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. 

Books By South Asian Authors On My 2017 TBR: The Nonfiction Edition

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First of all, thank you so much for sharing my fiction TBR from yesterday. I love that so many people were interested and excited to read some of those books. As promised, here’s my South Asian nonfiction TBR this year. Again, I’ll probably end up reading more, these are just the books I definitely want to read by the end of the year. 

 

Walking Towards Ourselves: Indian Women Tell Their Stories by Catriona Mitchell: A compilation of essays by Indian women writers examining the gender revolution taking place in India. Issues covered include love, marriage, gender, sexuality, career choices, literacy and motherhood. 

New South Asian Feminisms: Paradoxes and Possibilities edited by Srila Roy: A thorough exploration of South Asian feminism, addressing issues like disability, Internet technologies, queer subjectivities and violence as everyday life across national boundaries. (Reading this for #DivStGr hosted by Bina)

Field Notes On Democracy: Listening To Grasshoppers by Arundhati Roy: I’ve followed a fair bit of Roy’s activism, but haven’t actually read a lot of her nonfiction. Rectifying that now. (Given the dumpster fire US President and his goddamn executive orders, this book is super timely for anyone sighing with relief about not being Muslim/Refugee/POC that lives in/needs to go to the US. Our own democracy could use plenty of work.)

Capitalism: A Ghost Story by Arundhati Roy: This book shows how the demands of globalized capitalism has subjugated billions of people to the highest and most intense forms of racism and exploitation. (Pulled this straight out of GR because it felt like the most apt description)

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee: Starting from the earliest documented cases of cancer to recent discoveries, intertwined with accounts from cancer patients. (I really enjoyed the author’s penchant for scientific research from The Gene, so I’m hoping this book lives up to my expectations.

Love, Loss, And What We Ate: A Memoir by Padma Lakshmi: A food memoir highlighting Padma Lakshmi journey from being the child of immigrants to becoming a judge on Top Chef, while sharing with the audience the fierce women that shaped her along the way. (I’ll be honest, I’ve never watched Top Chef, but my nosy ass just wants to know what it’s like being married to Salman Rushdie.)

In an Antique Land: History in the Guise of a Traveler’s Tale by Amitav Ghosh: This book covers Ghosh’s journey to find an Indian slave who had traveled to the Middle East around 700 years ago. 

Writing Pakistan: Conversations on Identity, Nationhood, and Fiction by  Mushtaq Bilal: A collection of interviews with Pakistani writers that write in English. 

Footprints of Partition: Narratives of Four generations of Pakistanis and Indians by Anam Zakaria: The author is a Pakistani researcher who interview four generations of people, mostly Pakistani, on their perception of Partition and the evolving outlook of “the other.” (I’ve read a fair amount of Partition history, but all of it told from only the Indian POV. Let’s be honest, nothing about history books is unbiased, so it serves us well to read multiple POVs and multiple accounts.)

We Too Sing America: South Asian, Arab, Muslim, and Sikh Immigrants Shape Our Multiracial Future by Deepa Iyer: The political, racial, and social justice ramifications of being South Asian in America. 

Because I Have A Voice: Queer Politics In India by Arvind Narrain and Gautam Bhan: An anthology confronting the “compulsory “nature to pass and present as heterosexual in India. 

Same-Sex Love in India: Readings from Literature and History by Ruth Vanita and Saleem Kidwai: This is a book chock-full of translated works from a plethora of experiences, citing evidence of the existence of queerness and homosexuality since the ancient times. 

Gandhi’s Tiger And Sita’s Smile: Essays On Gender, Sexuality And Culture by Ruth Vanita: A collection of essay demanding for more complex discourse on gender and sexuality in India. 

Disability and Difference in Global Contexts: Enabling a Transformative Body Politic by Nirmala Erevelles: This book explores the possibilities and limitations re-theorizing disability using historical materialism in the interdisciplinary contexts of social theory, cultural studies, social and education policy, feminist ethics, and theories of citizenship. 

 

As always, if you have any recommendations, or are planning to read any of these titles, drop me a line in the comments! I’m never one to turn down a buddy read. 

Books By South Asian Authors On My 2017 TBR: The Fiction Edition

 

SOUTH ASIAN REPRESENTATION.jpg(Disclaimer: I originally threw the entirety of my list into this post, but I don’t think anyone would’ve made it to the end. As a kindness, I’ll post the nonfiction list separately tomorrow)

Ever since I started paying attention to what I was reading, I’ve found a ridiculous number of gaps. So after flailing and beating myself up about it (as one does), in my quest to read mindfully, I’ve decided to tackle specific gaps each year. I’d talked about this to a few of my book club friends, and ever since my reading has shifted to reading mostly diverse voices, challenges like the Read Harder one from Book Riot are no longer intimidating. So I decided this was the best opportunity to start focusing on some of those gaps.

Something I’ve been painfully aware about for the longest time is that I’ve read very few books by South Asian (and diaspora) authors or set in South Asia. If I want to see more South Asian books published, then as a reader I need to actively seek these books out, read them, and talk about them. So, here are some of the books on my 2017 TBR. It’s a mix of frontlist and backlist titles, and I hope people are able to find things that fall in their wheelhouse. 

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon: YA contemporary romance, Indian-American MCs whose parents have arranged for them to be married. Comedy ensues. 

