A Review of Well Behaved Indian Women
Well Behaved Indian Women by Saumya Dave
(By a Somewhat Well Behaved Indian Woman)
Once in a while there comes a book which has you in its grasp from the very first word. A story filled with that certain something that makes it impossible for you to put it down, and when you inevitably have to, your mind is filled with the characters. Their emotions are melded with your own, and you count the breaths you take until you can finally go back to the book and just READ uninterrupted.
Well Behaved Indian Woman is one that speaks to my past and my present. It de-fines the concept and confines of being a woman from a South Asian back-ground. The difficulties, the suffocation, the inability to express your thoughts openly, the importance of family and traditions, the inexplicable love for your children, the sacrifices you make for everyone without giving a single thought to yourself - all have been so beautifully expressed in this story of three generations.
First time author Saumya Dave has woven a real-world story that celebrates women and the sacrifices they make for family and culture. She is a psychiatrist who delves deep into the depths of the three main characters' lives and the choices they have had to make. Dave captures the emotion and turmoil of the characters in a way that connects with the reader's heart. It is quite rare for a reader to have such a visceral response to characters in a fictional story and the author's writing style inspires this so effortlessly.
As many generations can attest, growing up in America doesn't necessarily mean you get to grow up away from the culture, traditions, or expectations of family members. Some traditions are so ingrained in a people that it takes several generations for them to fade away. The character of Simran has a nontraditional up-bringing, yet she must face judgmental attitudes and expectations even when she is allowed to make her own choices. This is so familiar for those young women who are caught between their culture and their own dreams and aspirations. The universal struggle between what is expected and what is desired is a common battle that we all face as human beings. In this instance, the author has used language that is typically heard in the South Asian community. The idea of being "eager to please" or putting aside your own dreams for the sake of family are themes that are addressed with such brilliant insight in this book.
I highly recommend this book as an escape from real life as well as a return to your roots. It pulls you into its pages as any good story does. It makes you ponder your choices and the freedom to make them as well as those choices that are thrust upon you.
Some of my favorite books about mother-daughter relationships that have modern South Asian flavor are also available at the Mercer County Library System. Look for them in print or online.
The Storyteller's Secret by Sejal Badani
Recipe for Persuasion by Sonali Dev
Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev
A Place at the Table by Saadia Faruqi (a Juvenile Fiction Book)
The Hindi-Bindi Club by Monica Pradhan
By Kaneeze at Hightstown