Border Less

Namrata Poddar. 7.13 Books, $19.99 trade paper (170p) ISBN 978-1-73617-678-8

Poddar’s illuminating debut, a loosely connected novel in stories, follows a woman’s quest for belonging as she explores notions of culture, gender, class, and identity. “Help Me Help You” finds Dia Mittal, the sole breadwinner for her lower-middle-class family, striving at a call center in Mumbai and hoping for a promotion that would help her get to the U.S. When Dia returns to Mumbai after eight years away in “So Long, Cousin,” she gets iced out by her upper-class relatives and no longer feels at home there. “Nature, Nurture” considers gendered expectations within South Asian culture as Dia finally gets traction in her dream career in the arts in Southern California, but discovers her worth as a daughter-in-law only rests in her culinary and homemaking skills. “Shakti at Brunch” examines the necessity of cultivating a home away from home, showing how Dia bonds with a group of friends in Los Angeles she calls her “sisters.” As Poddar traces Dia’s reconciliation with the meaning of home, she also brings forth stories of other South Asians, such as an immigrant maid, a single mother, a travel agent—juxtaposing their pursuits of belonging with Dia’s, and connecting the fragmented narrative with sharp prose. The range of perspectives harnessed announces Poddar as an exciting new voice in immigrant fiction. (Mar.)
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