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Climbing the Stairs
by Padma Venkatraman
247 pages (hardcover)
Genre: Fiction/YA/Historical

Vidya is fifteen and wants desperately to go to college. Unfortunately, Indian girls in British-ruled India during World War II are destined for marriage, not higher education; fortunately, Vidya's appa (father) is a progressive freedom-fighter doctor. A tragic accident forces Vidya, her amma (mother), and her older brother Kitta to move to the traditional extended-family household of her paternal grandfather thatha. She finds refuge in her grandfather's library, up the stairs in the forbidden men's section of the house; and she meets a boy named Raman who genuinely cares for her (even if he falls into the typical sexist ways through habit).

I connected very deeply with Vidya, the classic adolescent protagonist struggling against cultural expectations--even more because I know that the prejudice she experienced still goes on today. People still self-censor paki because it has such racist connotations and is part of contemporary bigotry. On a craft level, I thought that Venkatraman used a different, and more realistic, way of resolving the romantic thread; however, I was a little dissatisfied with Raman's character arc, as he never stops trying to "help" Vidya. His overprotectiveness makes for an unbalanced relationship. Still, I enjoyed their romance and the family conflicts--I found the story gritty, painful, and real. This is a riveting coming-of-age story written by a woman of color about a woman of color. Recommended, especially if you are doing the [livejournal.com profile] 50books_poc challenge.
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keilexandra: Adorable panda with various Chinese overlays. (Default)
Keix

January 2011

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