Shahs and the Patels want to use this summer program that their kids are attending to nudge them towards each other, and Rishi is more than happy to be on board with this arrangement. The only problem- Dimple has no idea that all this is happening. So what happens when the two eventually meet? 

So, in case it wasn’t clear, this book is a Bollywood romcom in a nutshell. I am not kidding. I grew up watching this story. Several movies of this story. This book is the YA version- but sex positive, not misogynistic, no gaslighting, and none of that patriarchal bullshit. I will be totally honest- I know how important this story was going to be for desi kids outside of the subcontinent- they never get to see themselves or their culture represented positively, front and center. But I was also worried- the synopsis screamed Bollywood to me, and Bollywood is a buttload of misogynist garbage fire even on its good days. That apprehension was the reason it took me so long to actually pick up the book (a book I was so excited about that Sandhya was kind enough to send to me). I read it in one setting. Long story short, it’s fucking amazing. It’s funny, heartfelt, wonderful characters, and I SHIP THEM. I SHIP THESE DORKS. Dishi, Rimple, whatever the fuck the kids are gonna name them. I’m rooting for these kids to have a good time. 

Now that’s out of the way, let’s start with how desi this book is. Ultimate desi. The mum who is constantly haranguing Dimple to dress like a girl, and put on that damn kajal (I spent the first 17 years of my life not touching kajal on regular days and then college happened and I realized what a lifesaver it actually is to make me look less hungover), the dad who is the voice of reason when Dimple and her mum get into it, all the fussing in the name of love that can be suffocating but you miss when you’re away from home for a bit, the nosy aunty who simultaneously made me go “ARGH AUNTY WHY” and “Holy shit yes good lord these aunties that’s exactly how they are!”, and the desi family dynamics. They rang true and were hilarious and heartwarming all at the same time.  

And then there’s Rishi. Rishi (who will be a young Rishi Kapoor in my head, fight me) is a diehard, Bollywood romantic. He’s 17 and ready to find his life partner. He arrives at SFSU with every intention of getting to know Dimple so that they can fall in love and get married and live happily ever after and endgame. This is a boy who is sure of himself, who s grounded in his identity and his culture, and has no qualms about it. None of these traits are lost through the story, at the same time it was wonderful to watch his character grow and his ideas about his life be moulded based on the events in the story. He instantly falls for Dimple, and she challenges him every step of the way. All of the swoons. 

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Can we also talk about how adorable the book jacket is? Actually, we don’t have to talk about it because it’s downright adorable. Just look at it.  

Another thing I really appreciated about the book- while the romance is the main plotline, that characters aren’t presented only in that one dimension. Dimple isn’t just all ambition and competitiveness, she’s a person with multiple facets, thoughts, ideas, values, notions. Rishi isn’t just a die-hard romantic- he has passions, aspirations, and let’s be honest, they’re both so dorky in their own ways it is only natural they find a safe space in each other’s company. The book takes the time and several different scenes to explore these two as individuals and together- it’s the mark of a very very good writer. 

Here’s a place where the book scores again- sex positivity! Some teens may engage in sexual behavior (if they so choose)- surprise, surprise. Also, spoiler alert, but some brown teens may engage in sexual behavior (there seems to be this assumption that sex is a big no no for desi kids because strict parents or whatever, and again, if they so choose). So, extra points to Menon for including conversations about sex, consent-seeking, and sex positivity!

Needless to say, I’m thrilled this book exists. I’m thrilled desi teens will get to read it, to see themselves on the page, to laugh out loud at the melodramatic and occasionally clichéd desi romance moments (including a very Bollywood climax) that they will appreciate and nod at because familiarity. If you enjoy contemporary romcoms, I highly recommend you pick this one up, it’s a goddamn delight.

P. S. I read this in April so I can’t count it, but this book qualifies for #AsianLitBingo, if you’re looking for a title for the South Asian MC/Contemporary Asian MC/ Romance with POC squares. 

Dewey’s Readathon: Spring 2017 Edition

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Hey friends,

I know, it’s been a while. A long while. My sincerest apologies. I just cannot seem to get a handle on this life thing. We’ve moved and I’m still adjusting. It’s been weird. Also yes, I’ve had to change the blog format, for reasons (that are mostly financial). Apologies if that’s throwing anyone off.

