Sixteen-year-old Indian-American Deep Singh is at a crossroads. Well, several crossroads, actually.
Can he surrender to his immigrant parents’ wishes, get a good job, submit to an arranged marriage, and watch TV every night? Or will he strike out on his own, escaping the dull, monotonous life they have modeled for him? Why can’t he be more like his cousin Thakurjeet, the perfect Indian son, fluent in both Punjabi and English and dedicated to his Sikh religion? Deep has trouble even staying in class at junior college, succumbing to the temptations of Lily. A 27-year-old married Chinese-American woman, Lily is eager to initiate him into the mysteries of smoking, drinking, and sex. And now his older brother, Jag, has slipped into silence. Sidhu (Good Indian Girls, 2013) writes with keen wit and crafts every character with psychological texture, exploring the effects of racism as well as the desire to control a world spinning off its axis: Lily’s hatred of her mother’s prostitution pushes her into an abusive marriage and playing frightening road games targeting other Chinese-Americans. Jag’s designs for a fantastic camera that can capture the blank spaces lurking in the interstices of measured time signal his increasing madness as do his mother’s bright, brave, achingly sad lies about his just needing some rest. Entangled in their messy lives, Deep both resents and loves their weird demands, impositions, and idiosyncrasies. But events careen out of control. Lily turns up with a black eye, Jag stays up all night talking to imaginary people on the phone, and Deep’s love for Lily takes a dark turn. Deep struggles through the final throes of adolescence, scrabbling into the harsh light cast upon sad adult coping strategies of denial, self-hatred, substance abuse, and suicidal behavior.
A heart-wrenching coming-of-age tale in which survival depends more on compassion than rebellion.