I’ve just finished reading (well, listening to, tbh, but the line is starting to blur for me between audiobooks and paperbooks–but that’s another story) Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal, and, OMFG, goddess, what a perfect book, and if you’re free this Valentine’s Day, spend the night with her and you will be so, so satisfied.
This is not, by the way, a book review. If you want to know what the book is about, I’m pasting the publisher’s blurb below. But it doesn’t really do it justice. Just read the damn thing. It’s brilliant and beautiful, and will make you a better writer, better human being, and perhaps a better lover.
FROM THE PUBLISHERS:
Nikki, a modern daughter of Indian immigrants, has spent most of her twenty-odd years distancing herself from the traditional Sikh community of her childhood, preferring a more independent (that is, Western) life. When her father’s death leaves the family financially strapped, Nikki impulsively takes a job teaching a “creative writing” course at the community center in the beating heart of London’s close-knit Punjabi community.
The proper Sikh widows who show up are expecting to learn English, not short-story writing. When one of the widows finds a book of erotica and shares it with the class, Nikki realizes that beneath their white dupattas, her students have a wealth of fantasies and memories that they’ve held in for far too long. Eager to liberate these modest women, she teaches them how to express their untold stories, unleashing creativity of the most unexpected—and exciting—kind.
As the class grows, a group called the Brothers, who have appointed themselves Southall’s “moral police,” threaten to reveal the class’s scandalous stories and the mysterious secrets lurking beneath this seemingly sedate, tight-knit community.
A lively, sexy, and thought-provoking East-meets-West story about community, friendship, and women’s lives at all ages, Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows is a reader’s delight.
Also, check out: an interview with the author in The Hindu.
There are so many things I love about this book–the weaving of stories, the switching of perspectives, the sensitive-yet-critical look at the cultural and generational and gender conflicts experienced by the characters–the humour–the erotic stories, of course, and how they are woven into the main narrative–the “mystery” subplot…
It’s also a book that could only have been written by a third culture kid. (Third culture children–who do grow up to be adults–are raised in a culture other than their parents’ home culture… and then either return home or live in yet another culture… and yet another one…) Jaswal is able to balance the insight of an insider with the critical eye of the outsider. The story is set in a Punjabi neighbourhood in London — Jaswal’s family has roots in the Punjab, but she was born in Singapore and now splits her time and life between Singapore and Australia. That multicultural experience is evident in how she crafts, approaches, explores her characters’ lives, challenges and their relationship with their dual cultures.
It’s so good.
I’m so happy I read it.
I’m so happy she wrote it.
I’m so happy this is her third novel, so there are two more I can go read right away, and also, there’s a fourth one on its way!
If you’ve read Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows, can you email me so we can talk about it? Thanks!
And happy Valentine’s Day, kittens.