Monday June 1, 2015

Stories of India

I was served an Indian curry for the first time about 25 years ago. I was at the home of a friend, because in those days there weren’t Indian restaurants in suburban America. Just as I have marveled that my parents didn’t have “pizza pie” until they were teenagers, this probably seems surprising now.

With that first taste came a whole new world for me, not only of food, but of Indian art, culture, and novels. When I moved to Dayton I learned about novelist Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, who received her masters in English at Wright State University. I read Arranged Marriage first, and loved it. Today I would say the companion novels Sister of My Heart and Vine of Desire are my favorites. They tell of inseparable friends in Calcutta who part when one marries and moves to the United States. Bharti Kirschner, author of one of my favorite cookbooks, The Healthy Cuisine of India: Recipes from the Bengal Region, also wrote the novel Darjeeling, which takes place in the mountainous regions of West Bengal. Pulitzer-prize winning novelist Jhumpa Lahiri’s debut short story collection Interpreter of Maladies is another favorite. What I enjoy about so many of these novels and stories are the contrasts of rich and poor, Muslim and Hindu, illiterate and sophisticate. I love being taken to sunrise on the Ganges and to rainstorms in Mumbai. India is so many things all at once. Of course I love mentions of spices, mangos, and fresh coriander whenever they come along.

I look forward to reading all 1,488 pages of Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy -- positively before his sequel, A Suitable Girl, is published. And I must read a novel by the critically acclaimed R.K. Narayan someday. Then there are best-selling authors Arundhati Roy, Amitav Ghosh, and Abraham Verghese to look into.

You already have the advantage of having dinner at nearly a dozen Indian restaurants in our city. I invite you to type “India -- fiction” into the library catalog subject search and see what lovely region of the subcontinent you can plunge into. See Related Links to request books mentioned in this post.

- Joan Milligan, Catalog and Metadata Specialist

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