Books by Bapsi Sidhwa

AMERICAN BRAT by Bapsi Sidhwa
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Oct. 1, 1993

Pakistan-born Sidhwa—who created the endearing Junglewalla clan in The Crow Eaters (1982)—limns the more sobering experiences of one of the clan's descendants in the States. A member herself of the ancient Parsi sect to which the Junglewallas—as well as the protagonist here, Feroza Ginwalla- -belong, Sidhwa makes this sect one of the many strands that affect young Feroza as she seeks to make a new life for herself. The only daughter of affluent Fareen and Cyrus Ginwalla, 16-year-old Feroza has enjoyed an indulged childhood. But when Fareen, uneasy with the growing fundamentalism in Islamic Pakistan, sees even her fearless and self-willed daughter sympathizing with the new dispensation (Feroza objects to Fareen's wearing a sleeveless sari-blouse), she decides to send the girl to the US for a three-month visit with her young uncle Manek, an MIT student—a visit that turns into four years at college and the decision to settle in the country Feroza loves ``despite her growing knowledge of its faults.'' It is the anatomy of the decision to stay on that makes this book so distinctive, as Sidhwa contrasts the warm, loving world of family and religious faith back home with the difficulties of Feroza's adjustment in a strange and colder place. The decision is based not only on the comforts the US offers but also, especially for a woman, on its tolerance and freedom. And though her love affair with a Jewish student falters over irreconcilable religious differences, Feroza realizes that one day she might marry—but now ``more sure of herself, she wouldn't let anyone interfere.'' Understandably less exuberant than Sidhwa's first novel (though scenes back in Lahore recapture some of the wry affection for family eccentricities)—but, still, Feroza exactly reflects the dilemmas of those born in the Third World who can flourish only in another. Read full book review >
CRACKING INDIA by Bapsi Sidhwa
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Sept. 1, 1991

Pakistani Sidhwa's third novel (The Bride, 1983; The Crown Eaters, 1982)—written from the point of view of a young girl who's surrounded by the personal and political violence that accompanied the partitioning of India in 1947—manages to do justice to the complexity of racial, ethnic, and religious violence in the era and to evoke the passage from an affluent childhood to the ambiguities of experience. ``India is going to be broken....And what happens if they break it where our house is?'' asks narrator Lenny, the daughter (who turns eight in 1947) of an affluent Parsi family in Lahore. And in fact her household does break apart when her young nanny, or Ayah, is kidnapped. Before that event takes center stage, the novel glorifies in the ``beautifully endowed'' world, which, as evoked by Sidhwa's luminous present-tense prose, is laminated with the magic of childish wonder: moving between her own house and that of her dynamic Godmother (``It is her nature to know things''), who lives ``with her docile old husband and slavesister,'' Lenny dramatizes the textures of multicultural Indian life, with its summer trips to the Himalayan foothills, dinner parties, visits from the ice-candy man, and, increasingly, hints of ``Hindu-Muslim trouble.'' While Lenny ``learns to tell tales'' by ``offering lengthier and lengthier chatter'' to fill dinner-time silences, she also becomes ``aware of religious differences.'' Sikhs start keeping to themselves, whereas before ``everybody is themselves.'' Violence escalates, India is divided, fires appear ``all over Lahore,'' and Ayah is kidnapped. She's finally found in the red-light district, then rescued through Godmother's influence, but it's clear that- -along with India and Lenny—she will never be the same. Richly layered, both realistic and magically evocative as well as topical: a novel that brings to triumphant life an India that ``has less to do with fate than with the will of men.'' Read full book review >