Earlier this month, I finished reading a booked called "Under the Lemon Trees" by Bhira Backhaus. The book initially looked intriguing, but I think in the end it just wasn't me. The reviews on Amazon for this book are all good, but I honestly found it rather boring. Here's the info from Amazon:
"Backhaus's debut novel explores love, loss and the tangled web of family in the matriarchal Oak Grove, Calif., Sikh community of 1976. Teenage narrator Jeeto is already caught between two worlds, the college-bound crowd of her American classmates and the traditional marriage, arranged by her mother, to an unknown young man from India. Through Jeeto's conflict, Backhaus explores the tension between the traditional and the new in her sister, relatives and neighbors. Uncle Avtar, who fled India for a life of opportunity, loses his heart to an American waitress, but finds his loyalty to the Sikh community pulling him back into the fold. Jeeto's sister, Neelam, in love with a young man of undesirable parentage, passively accepts her arranged marriage to a stranger, while Jeeto's friend Surinder openly rebels against community mores. Intertwined, their stories of loss, connection and the search for identity create a rich, sensuous portrait of a culture in transition; unfortunately, her myriad cast is populated largely by stock characters, keeping Backhaus's world from coming fully alive."
I found it very hard to follow the story in the book and it took a long time for me to actually finish the book. I think part of it was just the fact that being an independent woman growing up in the US, I just can't fathom being forced to follow cultural traditions. I'm American and I have a lot of Irish in me, but that doesn't make me follow every little tradition that the Irish have. My father in-law is 100% Italian, but he doesn't follow every Italian tradition.
Maybe its part of the Indian culture though. It bothers me when I hear of women having to marry someone they've never met and have never spoken to. You're going to live with that person for the next 50 years, you should at least know what type of person they are. I guess I just don't understand a culture where your family would dis-own you for going against their wishes. Sure, my parents were unhappy with my sister for a while because she eloped instead of marrying in a church, but they came around and even though they weren't happy about how she got married, they were happy for her. They held a reception for her and her husband the next time they were here to visit. Just because someone doesn't do something the way YOU would do it doesn't mean that its completely wrong and that you should shut that person out forever. Cultures that require ultimatims are things of the past and in order for that culture to grow it needs to give its people some freedom.