Caught Between Two Cultures

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Caught Between Two Cultures

It's difficult to be caught between two cultures. In these novels, women from India or women of Indian descent are coping with the challenges and opportunities that come with living in America. Is arranged marriage still a viable option? One character struggles to accept her daughter's biracial marriage. Another character must not only deal with the loss of her father, but also the proper way to scatter his ashes in India. Some of the characters are dealing with more personal challenges, such as whether or not to remain faithful to a spouse and whether or not to give up a spiritual calling to follow your heart. 

The two main characters in The Vine of Desire by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Anju and Sudha, are cousins. Anju is married and living with her husband, Sunil, in California. Anju is trying to find her way out of a dark depression. Sudha, along with her daughter, Dayita, have come from India to stay with Anja and Sunil following her divorce. Initially, it seems like they will both be able to help each other during a difficult time in their lives. However, Sunil’s attraction to Sudha may jeopardize everything that they hold dear – including their cherished friendship. Both Sudha and Anju struggle with their traditional Indian values and the lure of America’s freedom and promise – that is, to do something or make a certain decision because you “owe” it to yourself.

In The Mistress of Spices by Chitra Bannerjee Divakaruni, Tilo is the title character. The spices that she sells in her shop have magical abilities. She can see into people’s hearts and minds, but still must keep at a distance so she can help them. Different spices have different magical abilities. Clove is the spice of compassion. Cinnamon can help you make friends and destroy your enemies. Fenugreek makes you desirable. To become a mistress of spices, Tilo had to go through the fire of Shampati. She came out of the fire looking like an old woman. She also vowed to love only the spices alone. But when she meets Raven she questions her vows. Is she willing to give up being the mistress of spices for his sake?

In Bijou Roy by Ronica Dhar, Bijou Roy is a young Indian woman who is living in Washington, D.C. Her father has died and she and her family are in India to scatter his ashes. Although she is currently dating Crane, she is attracted to Naveen, a history professor who is the son of her father’s closest friend. Through conversations with Naveen she is learning that her father was not the man that she thought he was. While Bijou Roy is in India she starts to find out who she really is.

In When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon, Dimple is so excited that she finally persuaded her parents to let her attend Insomnia  Con, a summer seminar where students design apps and the student with the best app wins. Imagine her surprise when she meets Rishi at Insomnia Com and he tells her, “Hello, future wife. I can’t wait to get started on the rest of our lives!” She throws her iced coffee at him and runs away only to find out later that her parents and Rishi’s parents have arranged for them to get married. Dimple is furious! She vows not to have anything to do with Rishi, but will she keep her promise to herself?

In You Bring the Distant Near, Mitalia Perkins tells the story of three generations of Indian women: Ranee; Ranee’s daughters, Tara and Sonia; and Ranee’s granddaughters, Anna and Chantal. Ranee moves to America with her husband, Baba. When Baba dies, Ranee is left alone as a widow with two daughters and she feels overwhelmed by the task of raising them alone in a foreign culture.