The Indian Subcontinent

Over one and a half billion people live in South Asia in the countries of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, and Sri Lanka - forty percent of the people of Asia on ten percent of the Asian landmass. This bustling subcontinent is home to ancient cultures and cutting edge technology. The cultural and geographic melange that is South Asia flavors these novels like the spices in a good curry.

Serving Crazy with Curry: A Novel

By Amulya Malladi

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"Between the pressures to marry and become a traditional Indian wife and the humiliation of losing her job in Silicon Valley, Devi is on the edge–-where the only way out seems to be to jump. . . . Yet Devi’s plans to “end it all” fall short when she is saved by the last person she wants to see: her mother. Forced to move in with her parents until she recovers, Devi refuses to speak. Instead, she cooks . . . nonstop. And not the usual fare, but off the wall twists on Indian classics, like blueberry curry chicken or Cajun prawn biryani. Now family meals are no longer obligations. Devi’s parents, her sister, and her brother-in-law can’t get enough–and they suddenly find their lives taking turns as surprising as the impromptu creations Devi whips up in the kitchen each night. Then a stranger appears out of the blue. Devi, it appears, had a secret–-one that touches many a nerve in her tightly wound family. Though exposing some shattering truths, the secret will also gather them back together in ways they never dreamed possible. Interspersed with mouthwatering recipes, this story mixes humor, warmth, and leap-off-the-page characters into a rich stew of a novel that reveals a woman’s struggle for acceptance from her family and herself."
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Magic Seeds

By V.S. Naipaul

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Willie Chandran feels as though the life he lives is not his own. But his listlessness washes away in a flood of encouragement from his radically political sister. Inspired, he joins an underground liberation movement in India. But after years of revolution and incarceration, he grows disillusioned and returns to England, still hoping to find his true self.

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For Matrimonial Purposes

By Kavita Daswani

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"Anju has grown up in upper-middle-class Bombay, where even in the twenty-first century, arranged marriage is the norm. Her parents have been trying to find a suitable man for her since her late teens, but they keep turning up types who - shudder - wear shiny disco-era shirts, or want to carry her away to their family compound in Ghana, or are otherwise equally hopeless. The ones she likes, well, they just don't seem to fall for her."

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Desirable Daughters

By Bharati Mukherjee

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What does an Indian father do with three desirable daughters, well-educated, groomed, English speaking and beautiful? Advertise and control, of course. He needs three desirable husbands and he needs all three daughters to behave at all times like proper Indian ladies. This, mind you, in the 1970's! They all marry well, meaning money, connections and profession of the groom. What can happen when choice is taken away, lives are full of secrets, and East meets West makes for a wonderful cultural peek inside Indian life.

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Brick Lane

By Monica Ali

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"This is the deeply moving story of one woman, Nazneen, born in a Bangladeshi village and transported to London at age eighteen to enter into an arranged marriage. What could not be changed must be borne. And since nothing could be changed, everything had to be borne. This principle ruled her life. It was mantra, fettle, and challenge. Nazneen's inauspicious entry into the world, an apparent stillbirth on the hard mud floor of a village hut, imbues in her a sense of fatalism that she carries across continents when she is married off to Chanu, a man old enough to be her father. Nazneen moves to London and, for years, keeps house, cares for her husband, and bears children, just as a girl from the village is supposed to do. But gradually she is transformed by her experience, and begins to question whether fate controls her or whether she has a hand in her own destiny."

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Black Narcissus

By Rumer Godden

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"In this 1939 psychological drama, English and Irish nuns work to establish a convent in a unused palace, high in the Himalayas. The nuns are to doomed to failure because their own repressed memories and desires make them unable to connect with the Indian people and their culture. They seem to be overwhelmed by the sensuality of their surroundings. The novel was made into an excellent film in 1947 starring Deborah Kerr as the Mother Superior. The nuns leaving the mountaintop palace seemed to many film-goers of the time to be an allegory for the failure of the British Raj."

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Beach Boy

By Ardashir Vakil

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"Eight-year-old Cyrus Readymoney introduces us to his magical universe of movies and mischief; tennis tournaments and truant afternoons; sex and samosas; the sea and the shore. Exploring Bombay in the early 1970s, Cyrus strays from his mostly absent parents, members of the Parsi elite, into the complex world of his neighbors, including a mysterious maharani and her seductive adopted daughter. In his travels, he experiences the splendor of Hindi films and delights in all manner of mouthwatering food.

"But in the course of his wanderings, Cyrus finds himself caught between the innocence and insouciance of his youth and the responsibility and worry that await him in adulthood. When his parents' marriage falls apart and his family is shattered, Cyrus is forced out of his carefree existence into a more severe reality. With an acute ear for the nuances of Indian English and a comic appreciation of a boy's life, Ardashir Vakil creates an extraordinarily vivid tableau of India while at the same time drawing a rich portrait of adolescence and its appetites."

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The Namesake

By Jhumpa Lahiri

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"...takes the Ganguli family from their tradition-bound life in Calcutta through their fraught transformation into Americans. On the heels of their arranged marriage, Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli settle together in Cambridge, Massachusetts. An engineer by training, Ashoke adapts far less warily than his wife, who resists all things American and pines for her family. When their son is born, the task of naming him betrays the vexed results of bringing old ways to the new world."

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The Death of Vishnu

By Manil Suri

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"At the opening of this masterful debut novel, Vishnu lies dying on the staircase he inhabits while his neighbors the Pathaks and the Asranis argue over who will pay for an ambulance. As the action spirals up through the floors of the apartment building we are pulled into the drama of the residents' lives: Mr. Jalal's obsessive search for higher meaning; Vinod Taneja's longing for the wife he has lost; the comic elopement of Kavita Asrani, who fancies herself the heroine of a Hindi movie. Suffused with Hindu mythology, this story of one apartment building becomes a metaphor for the social and religious divisions of contemporary India, and Vishnu's ascent of the staircase parallels the soul's progress through the various stages of existence. As Vishnu closes in on the riddle of his own mortality, we wonder whether he might not be the god Vishnu, guardian not only of the fate of the building and its occupants, but of the entire universe."

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