Saturday, 31 March 2018

Book Review: Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaiswal

Book: Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows

Author: Balli Kaur Jaiswal 

Pages: 401

Read on: Kindle 

Read in: 4 hours 

Plot Summary: When Nikki takes a creative writing job at her local temple, with visions of emancipating the women of the community she left behind as a self-important teenager, she’s shocked to discover a group of barely literate women who have no interest in her ideals.

Yet to her surprise, the white dupatta of the widow hides more than just their modesty – these are women who have spent their lives in the shadows of fathers, brothers and husbands; being dutiful, raising children and going to temple, but whose inner lives are as rich and fruitful as their untold stories. 
But as they begin to open up to each other about womanhood, sexuality, and the dark secrets within the community, Nikki realises that the illicit nature of the class may place them all in danger.
East meets west and tradition clashes with modernity in a thought-provoking cross-cultural novel that might make you look again at the women in your life. 

Things I Liked:
  • Let's get it out of the way, right at the outset, this is a BRILLIANT book! You should read it because you will love it! 
  • Okay, so now that that's out of the way, let's get on with the review. First off, this book's premise is very, very interesting and fun. It is the story of a young British-Indian Sikh girl- Nikki- who takes on a part-time job at the gurudwara in Southall, supposedly, to teach Creative  Writing to Sikh widows. However, on her very first day, she realizes that most of the widows don't know how to write English. But when Nikki starts teaching them their A-B-Cs, she learns that the widows are more interested in recording their stories instead of learning the alphabet. That's how the widows start narrating their stories, which are quite, er, hilarious! 
  • Apart from the widows, Nikki and their back stories, which are interesting all on their own. The book is interspersed with the erotic stories and even an old murder mystery and another suspicious death. All of these different story lines make for an incredibly interesting and engaging read. There was so much going on in this book and the writer did a fantastic job with keeping these separate strands of the book coming together and never feeling like it was chaotic. 
  • The book talks about the important concept of honour in an Indian family and community and the sense of shame that sometimes shadows every move and every decision that we make. Especially women are policed and bullied into constantly toeing the line and are considered the custodians of honour. It made me so mad to read about some random dudes of the community appointing themselves as the moral police of the Sikh communist and going about policing young girls and women! Ugh! Why are people so vile! But this is a sad reality even though I wish it weren't. 
  • The author also does a great job of showing the struggle of the Indian diaspora. The kids born and raised abroad are perpetually torn between fully assimilating with the "western" way of life (which they need to do in order to 'fit in' in schools) and staying true to their Indian culture and traditions. The ridiculous dichotomy between growing up in a western, progressive milieu and, then, expected to have an arranged marriage with an Indian boy/girl from the same caste and religion! We also get to see the dangerous consequences when girls want to marry someone outside of the community. 
  • The book also has a little murder mystery angle going, which is nicely done.  
  • The bottomline is this- Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows- is a heartwarming, wonderful book about female friendships, repressed women finding joys in little things and, ultimately, about finding a way to belong to your people and community in your own way. 
Rating: 5/5 
Like I said, this is a fantastic, fun, thought-provoking book! Highly recommend! 

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