Thursday, December 30, 2010

Throwback Thursday: Born Confused

Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier 2002

Rating: 4.5/5

IQ "She'd told him I was the Indian girl. The Indian girl. Somehow neither description rang completely true to me in terms of how I felt inside, but the thing was I'd never really consciously thought of myself as American, either. Of course I did the Pledge, too, along with everybody else for years of mornings, but like everyone else I wasn't really thinking about the words. I mean, I definitely wanted liberty like Gwyn had with the car keys and no curfew and justice for all would be great, especially in high school where people were definitely not created equal (proof: cheerleaders). But I didn't know if that had so much to do with the stars and stripes; it seemed to be more about the jeans and teams." Dimple pg. 13

Dimple Rohitbhai Lala is confused. She doesn't feel American or Indian. Being Indian is now cool, even her best friend is wrapped up in the 'romance' of India, wearing saris and a bindi dot. Dimple's still trying to forget about her ex boyfriend who broke up with her a year ago and her best friend, Gwyn, is spending less and less time with her. Her parents have decided it's time for her to meet a 'suitable boy' so they set her up on a blind date. Dimple dismisses him as a mama's boy and ignores him. Until she's at a club and discovers that he's one of the best DJs in NYC. Dimple now wants the 'suitable boy' because he seems so unsuitable. Of course, Dimple essentially relinquished claim on him when she declared him a mama's boy and too soft....

The only problem with this book is that it moves veeerrryyy slowly and it times it reads like a 'everything you need to know about South Asian culture' guide. I loved learning about South Asian culture' the terms, the food, the clothes, but at the same time, some of this information is passed down through lectures or infodumps done by characters. Other than that, I absolutely loved this book. You don't have to be South Asian to identify with this book (although I have no doubt you would love this book even more if you were), anyone who is second or third generation can relate to not feeling quite American but not feeling as though you are a part of your culture either. We seem to be stuck between two worlds and are constantly trying to reconcile them. Every page in this book contains at least one memorable line, there are a lot of deep thoughts being shared between characters and these conversations are golden. They are the type of conversations that many dream of having with your friends, when you can tell them anything at all, be completely vulnerable and they'll still love you. It wasn't until the end that I understood why Gwyn and Dimple were friends. Gwyn treated Dimple poorly for most of the book (especially her claim that she knew about Indian culture because she had a Indian friend. Oh jeez), but at the end, she more than makes up for it.

Dimple is one of the most fantastic main characters I've ever read. She's awkward, confused and funny. I love that Dimple really comes alive when she takes pictures (her camera is named Chica Tikka which means third eye. Great name!) and when she's talking about her pictures. I could perfectly envision her snapping away at everything she saw and being able to see the beauty in every image. I could also really relate to Dimple's 'perfect life.' Gwyn tells Dimple that she would never understand what it means to come from a 'broken' family because her home life is perfect, her parents are in love. Gwyn and Karsh (the suitable/unsuitable boy) are discussing their single parent homes and while Karsh is more sympathetic to Dimple's point, Gwyn is not.

"'What do you mean? They don't hold hands, I've never seen them kiss. In fact, I'm not even sure how I got here, to tell the truth.' [Dimple]
-What's kissing and holding hands? said Gwyn almost snobbishly. That's a dime dozen. They wake up together every morning, they sleep together every night; they managed to cross an ocean together and not fall apart. And they adore you. That's pretty perfect and you're complaining? What's wrong with you? You could use all that love to go out and conquer the world!
I wasn't complaining. I was just trying to find my place in this conversation, but it was looking more and more like a sold-out show." (pg. 247) I get that. It seems weird to want to fit in by complaining about how much your life stinks, but I've felt that way before too. It's an uncomfortable feeling when everyone thinks your life is perfect and refuses to see that you might still be unhappy. Karsh is probably one of the best YA crushes ever. He's not perfect though since he sends so many mixed signals (half the time it was obvious that he had feelings for Dimple but then the other half of the time he was really into Gwyn). One of my favorite scenes is at the end when *SPOILER* (highlight to read) Karsh is saying that he can't believe Dimple didn't know he was into her and she defends herself by telling him about all his mixed signals;
"Like that time you came over and out of all the pictures I'd taken chose the one of her [Gwyn]for the one you wanted, the one you wanted to keep.
-Dimple, he said, and he looked at me first surprised then very soberly.-Of course I picked that one.
-Of course?
-That was the only one with you in it, he said." pg. 484 Not gonna lie, my heart melted at that line. I'm growing sappy!*End of Spoiler*

