A Reviewer's Unfounded Fears

I knew the love couldn't last. I've just read a post by an Indian blogger who accuses me of being "anti-Indian" in Monsoon Summer because I talk about India's poverty, the caste system, and dowries. This guy seems to ignore that there's still a huge gap in India between the rural poor and educated people who live in the fast-changing booming urban economies. I'd like to ask him this: "Have you spent time in India's poor communities, getting to know the women who live there and hearing their stories?" I have, and am so thankful for the friendships I made there. I hate to be cynical, but isn't it often poor, uneducated women in a country who suffer the most, and wealthy men who forget all about them?

I don't blame the dude; part of me is jealous of his strong, starry-eyed defense of India, however misguided. The problem is that nobody likes to hear truth about their own country, land that they love. Americans call us unpatriotic when we write about the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. Indians do the same when it comes to their society. And we immigrants, who aren't equipped for passionate national allegiances, are caught between cultures once again.

As the San Jose Mercury News put it, in Monsoon Summer, I tried to provide "a clear-eyed look at my native India." The blogger worries that American teens will get a bad impression of India. Au contraire, my friend. I, too, love India and strive to introduce young American readers to the beauty of it. As a Kirkus reviewer put it, "Monsoon Summer enlightens readers not familiar with the richness of Indian culture." And, along with trying always to tell a truthful, good tale, that was my goal.