Monday, May 19, 2014

Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier | Book Review

Born Confused is the narrative of a coming-of-age/coming-into-yourself summer through the eyes of Dimple Lala.  Dimple is the American-born child of Indian immigrant parents, and she's struggling to fit in her very white town of Springfield.  She's one of only two Indians at her high school, and considering that the other Indian is a Sikh, Jimmy Trilok, with his turban and his curried lunches... well, he's not friend material.  Her best friend is Gwyn, and they've been Supertwins since early childhood, despite their differences in appearance.  They're joined at the hip and do everything together.  They even share a locker at school!  Dimple is a talented photographer, and Gwyn is often her subject.  

In fact, Gwyn is often the subject for, well, everyone.  She's tall and thin and blonde and rich and popular.  She's got a great boyfriend with whom she may be doing, ahem, things.  And with Dimple newly single, it kind of makes for a third wheel kind of scenario.

Born Confused opens with Dimple's seventeenth birthday and so many things just go so wrong for her.  First, there's the absence of her grandfather, her Dadaji, who passed away the previous year.  She misses him so much.  They had such a special relationship, even despite not sharing a language.  Then there's her parents:  they're just so awkward and they sooooo don't even understand her.  They keep encouraging her to take color photos; don't they understand the art in her black and whites?  And Gwyn:  she gives Dimple a great new outfit to wear out on a double-date she's set up; but then Gwyn shows up in the same outfit looking twice as fabulous!  And gets Dimple drunk... infinitely embarrassing when she ends up sick in front of the guy Gwyn is setting her up with. To top it all off, her parents have the audacity to invite her super-judgmental cousin to her birthday dinner.  Kavita constantly taunted her when they were kids and Dimple would visit in India.  Can her life get any more horrifying?  Why yes, yes it can:  her parents arrange a meeting with a "suitable" (Indian) boy and his mother!  The first step in an arrangement.  

Through the course of the book we follow Dimple as she really comes into her own.  As she learns to embrace and not fear the unique differences between herself and Gwyn.  As she learns to embrace and own her Indian culture.  As she learns that her parents are people with their own stories to tell... and that they really do understand her!  As she finds love and acceptance in different places and with different people. 

This is not a fluff book.  It's long and it's deep and it's wonderful.  It's unpredictable in an awesome way.  And the writing:  WOW.  Tanuja Desai Hidier has this lyrical, almost poetic way with words.  I found myself lingering over and savoring passages.  I absolutely love the way that she describes people, places, things, experiences.  I can't recommend this book highly enough.

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