I’ve been a little off the blogosphere and bookternet in general recently- minus yelling on twitter. Nothing outside of YA has been grabbing my attention lately, so this edition of Dewey’s could not have come at a better time. I’m more than ready to hunker down for some uninterrupted reading and bookternet time (and yes, of course, will be going grocery shopping because what is a readathon without the snack really?) It’ll be interesting because I’m in a completely different timezone this time, so my readathon is from 5.30 p.m. Saturday evening to 5.25 p.m. Sunday evening. This is going to be very interesting. Somehow, 7 to 7 doesn’t feel quite as long. I’m not sure if I’ll be awake all 24 hours this time, but really I’m just looking forward to being in the zone and have a good time. 

I’ve been particularly absent this time around- I usually like to help Andi and Heather out with writing a warm-up post or hosting a twitter chat- and the reasons are mostly along the lines of me flailing at life in general. I’ll spare you the boring details. However, I managed to spend some time yesterday catching up on the official blog, and this beautiful tribute to our dear friend Heather from Bits and Books left me teary-eyed. Please check it out. 

I will probably do one quick midway update on here and a wrap-up post at the end, but I will be active on Twitter, Instagram (Amanda aka nerdybookgirl is hosting an IG challenge), and Litsy (@theshrinkette). Use the hashtag #readathon to find your peeps!

Whether you read 2 hours or 20, make yourself sick on too many cookies, or just lounge about in your pajamas reading one book, it’s still an amazing thing to be a part of for a whole 24 hours. Don’t miss it. I’ll be there doing my thing: 

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-J

Social Justice Book Club: February Wrap-Up and Announcements

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First of all, my sincere apologies for the delay- life has been really getting in the way of my plans for this month. 

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In honor of Black History Month in February, we picked The Autobiography of Malcolm X. This is a book I’ve been meaning to read for a while, and this was such a great opportunity to read it with the group. I knew very little about the life and work of Malcolm X. aside from the fact that he was a prominent activist for the civil rights of Black Americans. Even my high school education, which barely skimmed through American history, only mentioned Dr. King from that time, not Malcolm. Malcolm X. reminds me of Bhagat Singh, an Indian freedom fighter who also pushed for radical change and action, urging the people to be louder, and was pretty critical of Gandhi’s push for a non-violent movement at that time. Malcolm was far from flawed ( in fact, his opinion of women in the first half of the book made me want cringe so much), but much of what he said about the treatment of black people in America and how white people (in general) perceive the black man today is still so relevant. He learnt from a very young age that he had to hustle to survive, and that his existence had no guarantee in a world that could not see him past the color of his skin. He struggles with his identity and his roots and catches on very early to the social conditioning that black people have undergone to think that white people are superior to them, and how they’ve assimilated in order to survive. His experiences with women in his youth- oh boy. It’s also evident that his recounting of those stories as he got older is not without remorse- and I definitely believe that had he lived longer, his views would have been less sexist. A series of mistakes lead him to straight into prison, and it is during his time here that Malcolm engages in a lot of contemplation, and channels his rage and boredom into reading. (“The ability to read awoke inside of me some long dormant craving to be mentally alive.” His relationship with Muhammed and conversion to Islam were fascinating, and one can see how as a disillusioned young man this was the crutch he needed, to discover himself, to have an identity, and to channel his rage about the injustices done to black people. I think it’s very easy for white people to read this book and go “oh wow he’s so angry!” or be uncomfortable with his animosity towards white people, and I think it’s important to sit with those feelings and remember that there’s so much baggage that comes with those feelings. It’s why, whether they admit it or not, white Americans will more easily celebrate Dr. King over Malcolm (King was just as revolutionary as Malcolm, but his push for non-violence is highlighted over his demand for action, casting Malcolm as “angry black man”.) There’s so much to unpack here on how Malcolm and King’s lives, messages, and legacies have been represented, and the discomfort white people experience with Malcolm’s confrontational approach, how that translates to the perception of black people in general and how nonblack people perceive movements like #BlackLivesMatter- I’m far from qualified to discuss any of these things, but these are things to think about and talk about, for sure. Malcolm never doubted that he would die violently, and he remains a contentious figure in American history. This autobiography is a crucial text to read. It is not only important as a tool to read Malcolm’s words and message, but also to be cognizant of where Malcolm’s anger comes from, the history of violence against black people, and how all of these are relevant in the movements we see today. 

