Hidier, Tanuja Desai. Born confused.
This is an especially witty, intelligent immigrant experience novel, written by a young woman who grew up in America and probably was ABCD (American Born Confused Desi) herself. It has a lot of pages for a YA novel and each page is filled with words, smallish print. Clearly Hidier loves words and knows how to use them lavishly. In a way, it is a reflection of the Indian culture in general, filled with colors and food and aromas and action. I like the cover art: basically, the eyes and forehead of an Indian woman with a red question mark where the bindi (red dot) goes.
The narrator is named Dimple Lala and she lives in New Jersey. Her parents are well-educated Indian immigrants who adore her and hover over her anxiously. She is in high school. Her best friend is a Caucasian American named Gwyn, who lives nearby. Gwyn has a rotten home life and spends a lot of time with Dimple's family, admiring the clothes, food, and above all, the loving parents. Gwyn is beautiful and into boys, sex, and the wild side while Dimple looks on admiringly. This lengthy story, filled with characters and situations, tells how the two mature, seeing one another differently. Finally, each girl is able to see herself in a new light. For Dimple, this means accepting all the plusses and minuses of being an Indian in America, finding a way to fit the two cultures together and falling in love with someone who is comfortable in both cultures.
Dimple is an accomplished observer, and she uses this skill while taking photographs, an essential part of being herself. How she goes into the "darkening room" as her parents call it, to lose herself in the development of the prints, is almost like going back into the womb to be reborn. On a foray into NYC, she meets a beautiful girl named Zara, only later realizing that Zara is male, a transvestite. They become friends, and Dimple persuades him/her to allow her to photograph the transformation Zara undergoes with clothes and makeup to turn from young man to young woman. This series of photographs is published in a New York magazine; for the first time, Dimple feels proud of her accomplishments and has a glimpse into a future where she is seen as an artist.
Another part of the plot is that Dimple's parents arrange a meeting with the son of an old friend from India. She is horrified at the manipulation and claims to hate the guy, so Gwyn feels free to pursue him. Slowly over time, Dimple realizes that she is jealous and interested in Karsh for herself. This causes a major fall-out between the friends, but is a catalyst for Dimple's coming to terms with her own cultural heritage. And the girlfriends finally resolve their differences and in doing so, find their friendship is much stronger than it ever was before. Hidier's voice is original. Here's a bit of dialogue between the two girlfriends: Gywn says, "You see ... with an Indian boy maybe you can, you know, explore all that stuff. Go Kamasutronic, so to speak."
I think YA girls who love to talk and make up language and analyze everything about their lives will really love this book. Claire Rosser, KLIATT
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|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Nov 1, 2002|
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