Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Monday, March 30, 2009
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Dimple Rohitbhai Lala isn't your average New Jersey girl. From her inauspicious breech birth, to her gods-loving parents, she always knew she didn't fit in with her average American surroundings.
We are introduced to Dimple on her 17th birthday, recently dumped and feeling more aware of her different status than ever. Even her name marks her as a freak: Dimple Lala, an ode to her more-than-ample hips and different heritage. In contrast, her best friend Gwyn is the picture of All-American-ness: blond, thin, great wardrobe, and a constant supply of boys.
The only place Dimple feels truly at home is behind a camera. Her obsession with photography came after a trip to India. As a young girl, Dimple understood a little Marathi, but soon after “Any memory of language was checked at customs.” Her loss of language was a huge piece of her missing identity, as it left her unable to communicate with her beloved Dadaji, her mother's father. Soon after came the pictures. Able to communicate visually with her grandfather, the camera both gives her a voice, as photographer, artist, even dutiful granddaughter, while simultaneously shielding her—after all, you can't be the star if you're behind the lens.
Ironically, her photography soon becomes centered around Gwyn, who is only too happy to be the star of Dimple's photos. Although Gwyn seems to have it all, throughout the book we find that Gwyn has more than enough problems of her own: absentee parents, boy problems, and identity issues. While Dimple wants nothing more than to blend in, Gwyn longs to stand out. She constantly borrows Dimple's clothes and jewelry, and for the better part of the book, seems to appreciate Dimple's culture far more than Dimple herself does.
One aspect Dimple was not prepared for was her parent's introducing her to a boy. An Indian boy. A chino-wearing, living at home, good Indian boy. Dimple is beyond horrified. An arranged relationship is the epitome of what sets her family apart from everyone else on their suburban block. Luckily, Karsh is a persistent guy, and his influence opens up a new world to Dimple.
Through Karsh, Dimple is introduced to the desi scene—a movement trying to bring South Asian identity the respect and discussion it deserves. For the first time Dimple is introduced to other South Asians who are also caught between identities. But even there Gwyn manages to take over, intruding ever more obviously on Dimples relationships.
Not surprisingly, Dimple and Gwyn's relationship becomes extremely strained. Although irritating and obnoxious, Hidier did a good job of rounding out Gwyn's character so we can't judge her too harshly. Contrasting Gwyn's physical beauty are her many hidden flaws. In many ways she is searching for herself as much as Dimple is.
Hidier deals with many sensitive topics in a well-rounded and realistic way. In particular I liked the incorporation of Kavita, Dimple's cousin from India. Homosexuality isn't the easiest issue to deal with in an adolescent novel, but Hidier does a fabulous job, adding another layer of identity to work with, and making it possible for nearly any reader to find a way to connect with this book.
By the end of a novel, I almost felt tutored on the ways on Indian life, but not in an obtrusive way. It gives a fascinating insight into Indian culture. Even the title, Born Confused, refers to a slur on South Asians, ABCD, which stands for American Born Confused Desi. By incorporating this into the fabric of the narrative, Hidier removes any power the label may have and reinforces the theme that it's ok to be confused, to not have all the answers.
In many ways, this book is a traditional happy-ever-after, but Dimple is such a likable charter, you can't help but be glad it ends that way. Hidier has done a fantastic job of capturing what it's like to be a teenage girl who doesn't perfectly fit in. It reminded me of many traumatic moments from my own adolescence (shudder) but also reinforced that sometimes, everything does work out in the end. I highly recommend this novel, if only to remind yourself of how far you have come from an angst-ridden teenager!
Thursday, March 12, 2009
All said in his still babyish, slightly lispy voice that I love so much.
And I'm again caught in that so familiar place -amazed at my kids, yet longing to keep them just this way for as a long as possible.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Today we found out one of the three factories in my town (a brass plant) is permanently shutting down. With the housing market the way it is, it's not all that surprising. No building--no need for pipe.
What this means for our town of 8,000 is over 200 people will be out of a job in 60 days, including my step-dad. Many of my students' parents also work there.
My mother is beside herself. And while I'm believing my step-dad will be able to find some kind of job, I wonder if it will have the kind of benefits they had, or if he'll make the money he did. And my heart breaks for the workers who have been there 15, 20, 30 years. How does a 60 year old man find a job in this kind of economy?
Suddenly the statistics are just way too close.
Friday, March 6, 2009
When the boys got tired of throwing wood chips at each other, the game turned to tag. One fellow was quickly deemed "It" and the others began to sprint away.
Then the It boy yelled that it wasn't fair to pick him, and he was going to sue them. As the boys turned around to see what he was saying, he reiterated, "I'm suing you. Now we have to sit down and have court."
And they did.
I tell you, it's just like when I was a kid...well, almost...
Monday, March 2, 2009
Work was frustrating today. Students were riled up and very hard to settle down. I had to make a few parent calls/emails, which I really don't like.
And tomorrow is the big day, so to speak, the reading TAK's test. I just don't have a good feeling about it. This group did worse on their January benchmark than the one in November. How the heck does that happen?!?! I only had 4 not pass last year...this year, well, we'll see.
And to finish my day off right, a coworker called the parent of child who we are both having problems with (not working, zeros, failing two classes, argumentative, etc.) and the mom wants to ensure that he is not testing with me tomorrow because that's how much he hates me. Evidently he dreads coming to my class all day. Gee, thanks for sharing that. Got any salt to rub in this particularly nasty paper-cut while you're at it?
I know it shouldn't bother me, but dang I hate when people don't like me! Even no-working, lazy sods like that student.
This calls for an early night. Buonanotte!