Book Review: American as paneer pie

: Supriya Kelkar

Date of Publication: 9 June 2020
Genre: Young adult fiction, comedy-drama, coming-of-age
Legacy:  The author is an India-American brought up in the mid-west, and has written many brilliant children’s books 
Intended Age Group: Any, but particularly tweens and teenagers

This one was touted by many book lists, so I immediately reserved it at my local library. Was the first one to get it too! And I have to say, I loved it from the go! So well-written, fluid, un-pretentious, funny at times and quite emotional at others! Also, full props for the unapologetic usage of Marathi words and expressions! It was refreshing and very apt!

The book is about a 10 year old girl named Lekha Divekar, who lives in a small white-majority town an hour from Metro Detroit, and her struggles with fitting in, belonging, and being happy. Over the course of the book, she becomes a part of the swim team, grudgingly befriends a fresh off the boat Indian girl, and in general navigates between her hopes and dreams and the xenophobia and political climate of the country. She is ably supported by her very white and very righteous and amazing neighbor/schoolmate Noah (his inclusion was very important to paint an impartial picture of the landscape), and her parents.

The story drove me to tears a couple of times, and filled me with a sense of pride in a couple of situations. Loved the twists and turns, and also how even the strongest of characters were given a weaker side/  soft spot, to show that even the perfect armor has chinks and how we all can help each other find ourselves and get stronger, not matter how strong or weak we ourselves feel. My favorite one was  Avantika and her dependence on Fair and “Dainty”. Because however brilliant and independent and smart Indian girls might be, they are still expected to be of a lighter skin tone! Loved that the author brought this to fore. 

It is extremely important for the Indian kids of today to see a protagonist like them, and this book does a stellar job of representing them without being caricature-like or other-worldly. It is very real!Of course there’s going to be a few issues here and there, for e.g., as a native Marathi speaker, I can’t imagine any Marathi family would name their dog Ram; but these are very minor issues.

This is a book that every Indian tween (and their parents should read)! Also Tandoori Paneer Pizza totally rocks! 😀