Book Title: American Betiya
Author: Anuradha D. Rajurkar
Personal Rating : 5/5 ⭐
Publisher: Knopf Books/Penguin Random House
Release date: March 9, 2020
Genres: Young adult, contemporary, romance, realistic fiction
Many thanks to Penguin Random House International #partner for the free review copy. 💕
Fans of Sandhya Menon, Erika Sanchez and Jandy Nelson will identify with this powerful story of a young artist grappling with first love, family boundaries, and the complications of a cross-cultural relationship.
Rani Kelkar has never lied to her parents, until she meets Oliver. The same qualities that draw her in–his tattoos, his charisma, his passion for art–make him her mother’s worst nightmare.
They begin dating in secret, but when Oliver’s troubled home life unravels, he starts to ask more of Rani than she knows how to give, desperately trying to fit into her world, no matter how high the cost. When a twist of fate leads Rani from Evanston, Illinois to Pune, India for a summer, she has a reckoning with herself–and what’s really brewing beneath the surface of her first love.
Winner of the SCBWI Emerging Voices award, Anuradha Rajurkar takes an honest look at the ways cultures can clash in an interracial relationship. Braiding together themes of sexuality, artistic expression, and appropriation, she gives voice to a girl claiming ownership of her identity, one shattered stereotype at a time.
American Betiya was such a thoughtfully written novel! I started reading this with high expectations since the book is about a south-Asian girl just like me, but boy, oh boy, it exceeded all my expectations. ALSO, I CAN NEVER STOP SWOONING OVER THE BOOK’S GORGEOUS COVER. Rani’s story had all the elements of an adorable YA novel, but the author made sure to make her book an unique one with the touch of culture and self-acceptance. 💕
From the very beginning of the story, I found myself being immensely drawn towards Rani’s character. Being insecure about meeting your parents’ expectations, pressure of college applications – I related to her in so many ways. My favorite things about her was definitely her deeply-ingrained love for Indian culture though. She found peace in the regularity of different customs surrounding her culture, which I think is rarely portrayed in books about brown protagonists. Rani has such a strong personality too! Even though it took her a while to recognize the harmful patterns in her life, she stood against them in the best way possible.
The portrayal of interracial relationship between Oliver and Rani was so realistically written too. YA novels tend to sugar-coat romances, but I’m so happy that this wasn’t the case for American Betiya. The author wrote about issues that arise between a couple with cultural differences perfectly. The twists and turns that Rani’s romance with Oliver took were pivotal to her character development, and I really, really appreciated how everything turned out in the end. It wasn’t what I expected when I first started reading the book, but Rani’s decision was the best thing ever.
The author’s writing style is so lyrical and beautiful, I couldn’t help but be mesmerized by how she wrote American Betiya. It’s a book that needs to be read by everyone. Highly recommend.