Post number seven is for Tanuja Desai Hidier's Born Confused, another required book for my YA Lit course. I'm not sure what it is exactly about the required reading list for this course, but nearly every book we've read so far this semester has been in first person, which I think I've mentioned I really don't like that much. However, for this book, it worked really well, because it let you see inside the (very confused) mind of the narrator, Dimple Lala, an Indian-American teenager who is having a bit of an identity crisis. Hence the title, and the entire plot of the book.
The book revolves around Dimple, whose parents are immigrants from India (Dimple was born in the US, in Springfield, New Jersey). Dimple's identity crisis involves her being not American enough for the Americans and not Indian enough for the Indians. Her best friend, Gwyn, plays into a lot of this crisis, as Gwyn is blonde and beautiful and Dimple spends the majority of the time being completely jealous of her and yet loving her completely. The trouble really starts when Dimple's parents decide she needs a "suitable husband", and thus enters Karsh, the son of one of Dimple's parents' childhood friends (who also happens to live in New Jersey). They have a meeting, where Dimple is determined to not like Karsh at all – and succeeds at first – but things take a dramatic turn when she meets Karsh at a club (she was invited by her cousin, Kavita, who is going to NYU to study premed) and realizes that he's not at all like she thought he was. The only problem is that Gwyn is also at the club, and – having heard from Dimple herself that she's "free to have him" – decides she likes Karsh a lot and, throughout much of the rest of the book – enlists Dimple's help to become a "suitable girl" so as to woo Karsh to her. Dimple soon realizes that not only does she like Karsh, but she's fallen in love with him, but is determined to keep away so that Gwyn can be happy (a theme throughout the book is Dimple sacrificing her own happiness for Gwyn). The only trouble with this is that, while Karsh and Gwyn spend a lot of time together, he doesn't like Gwyn as anything but a friend – which Dimple is too silly to realize herself at first – and would much rather be spending his time with Dimple. The other problem is that Dimple isn't the ideal daughter by any means – she refuses to embrace her Indian culture and she wants to be a photographer – but what she fails to realize is that her parents love her probably more than anything else regardless and just want her to be happy (much like she wants Gwyn to be happy). It all works out in the end, though, which I loved, because yay, happy endings. <3
There are some really great passages in this book, especially when Dimple talks about her visits to India, and her Dadaji (her grandfather), and how she feels when she's taking photos. There are also some great lines from Karsh describing his feelings when he's DJing. Also, Dimple's parents are pretty hysterical – there's a passage where Karsh has returned the Tupperware he borrowed from Dimple's mother, and when Dimple hears something inside of it, opens it to find the sweet part of the mukhas (an Indian dish) along with a note that reads, "Rani (this means Queen in Hindi). I don't know how to thank you. That was the most marvelous gift I have ever received." He's not talking about the Tupperware, obviously, but Dimple's father (who is reading the note over her shoulder) says, "What a grateful letter! Imagine if we had given him stainless steel!" :)) There's also a chapter that involves Dimple and her father spending an afternoon together, where they go to temple and have a very heartfelt conversation, that literally brought tears to my eyes. While there were definitely terms that I had to go to Wikipedia to see what they were talking about (mostly Indian terms), for the most part I understood at least the gist and really really enjoyed the book a lot.
My only complaint was the way the author wrote her dialogue, as it was sometimes hard to tell when someone was talking. Instead of using commas/quotation marks like usual, she used hyphens, so the dialogue would look something like this:
–I wish she were here, I said. –I mean, in a way it's her party.
–Well, kudos to Flash!, she was certainly the woman to put in charge. After all, she's the one who told them to use you for visuals.
–She insisted, Karsh smiled.
Etc. It got really confusing when there were hyphens in what the characters were saying, because then it looked like I'd missed an action or something in the middle. But that was really the only downside to reading the book, and after a while you did get used to it. It was just really strange to see, since it was the first book I've ever encountered that wrote their dialogue in that format.
This is a long book – 413 pages – but it only took me three days to finish, even with work and class. It reads pretty quickly, and it's pretty heartwarming, even when you want to reach through the pages and throttle some characters at times (including Dimple herself). I really enjoyed reading it, and was glad it was on the reading list for my YA Lit class, or I would have missed it completely. Definitely two thumbs up!
Currently reading: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie [RR], A Very Long Engagement by Sébastien Japrisot