Born Confused is a priceless tale of friendship, tradition, culture, love and being seventeen. The story is a riot to read because Dimple can be very melodramatic and her parents can mix up some American phrases with quite amusing results. While the story can move very slowly and seem to be drifitng aimlessly, there are frequent witty observations and bursts of laughter. I would love to meet Dimple and Karsh (I could leave Gwyn) and just explore the Desai neighborhoods of NYC with them. I love that there are so many complex characters and storylines (like the one with Kavita, Dimple's cousin). I wish all the information about Indian culture and South Asian culture in general had been presented in a more easygoing/natural manner, but nevertheless I appreciated the information. You will not forget Dimple and her mixed-up and messy life. Highly, highly recommended.

Disclosure: Bought. One of my best purchases for sure!


  1. I've recently added this book to my TBR list so it's great to see another good review of it!

  2. I loved this book! So good! Still have a crush on Karsh, and like you, I'd love to meet Karsh, Dimple, and maybe her cousin, Kavita, in real life.

    Sidenote: I'm South Asian. But my friend - also South Asian - thought it was just okay.

    I don't think it's purely an identity thing, the writing is really fantastic. Especially the descriptions of photography. It seems like most writers, if they give their characters a passion/hobby, it's writing, because that's what they know. I loved that in this book, it was something different.

  3. @Helen-You will totally enjoy it! This is the second book we've read close together :) (this and Wanting Mor!)

    @M-I have a crush on Karsh too, haha. You definitely can't generalize who would like this but I do think the connection might run deeper if you come from the same culture. It's not purely an identity thing you're right, it's a funny and real story. I too loved that Dimple was so into photography because that's when she really came alive.

  4. I loved this book when I read it back in high school. I remember thinking I would not pick it up, but continually going to the library and staring at it's cover. Eventually, I gave into the siren song of the cover and read this in like 2 days. AND LOVED IT.

    I am glad you enjoyed Born Confused too, Ari. It's too bad the author hasn't written any other books yet, as this was excellent.

  5. Hi! :)
    I'm a new follower. Just wondering what "Throwback Thursday" is. Is it a weekly meme you are hosting? Can other bloggers use the phrase "Throwback Thursday" too and link back to your blog? Someone commented on my blog about reviewing books published in the past and if you are already hosting that meme then I would like to join.

    Hope you didn't mind the question. Thanks! ;)
    (And oh, I'm from the Philippines and yes, books featuring exotic locales/characters, especially those from Asia, are always extra interesting for us.^_^)

    - Mauie (The Traveling Reader)

  6. @April-I'm replying to this extra late so I'm skeptical you'll see this but I agree, I wish the author had written more books! Or at least that Born Confused was indeed going to be turned into a film or TV show.

    @Thetravelingreader-Yay new followers! Thank you so much for 'following' my blog :D

    I actually got this meme from the blog Take Me Away reading and in some reviews I forgot to give her credit. I'll vist your blog and post a link for you!

    BTW I love your blog name. combines two of my loves, reading and traveling =D

  7. Wow. That was super fast. Hehe
    Thanks for visiting, Ari. :)
    You know, the only thing I hate about visiting new blogs is how my wishlist is surely going to get longer and longer. I'm keeping track of all the new blogs I visit, too, so I could give them some love from time to time (yeah, too many great blogs, so little time). ^_^

  8. One thing I really liked about this book were the characters. They were all very real and dynamic. Like real people, they were multisided and reacted differently in different situations. Also, they were shaped by the different experiences in the book. None of the characters were static.


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