Announcements:

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I’m sure you’re already aware that we’re reading Enrique’s Journey by Sonia Nazario in March. I haven’t finished reading, but it’s been interesting to hear from those who have. We still have 11 days left in the month if you’d like to join us! Shoot me an email at theshrinkette@gmail.com to be added to the Slack if you’re not already in it. You can also use this sign-up form, if that’s your preference. Sonia Nazario has graciously agreed to answer a few questions from the group for a club Q&A, and her responses should be in by the end of this month. 

 

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Due to popular demand, we’re going to try hosting the book club on a monthly basis. For April, we will be reading Headscarves and Hymen: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution by Mona Eltahawy. Since each book’s discussion is being held in it’s own channel, members can opt in or out of the month’s discussion based on their personal preferences and schedules. 

 

 

-J

 

 

February 2017 Wrap-Up

Print/digital books: 12

Audiobooks: 2

Total number of books/comics: 14

Total page count: 3942

Read My Own Damn Books: 3

I’m an academic. It only takes a short to get to know me to know that I love data. I love looking at the numbers, it keeps things in perspective. It’s an objective measurement of behavior. In the year that I’ve been breaking down my reading numbers by month, this is definitely the lowest it’s ever been. I’m definitely disappointed by these numbers, but it’s good to have them. There’s a few reasons why- primarily because I’ve spent most of the month yelling on Twitter (sorry to my followers over there).

I’m going to try not to dwell on these numbers too much, and instead going to focus on actively choosing to read over doing other things when I have the time. Twitter isn’t going to stop being a trash fire, I have so many books to catch up on, blog posts to write, and we have three weeks till the big move. So, onwards and upwards. 

So friends, what did your February look like? What are you looking forward to reading in March? 

 

March 6th, 2017: It’s Monday, What Are You Reading?

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It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme currently hosted by The Book Date. It’s a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week, and add to that ever-growing TBR stack.

So this is a pattern I’ve observed in my life. All my gadgets/electronics generally break down at the same time. I kid you not, I have anecdotal data to support this. It’s a reliable occurrence. This time, it was my laptop, phone, and Fitbit, literally all within the span of 48 hours. It was also during the time we had some family visit us, so naturally, nothing got fixed immediately, which is why I haven’t blogged in two weeks. I really, really need to work on drafting posts in advance because this mess has me even more behind on reviews, wrap-ups, etc. Anyway, in case you were wondering, that happened. But, I’m back, and working on getting some posts out this week to make up for the time I’d lost.

March is going to be a ridiculously busy month because we’re moving from Oman to India. I grew up here, this has been my home for the last 25 years, and even though I’ve known about this move for a while now I haven’t quite gotten around to process my feelings about it. I’m sure that’ll happen at the most inconvenient time possible, so meanwhile I’m also in the middle of sorting and packing for this move. Sidenote: If you thought moving was a pain in itself, try doing it with your parents. Where’s the alcohol when I need it?

Here’s a peek at what I’m reading this week: 

Guise, I’m so behind on ARCs. So behind. I have 21 left to read and review, and most of them have pub dates in the first half of the year. Say a prayer for me. But also, can I just tell you how many wonderful humans have been sending me books? It’s unreal. Everytime I get one from a friend I tear up. Bookworms are the best, and I’ll fight anyone that says otherwise.

Tl, dr: I need to catch up on ALL THE THINGS. Meanwhile, what have been reading and loving recently? Let me know!

-J

 

Sensitivity Reading Services

Status: Currently open to requests for sensitivity reading services. Please read the entire page before submitting a request.

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According to Writing in the Margins, “a sensitivity reader reads through a manuscript for issues of representation and for instances of bias on the page.  The goal of a sensitivity reader isn’t to edit a manuscript clarity and logic, although that may be an additional service offered. A sensitivity reader reviews a manuscript for internalized bias and negatively charged language.  A sensitivity reader is there to help make sure you do not make a mistake, but they are also NOT a guarantee against making a mistake.”

Sensitivity reading is not the same as beta reading. A beta reader is a non-professional reader who offers critique on an unfinished manuscript, on aspects of the craft such as pacing, plot, character development, grammar, sentence structure, etc. I will not be providing any structural feedback of your work. 

