cover image Good Indian Girls

Good Indian Girls

Ranbir Singh Sidhu. Soft Skull (PGW, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-1-59376-531-6

When Lovedeep signs up for a New Age “de-cluttering” class, she finally finds the change she’s been hoping for in Ian, the shy man she meets there, in this collection’s title story. Sidhu’s debut offers 12 varied snapshots of the lives of Indians at home and abroad. “Hero of the Nation” features a student at a special needs school, Ruby, who sneaks her mute grandfather cigarettes while he torments the rest of her family with his incontinence. “The Good Poet of Africa” involves a low-level diplomat who, soon after arriving at a new post in San Francisco, discovers that everyone there thinks he’s a famous Urdu poet. In “The Consul’s Wife,” Pavarti considers her life married to a diplomat and grieves her pet snake’s death while deciding what to serve at a dinner party, and in “Children’s Games,” an Indian orphanage falls under the sway of a cult. Though weird and eccentric, Sidhu’s stories are also empathetic and refreshingly free of the clichés of immigrant narratives. He manages to portray his characters as uniquely Indian without losing sight of their individuality, offering small, piercing looks into the humanity that resides in every situation and person, no matter how strange. (Oct.)