?

Log in

No account? Create an account
Vik and Vimi's Infinite Playlist - The Book of the Celestial Cow

> Recent Entries
> Archive
> Friends
> Profile
> My Website

April 2nd, 2009


Previous Entry Share Next Entry
04:50 pm - Vik and Vimi's Infinite Playlist
These days, it's rare that I don't read something that someone has not already recommended to me. Gone are the days when I would just skim the shelf and pick up a book because it looked interesting. Yet, that is essentially what happened with Born Confused, by Tanuja Desai Hidier. Granted, I did get confirmation from some of you before actually buying it, but I just came across it in a used bookstore and was intrigued. According to the blurb, it was a "story about finding yourself, finding your friends, finding love, and finding your culture—sometimes where you least expect it." Right up my alley, eh?

Dimple Lala is an Indian-American teenage girl with very traditional parents. She loves photography and her white best friend, Gwyn Sexton. Enter Karsh, a Suitable Boy for marriage. Dimple, of course, thinks he's totally lame...until she meets him in his natural environment, DJing a party. But as soon as she decides she actually likes him, Gwyn gets all starry-eyed for him. Hijinks ensue.

That's the précis, and it's a fairly generic plot with the exception of the arranged marriage element (which doesn't really even figure in that greatly since Dimple has been allowed to date white boys before). But there's so much more to the book than that; it's quite dense. It takes over a hundred pages of setup before Karsh even enters the scene (and another hundred before the main plot really kicks into gear). But the book isn't just about an angst-ridden love story and the bonds of friendship. Much of the book is spent on Dimple's connecting with her family: her cousins, her parents, even her late grandfather. The story takes place in the summer before senior year, a time of transition, so Dimple learns about not only her own culture but others as well, finding a kinship in the identity struggles of lesbians and drag queens.

The major appeal for me, of course, was that it was a book whose target audience was, well, me. An American-born confused Desi. Here was a book with Indian characters that I really related to and that felt real. Desai Hidier captures all the little details like Dimple's parents' use of the "fancy schmancy"/"Leno Schmeno"/"altoo faltoo" construction (though sometimes it makes them seem like caricatures) and the gender separation in the temple. All these little things that I'm familiar with that made me feel like, since they were in this book, I shared a common experience. To my surprise, Desai Hidier defines almost none of the Hindi words and sometimes doesn't even provide enough context for a non-Indian reader. Other times, she does give extensive descriptions of Indian things, even when I was already clear what she was talking about.

Besides that, it is a good book. Dimple is an endearing protagonist (even if her narration is a little more sophisticated than I'd expect from a seventeen-year-old), and the other characters are fairly well drawn. So much of her journey is universal; you don't have to be born confused to identify with her struggles and conflicts and eye-opening experiences. The book has some deliciously punny chapter titles. It feels like a good teen movie, you know? Crossed with a good indie movie that addresses issues like cultural appropriation and cultural identity.

My cousin threw a Desi Bash a couple weekends ago, and I sold snacks. I publicly read my book, and several people there commented on it. My aunt showed it to some of the other moms. One of my cousin's friends—who wants to be a DJ—thought it was like her dream story. I don't know how many books there really are about us ABCDs, but it's clear Dimple's story is appreciated.
Current Mood: worriedworried
Current Music: Hooverphonic - Plus Profond

(15 memoirs | Describe me as "inscrutable")

Comments:


From:dotificus
Date:April 3rd, 2009 12:23 am (UTC)
(Link)
Oooo, sounds good!

