Dimple's disappointed parents set her up with a "suitable boy," the son of their best friend from India. When Karsh Kapoor arrives in pleated khakis, doting on his mom and kissing up to her immigrant parents, Dimple rebels. Meanwhile Caucasian Gwyn tries to claim Dimple's cultural heritage as her own, dressing in traditional Indian clothes and flirting with Karsh. When the suitable boy is revealed as a less suitable DJ, Dimple has second thoughts. She focuses her camera on her heritage and discovers that her family and the Kapoors are not as traditional as she had assumed.
The premise of this young adult novel reminded me of two of my favorite books for adults. A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth (1993) follows a Hindu family's quest for a husband for their daughter Lata during the tumultuous time of post-partition India. I quit my book group to read Vikram Seth's 1,474 page historical novel. Another favorite, Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake follows Gogol Ganguli from his teen years to early adulthood as he comes to terms with his Indian American identity. I wish Gogol and Dimple, both born in the USA but in different decades, could had met in high school. Interestingly, The Namesake and Born Confused were published the same year in the USA: 2003, although Born Confused was first published in the UK in 2002. Born Confused is a debut by a young author so it's not as polished as these two literary masterpieces, but there are thematic similarities, and its humor and pop culture references make it better suited to a teen audience. Nonetheless, adults would appreciate the multi-aged characters, philosophical questions and cultural depth.
The writing was good too:
Dimple explains why she use photography to communicate with her grandfather in India: "It was so much easier to make the world black and white than brown."
In a genuine teen voice, she expresses her confusion: "I guess I'm just not Indian enough for the Indians or American enough for the Americans, depending on who's looking."
I enjoyed her quirky metaphors: "A warm feeling filled me like tea."
|Tanuja Desai Hidier|
Scholastic Press photo
I'd strongly recommend Born Confused to readers aged 14 and up, who enjoy literary young adult fiction and multicultural books. There is underaged drinking and drug use but not without consequences. This book would crossover well to an adult audience. Teachers, Born Confused would pair very well with The Namesake in a class about multiculturalism, immigration and assimilation.
Seawall Beach at Morse Mountain, my favorite time of year.
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