I am a lifelong reader and have been blogging for the past year. I have come across and read several books with harmful representations of cultures, identities, and experiences, so I would like to offer my expertise gained from my life experiences to ensure that readers are not continually exposed to harmful and hurtful content. Books representing marginalized identities are often at risk, and though not all members of a community or culture might find an aspect of your book problematic, I will do my due diligence to ensure that there aren’t glaring misrepresentations in your work. 

Areas of Expertise:

  • South Asia, South Asian/diasporic characters, specifically India and Indian/diasporic characters.
  • Indian history, politics, culture, and social issues.
  • Hindu practices, traditions, festivals, mythology, etc. Generally Christianity, Islam, Sikhism and other religions as practiced in India.
  • Languages: Tamil (spoken and written), Hindi (spoken and written), Sanskrit (written). Including multilingualism and code-switching with English. 
  • Immigrant and expatriate experiences (any generation).
  • Mental illness, specifically depression and anxiety, neurodiversity/disability from a caregiver/professional POV. 
  • Chronic pain and chronic illness (specifically PCOS).
  • Fat characters and fat positivity. 
  • LGBTQIA+ representation, specifically gray/sapio/demi-ace, bi/pan/gray-aro, sexually fluid and genderfluid characters. Including characters that are still in the closet/not fully out/out to very specific audiences. 
  • Characters with complex relationships with parents and siblings.
  • Graduate school experiences in the US as an International student.

In addition to these specific areas, I can do a general sensitivity reading for harmful content like ableism, classism, sexism, misogyny, colorism, Islamophobia, anti-blackness (specifically in the South Asian community), etc. However, these will be solely from my perspective and not necessarily always from first-hand experiences. After receiving your request, we can discuss what specific elements I am comfortable providing feedback on and those for which I would suggest another sensitivity reader. 

Preferred genres:

  • Adult fiction: Literary fiction, historical fiction, urban fantasy, science fiction, magical realism, contemporary, humor, romance, and erotica.
  • YA/NA fiction: urban fantasy, science fiction, contemporary, romance, magical realism.
  • MG fiction: any genre

General Terms and Conditions: 

  • I do not guarantee the acceptance of every request. If I choose to reject your manuscript, I will provide you with the reason for my decision. A rejection is not a personal bias against you or your work. 
  • Once I accept your manuscript, we will discuss pricing and payment options and come to an agreement, upon which I will sign a non-disclosure agreement you provide that comply with the terms and conditions listed below. 
  • I will require at least 10 days to read your manuscript. I will read every word of your manuscript at least once, and provide a 1-3 page report with feedback on all the issues I noticed with quotations and explanations, as well as suggestions for how to fix it. 
  • If you require feedback on your manuscript within a specific time period, please provide that information along with your request. There may be an extra fee for a quicker turnaround, which will be discussed with you before I begin reading your manuscript. 
  • Following the completion of my sensitivity reading, you will be sent a feedback form to provide an honest evaluation of my services including constructive criticism, if any. There will also be an option to provide a testimonial of my work to be published on this blog.

Pricing: 

Writing In The Margins suggests that sensitivity readers be paid at least $250 for feedback on a full manuscript (60,000-100,000 words). The prices given below are starting rates and will be open to negotiation on a case-by-case basis. 

Pricing brackets are as follows: (All prices will be rounded to the nearest whole cent, in USD):

  • 5000 words or less: $50 flat rate
  • 5001 to 10,000: $50 +(# words) x ($0.005 per word)
  • 10,001 to 50,000 words: $150+(# words) x ($0.002 per word)
  • 50,0001 and over: $200 +(# words) x ($0.001 per word)

Payment Terms and Conditions:

  • Payment will be accepted via Paypal or an Amazon e-gift card
  • Full payment is expected prior to the rendering of services.
  • If you have financial difficulties and are unable to make the full payment at a time (due to being a student, unemployment, etc.), we can come up with a payment schedule (that will include specific deadlines) to better suit your needs. This is again negotiable and on a case-by-case basis. 
  • The sensitivity reading time-period will begin as soon as I receive the base rate (or other agreed upon amount).
  • Payment is nonrefundable.
  • If I am unable to complete reading your manuscript and providing you feedback, then I will refund you the money for the number of words that I have not finished reading based on the price bracket that your manuscript falls under. The base rate will not be refunded under any circumstances. 

