Book: American Betiya by Anuradha D. Rajurkar
Release date: March 9, 2021
Source: NetGalley E-Arc
TW: racism, gaslighting,
This book truly shook me to my core. I wasn’t really expecting much going into it, but by the end I just felt so seen and understood as an Indian women. I genuinely think this book was something high school me needed and I think that’s why it holds so much value for me now when I read it because it has all the messages and themes a younger version of myself crucially needed to hear to value and appreciate herself and her culture. I loved the juxtaposition of being between two worlds. Being too American, not being American enough. Being too Indian, not being Indian enough. You can see that simply from the title, the mix of American with the word Betiyan (a loving word for daughter), but once you get into the book, the push and pull of identify between them is seen so clearly.
The way this book was written the author did a phenomenal job being very raw and real with her characters and situations. This book was messy, the characters made lots of mistakes, but what teenager doesn’t. I think the mistakes and messiness made it even more believable and relatable to the audience. Rani was depicted in such a way that I could not help but empathize with her because reading her was like looking at a reflection of my younger self. There were so many moments when you’re growing up that you ask yourself questions about who you are and who you want to be. You want to be able to fit in and make friends, but you also want to surround yourself with people who love and understand you for your authentic self. As a South Asian woman, Rani was running through many of these questions, and it just broke my heart to see her question her own worth especially when she let certain racist things slide. It’s easy to say that people of color should step up and say something in situations when they’re uncomfortable, but it’s not always easy and this book showed that. There are times when you’ll meet people who won’t think their words or actions are outwardly racist, but that doesn’t mean microaggressions are okay. I feel as though this book is for all people alike because there’s so many lessons to be learned from this story.
Another thing that I absolutely loved was the friendship between Rani and her best friend Kate! I’m a sucker whenever I see an emphasis on friendship in a book and Rani and Kate’s in particular stood out to me because it mimicked friendships I have and have seen in my own life. My sister’s best friend is actually not Indian, but they grew up together and she has always been someone who embraced our culture as we embraced hers. She would indulge in Bollywood movies and learn a few Hindi words so she could connect with our family on a deeper level and I couldn’t tell you how much I appreciated that. My own best friend, though she’s Indian has so many personality traits of Kate’s. She’s bold, abrasive at times, but doesn’t take crap from anyone. She would go to the ends of the earth if I asked her too. But going back to the book, in their friendship in particular I found the depiction also not cookie cutter in anyway. It had that same level of authenticity because there were ups and downs as there are in any friendship especially when it comes to relationships and boys, but at the end of the day, it’s those friendships that hold up and are with you for a lifetime.
I cannot sing enough praise about this book. I just really loved it! I hope you pick it up!
Writing Style: 8/10
Rating: 8.4 or 4 stars (4.5)