Puja's Book Club: Representation Matters
I love reading... from getting lost in an adventure to learning how to be the best version of me, but that wasn't always the case. Representation not only matters in what we see but also what we read. I didn't know I was a book worm until I came across Born Confused in High School. It was the first time I enjoyed a book - because I could relate to it.
So today I'm sharing my favourite books featuring Indian, Canadian/American/British-Indian stories.
Born Confused, Tanuja Desai Hidier. Up until about... grade 10, I thought books were boring. Then that year, I picked up Born Confused. I did judge the book by it's cover. It was the first time I saw someone like me on the cover of a book. I didn't realize until this point that stories of brown girls were being told. It was the first time I could relate to the protagonist. Now although I haven't read it since grade 10 and I'm sure it might not be an adult recommendation, I had to mention it because it proves that representation matters! I truly think the next few would have never been read if I didn't realize that it's not books that are boring, it's about finding the right ones.
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), Mindy Kaling. I love books where I can actually laugh out loud and this is one of them. We still have a long way to go but Mindy Kaling has made our stories possible in so many ways. This is her story and each chapter is broken down into TV show like segments, where you laugh and feel like you're hanging with a girlfriend just trying to figure out life, knowing you're not the only one who has these feelings.
What the Body Remembers, Shauna Singh Baldwin. The story of the partition that divided India and Pakistan was a large part of my life. My grandmother was from Lahore which is now Pakistan. She had to pick up her entire life, like people on both sides did, to move to a new city, in her case, Delhi. This story is actually of a girl who turns into a woman during the time of the partition. Although the character's story varied from the ones I grew up listening to; exploring the journey helped me feel a deeper connection to all those who had to leave their homes. It also makes me appreciate life more and being a feminist in today's world, as I understand now what women before may have been up against. The novel explores two females views that are quite different but the same. Both of which you can learn from in various ways.
The Henna Artist, Alka Joshi. Seems like everyone in quarantine had this read on their list. It was a full out adventure, navigating life in India after the British left, a rise of independence for both the country and the main character, Laxmi. This novel was an escape I couldn't put down. A journey of sisterhood and entrepreneurship in a time where equality was still being fought. Alka Joshi is an incredible writer and I truly can't wait for her next novel.
Erotic Stories of Punjabi Widows, Balli Kaur Jaswal. A fun read - filled with adventure, mystery, and love. Its story revolves around a second-generation British-Indian woman navigating life, trying to find her groove, and becoming someone who makes an impact. Although I couldn't relate to her personally, I thought it was interesting to see life through her perspective as well as the perspectives of the widows, who sometimes feel forgotten especially in older generations.
The Grown-Up Pose, Sonya Lalli. The perfect beach! Anu is a second-generation Canadian-Indian, whose life seemed to fall into place perfectly very early on, which causes her to lose herself. She navigates her separation/divorce while starting her own businesses and trying to be the perfect mother. It's a short, fun book, that really reminds the reader that we can only give when our glass is full. I also LOVED the reference to Canadian cities and lifestyles!
Palace of Illusions, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. Being raised in a Hindu family, it goes without saying that I grew up listening to tales of the Mahabharat. This is a story about a great war, in which the Bhagavad Gita came to be. The story is always told from the perspective of the universe or time which is the narrator. That said, most of it revolves around the male perspective. That's where this novel steps out with a major twist. The entire story is written from a females perspective, a woman so strong, some believe she is the reason for the entire war. Whenever I heard tales of this character, I would always see flashes of feminist perspectives but no story really dove in and explained her point of view as deeply as this one. Of course, we don't actually know what she was thinking - or any of them for that matter, but the author does an incredible job interpreting events from a woman's perspective.
*BONUS* The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters, Balli Kaur Jaswal - ok this is a bonus only I because I was trying not to feature the same author twice, but I couldn't leave this list without mentioning a book about 3 sisters who take an adventure to India. Unlike them, my sisters get along really well and are very close but the dynamic is so relatable and I love how it shares the immigrant experience along with the struggles of being second generation; battling two cultures.
Now, this list could have gone on forever, maybe I'll do more in the days to come, but these are some of the most amazing reads I've experienced that have brought a new perspective, or given me the confidence to be a voice and have a platform! I really hope you enjoy them too.