A Time To Dance by Padma Venkatraman: YA realistic fiction, MC is a bharatanatyam prodigy who is struggling to regain her passion after an accident leaves her a below-the-knee amputee. Disability rep. (As a bharatanatyam dancer myself I am ashamed I’ve never read this before. Also, the premise seems to be inspired by the life of Sudha Chandran, or maybe that’s just me.)

Step Up To The Plate, Maria Singh by Uma Krishnaswami: MG novel set during World War II, 9-year old MC wants to play softball while simultaneously dealing with prejudice and discriminatory laws. Biracial rep, immigrant story. 

No One Can Pronounce My Name by Rakesh Satyal: Contemporary adult fiction. Multigenerational. MCs are Indian immigrants in their mid-forties, each facing their individual crises, until their paths cross and an unusual friendship blossoms. 

Stained by Abda Khan: Contemporary adult fiction, Pakistani-British MC, struggles to cope with loss of her father, becomes a victim of sexual abuse by a trusted family friend. Explores cultural identity conflict and their impact on dealing with traumatic events. TW: rape.

Marriage Material by Sathnam Sanghera: Contemporary adult fiction, immigrant story, Punjabi MC is forced to take over the family business after the unexpected death of his father, reevaluates his life, and attempts to reconcile his family’s story and legacy with his  London life.

The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota: Thirteen young men living in a house in Sheffield, all having run from India for a fresh start and a new life. 

Sea Of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh: Historical fiction, set during the time just before the Opium Wars, is about a diverse cast of characters on board the Ibis, a schooner on a journey from Baltimore to Calcutta. (I love Amitav Ghosh and this book was nominated for the Man Booker, so, I’m hoping it lives up to the hype. I’m increasingly wary these days of POC representation even by authors of color, so I’m really really really hoping this one isn’t problematic because it would be a real disappointment.)

The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai: This Man Booker winner is a historical fiction novel, set in Nepal during a rising insurgency, a cranky old judge who can’t stop thinking about his son who’s an illegal immigrant in the States, instead of his orphaned granddaughter left in his care. Amidst political tensions is also a budding romance between the granddaughter and her Nepali tutor. Chaos ensues.

The Wandering Falcon by Jamil Ahmad: Historical fiction, a young couple who are refugees from tribes in FATA, have to escape to avoid punishment as a result of life events. Their son, descended from both chiefs and outlaws, travels throughout remote tribal areas. (I picked this up out of curiosity, because the author was 79 when he wrote this, his first novel, and I admire his tenacity already.

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri: Historical fiction set in Calcutta, two brothers who are total opposites, including in their political inclinations. One of them joins the Naxalite movement, and when something happens to him, the other returns from the States to piece the family back together. 

What Lies Between Us by Nayomi Munaweera: Contemporary fiction, a young girl growing up in Sri Lanka has to immigrate to the States with her mother following a tragedy, and start over. 

The Gospel of Yudas by K. R. Meera: Set during the Naxalite period in Kerala, Prema is drawn to the Naxalite ideology, and is infatuated with Yudas, who she believes was tortured by her tyrannical father in his prison camp. Yudas has got secrets of his own. (I’m a little worried about the narrative verging on the former prisoner romance area, but also need to read up on the Naxalite group in detail for some context.)

A Golden Age by Tahmima Anam: A young widow must do what she must to keep her family safe during the Bangladesh War of Independence.

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri: Short story collection, Pulitzer winner. (Also she’s one of my favourite authors, so maybe it’s about time I read this.)

In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin: Short story collection set in Pakistan. 

Moth Smoke: A Novel by Mohsin Hamid: Contemporary fiction, MC gets involved in a life of crime after getting fired, and is then caught and on trial for a murder he may or may not have committed. 

The Immortals by Amit Chaudhari: MC is a classically trained musician who enjoys teaching popular music and covets a modern life, accepts a student who only wants to study Indian classical music. Story follows their evolving relationship and their families. 

Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie: Fantasy fiction. I’m still unclear on the premise, and GR isn’t particularly illuminating. But it is Rushdie so I expect good storytelling and general weirdness. 

The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni: Fantasy fiction, Mahabharata retelling from Draupadi’s POV. 

Sunbolt Chronicles by Intisar Khanani: YA fantasy, MC is orphaned at an early age and is forced to keep her magical abilities, the identity of her parents, and her role in an underground revolutionary movement a secret. While on a mission, she’s captured by the baddies and must escape. (ICYMI, I loved Thorn by the same author, so I’m really looking forward to this series.)

Blue Boy by Rakesh Satyal: Coming-of-age story of a queer preteen boy who is also a second generation immigrant, and how he deals with being different and being a social outcast. 

God Loves Hair by Vivek Shraya: A short story collection that follows a child navigating society, race, gender, sexuality, and religion. 

Marriage of A Thousand Lies by S. J. Sindu: A Srilankan married couple pretend to be heterosexual to their parents and date people of their actual gender/sexual preference on the side. 

Some notes about this list: It goes without saying that it is by no means an exhaustive list. These are just the books I would definitely like to read this year. This list does not include any books with South Asian rep that I’ve read in the past. Two, a lot of these authors are firmly South Asian, as are the MCs, so I’d love to get recommendations of more authors from the diaspora. Third, I was unable to find a lot of queer/disability fiction books by South Asian authors, which makes me feel terrible. So again, if you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them. 

Let me know if you’ve read any of these, or if you have any recommendations, and keep an eye out for the nonfiction list tomorrow!

-J