Privacy Terms and Conditions:

  • Formal non-disclosure agreements prior to the rendering of services that comply with my terms and conditions are preferred. 
  • If I agree to be a sensitivity reader for your manuscript, I will not disclose any information regarding your manuscript to anyone other than pre-approved parties prior to publication. I reserve the right as a reader and reviewer to critique the text of the finished copy.
  • If your manuscript requires me to consult with another person for a second opinion, such as a family member or other known persons with expertise related to the subject matter in your manuscript, I will only do so after obtaining explicit, written permission from you, and will not disclose your identity to them. 
  • My service as a sensitivity reader for your manuscript does not automatically mean an endorsement of your work, a defense against criticism from other parties, or a guarantee that your work is free of any and all problematic content. You may not misuse my name in such contexts.
  • If your manuscript is published, you may include my name (with no other identifying information) in the relevant section of your work.  

Please email me at theshrinkette@gmail.com, if you have any further questions or require clarification of information. If you’re ready to submit a request, please fill out this form.

Review: When The Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

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When The Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

Pub. date: October 4th, 2016
Publisher: Thomas Dunne
Format: Digital
ISBN: 9781250058669
Source: Chicago Public Library via Overdrive
Purchase links: Amazon| Barnes & Noble| Indiebound|Book Depository

 

 

Miel is the girl that emerged from a water tower one night when she was little, and Sam is the boy who paints paper moons and hangs them up on trees. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and not much is known about either her past or Sam’s. Their friendship finds common ground in their weirdness and secrets, and in their teens, blossoms into a lot more. The only people that the townsfolk choose to keep even further distance from tare he Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. The sisters believe that the scent of the roses growing from Miel’s wrist could make anyone fall in love and they are willing  to spills the secrets they have on Miel and Sam in order to obtain them. 

This book made me realize I truly do love magical realism. I enjoy the flowery prose, characters with mysterious backgrounds that only come forth as you progress through the book, and the mystical components, especially in book filled with such multicultural elements. Miel is Latina, Sam is Pakistani-American, the book references brujeria and bacha posh, and has a central trans character whose exploration of sexual and gender identity is unlike any I’ve seen in a YA book. 

I read the author’s debut novel The Weight In Feathers sometime before this book came out and instantly fell in love with her prose. Her writing is gorgeous. For example:

They would remember only that Miel and Sam had been called Honey and Moon, a girl and boy woven into the folklore of this place.

and

She was a place whose darkness held not fear, but the promise of stars.

*Cue swooning*

I mean, her writing allows the reader’s imagination to explode. It is truly a sensory experience, with descriptions of smells, tastes, and visuals. Whether it’s a field of glass pumpkins, or the smells of the spices used in Miel’s house, or the sound of the river. The love between Miel and Sam literally feels like a slow burn of heightened teenage emotions. 

The book is character-driven over plot, and McLemore gives her characters such nuance. Sam coming into his identity doesn’t necessarily happen throughout the book, but the story is deftly built up to that moment. It is far from a perfect moment, and McLemore’s storytelling prowess in exploring the messiness of teenage emotions shines through. The same can be said for Miel exploring her identity and finding out about her past and how she ended up in this town. The author lends complexity to the Bonner sisters as well, they aren’t your straight up villainous cliquey white sisters. Layers, layers everywhere. 

I’ve said this about other books and I’ll say it again: books like this one are the reason there’s such a push for diversity in publishing. Teenagers exploring their sexual and gender identities on the page is so crucial. Teens having sex and not being punished for it is almost revolutionary. Queer teens of color reconciling their identity with their cultural backgrounds is so needed. Also important, queer kids having stories with happy endings. I guarantee you there are Pakistani-American trans kids out there who will benefit from seeing a character looking like them and sharing their cultural identity undergoing similar struggles. 

This book is evidently a deeply personal one for McLemore, whose husband is trans. It is clear that an immense amount of research has gone into the writing of this book, both for the trans rep and the cultural practices described, for which I’m truly grateful. Do not miss reading the author’s note. With vivid prose and an ethereal narrative, McLemore has my heart once and for all.