::adds to list::

And I want to add, in response to your other post, that the business of an artist is to find out what particular story he or she has to tell (or what vision to reveal through painting, etc.) and you find that out by doing it. You might tell stories about white people or Indian, or Indians who are confused, or all of the above. Or other characters you have no idea are out there, lurking and waiting for you. You might start out writing one kind of thing and then find your real story is something very different. Don't overthink it. Esp. before you write.
[User Picture]
From:latropita
Date:April 3rd, 2009 01:08 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Dude, this sounds awesome. *adds to list*
[User Picture]
From:latropita
Date:April 3rd, 2009 01:14 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Hahahaha. In the interest of not leaving you a virtually the same comment as the one above, I will tell you that both this: Dimple, of course, thinks he's totally lame...until she meets him in his natural environment, DJing a party. and this: finding a kinship in the identity struggles of lesbians and drag queens. are the specific bits that upgraded this from "huh" to "sweet!" They also make it sound kind of awesomely Skins-y, though I assume that's a parallel only in my mind.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:April 3rd, 2009 04:10 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Ha! It's much more tame than Skins, but now that you mention it, I could see this story done on Skins...in a different way, of course.

I didn't mention that there are a lot of neat descriptions of photography and DJing; she clearly either did her research or has experience with both.
[User Picture]
From:jenepel
Date:April 3rd, 2009 04:02 pm (UTC)
(Link)
To my surprise, Hidier defines almost none of the Hindi words and sometimes doesn't even provide enough context for a non-Indian reader. Other times, she does give extensive descriptions of Indian things, even when I was already clear what she was talking about.

I seem to remember you making a similar comment about Midnight's Children but I don't think it stuck out to me in either book. Perhaps we are so used to reading with context clues that even when the culture is unknown, the brain just automatically adjusts? Not sure if that made sense (!) but basically I was trying to say that I didn't find the lack of explanations a hindrance in either book. In fact, I didn't notice it too much until you pointed it out. In any case, I enjoyed both of them, so keep on recommending!
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:April 3rd, 2009 04:13 pm (UTC)
(Link)
That's interesting! I mean, I am objectively incapable of knowing how this stuff would come across to a non-Indian reader because my brain is wired differently. That's good for me to know, really, for my future writing. Trust the reader! I'm glad that you were able to follow everything well enough, and I'm glad you enjoyed the book!
[User Picture]
From:punzerel
Date:April 3rd, 2009 05:01 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I agree that you should trust the reader! I kind of like it when books throw bits of culture at me without stopping to hold my hand and explain it. But I guess if you use a lot of non-English words, it's worth adding a glossary? I don't particularly remember whether I was totally baffled or completely clear (or somewhere in between) on the Hindi language words in this book, but that's because it's been two years or more since I read it.
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
From:queenal
Date:April 3rd, 2009 06:24 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Do you mind if I forward your review to the author?

There is supposed to be a movie being made of it (man, that's a bad sentence!), but I think it's in development Hell or something.

I don't remember any difficulties with the Desi turns of phrase, but then, I've grown up around Indians (my sister in law and her family, plus my friends), so maybe I wouldn't notice. It is difficult to know what to explain and what not - this happens even to me sometimes, as a Brit talking to Americans.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:April 3rd, 2009 06:36 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Do you mind if I forward your review to the author?
Oh dear God. Now I'm glad I wasn't more critical! Sure, go ahead.

There is supposed to be a movie being made of it (man, that's a bad sentence!), but I think it's in development Hell or something.
Boo! It would make a nice movie. It could have been, like, Bend It Like Beckham 2: Born Confused.
[User Picture]
From:soundingsea
Date:April 8th, 2009 03:22 am (UTC)
(Link)
I picked this up from the library (on your recommendation) and really enjoyed it. Thanks!
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:April 8th, 2009 03:58 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Yay!! I'm glad you liked it. Were you able to pick up on all the foreign words and things?
[User Picture]
From:soundingsea
Date:April 8th, 2009 08:05 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Sure. While I'm no expert in All Things Desi, I could get a lot from context. And, you know, I have google. ;)
[User Picture]
From:lembeau
Date:July 10th, 2009 11:42 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I haven't read this, but it sounds good. Heh, altoo faltoo. So true.

I know it's a bit older, but tell me you've seen American Desi. Every time I meet someone named Jonathon I giggle.

Friends?
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:July 10th, 2009 11:51 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I know it's a bit older, but tell me you've seen American Desi.
I have! THE MAGICAL HEALING POWERS OF RAAS!

Friends?
Let's do it!

> Go to Top
LiveJournal.com