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American Betiya
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American Betiya
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A luminous story of a young artist grappling with first love, family boundaries and the complications of a cross-cultural relationship. Perfect for fans of Sandhya Menon, Erika Sanchez and Jandy...
A luminous story of a young artist grappling with first love, family boundaries and the complications of a cross-cultural relationship. Perfect for fans of Sandhya Menon, Erika Sanchez and Jandy...
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Description-

  • A luminous story of a young artist grappling with first love, family boundaries and the complications of a cross-cultural relationship. Perfect for fans of Sandhya Menon, Erika Sanchez and Jandy Nelson.
    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 SCBWI's Emerging Voices award, Anuradha D. 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.
    "A brave, beautiful exploration of identity—those thrust upon us, and those we forge for ourselves." —Elana K. Arnold, award-winning author of What Girls Are Made Of

Excerpts-

  • From the book Chapter One
    He’s my mother’s worst nightmare. His intricate tattoos and the way he’s been covertly studying me from across the gallery would give her palpitations for sure. Dude does need some manners, I think as he stashes away several damaged portfolio sleeves before glancing over again. Avoiding his gaze, I turn to arrange my glossy artist’s statement cards. Seriously. Who is this guy? I take a long swig from my water bottle and attempt to refocus.
    It’s my first-­ever Gallery Night opening, and I’m still in shock that I was invited. My photographs—­the ones I took with my grandfather in India last summer—­pop against the burgundy walls. Artwork is hung floor to ceiling, and modern sculptures on pedestals are strategically placed and uplit like deities. I submitted my photos to this student art show on a whim, and amazingly, they were chosen. Framed, polished, and practically art, they’re gleaming images of India that I can’t stop looking at, despite having seen them a thousand times before.
    Across the room, the guy’s eyes flicker to me again, and I flush when he catches me looking. I pretend to study a nearby sculpture. If only I could lurk behind my camera lens, I’d avoid all this nonsense. I need to recenter: I am calm. I am confident. I am legit. A fresh stream of gallerygoers comes pouring through the double doors, and I brace myself, flashing my brightest smile: Some of them I know a little too well.
    Close family friends I call my auntie-­uncles spill in like a wedding baraat minus the horse. A sight in the prim ­atmosphere—­a crowd blinged out in jewel-­toned saris and yellow gold—­they’re Indian Standard Time late but quickly make themselves at home. Calling my name, they come barreling into my corner, the aunties shrieking as they kiss and hug me, the uncles raising their glasses in a toast, having already somehow descended upon the nearby refreshments. Eyes flicker to us, some shining in wonder, drinking in the scene, and others bemused, like we’re a comedy.
    I love these people, but God.
    “Proud you’re showcasing our India with these photos, Rani,” Veena Auntie says, chucking me under the chin while making a smooching sound. “Goodness knows we need more representation in the arts.” Veena Auntie is my artsy auntie—­she’s a potter when she’s off dental duty—­and probably the only one who gets the magnitude of my being here. I squeeze her hand.
    A dozen auntie-­uncles now cluster around me, chatting and ignoring the artwork. And then—­as if there’s not enough of a scene—­my parents bustle in. Baba shuffles across the gallery floor, hands in his pockets, while peering at the pomp and circumstance of an event devoted to something as self-­indulgent as art. Beside him marches Ma in a blazing coral sari—­one of the favorites she wears for Indian parties. She scans the gallery critically, a Mumbai mama bear ready to take out anyone who messes with her family.
    God.
    They arrive at my exhibit, and my mother’s hands butter­fly about, finally settling on my hair. As she twists a wild lock behind my ear, I glance in the guy’s direction. Despite a significant crowd by his exhibit across the gallery, he’s doing what he does best—­staring, like we’re rare birds.
    “Did you get enough to eat earlier, betiya?” my mother says.
    Baba makes a quick sweep of my photographs, jingling change in his pocket. “Nice photos, Rani.” He jabs a finger at the one of my grandfather...

About the Author-

  • ANURADHA D. RAJURKAR is a teacher by day and a YA writer by night, who holds two degrees from Northwestern University. She lives in Evanston with her husband and two sons. American Betiya is her first novel.
    Follow her on Twitter @ADRajurkar1

Reviews-

  • School Library Journal

    December 1, 2020

    Gr 10 Up-A traditional Indian American girl meets a troubled white boy in this forbidden romance novel. Dutiful 18-year-old daughter Rani Kelkar abides by her conservative parents' rules and is on a path for success: well-liked in her community, helpful with younger cousins, straight-A student, and on the road to become a pediatrician. Oliver Jensen lives with his alcoholic mother, his father is long gone, and his sister is pregnant with a married man's child. When the teens meet at an art exhibit, where Rani is displaying her photography project and Oliver his paintings, they fall for each other despite Rani's parents' strict no-dating rule. When they begin going out in secret, Rani makes it clear Oliver is not to pursue her during the day or show up to her home. As their relationship deepens, Oliver starts asking for more, which Rani is not willing to give for fear of her parents' reaction. As he spirals out of control, a shocking event makes Rani question everything she has ever felt for him. This story is fast-paced and readers will initially root for this young love, but when Oliver starts stereotyping Rani, they will side with her as she pushes back. Rajurkar describes how harmful microaggressions can be, and that being brown in modern-day America can be dangerous at times. The conservative, oppressive parents trope is somewhat tiresome, but it's interesting to see how Rani juggles her heritage with trying to be a regular Illinois girl. VERDICT A good purchase for high school collections.-Carol Youssif, Taipei American Sch., Taiwan

    Copyright 2020 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    January 1, 2021
    When Indian American 18-year-old Rani catches tattooed art student Oliver checking her out, she thinks she must be imagining it; boys haven't been romantically interested in her. Even though Rani's traditional Indian immigrant parents have made it clear that she is not allowed to date, when Oliver, a White boy, asks her out, she says yes, launching herself into what feels like a perfect high school romance. Even Rani's cynical best friend, Kate, approves of the relationship--an endorsement that helps Rani convince herself that sneaking around with Oliver is worth it. But as the two grow closer, and as Oliver's troubled family life spirals out of control, he begins to ask more from Rani than she is able to give and to exhibit troublingly racist attitudes and behaviors that Rani finds increasingly difficult to ignore. Eventually, she finds herself struggling to balance the demands of Oliver and her parents, all the while trying to be true to herself. Rani demonstrates greater awareness of intersectionality in a U.S. context than she does of her status in regard to her family's high-caste Hindu identity, perhaps reflecting her upbringing within a tight immigrant social circle. Rani and Oliver's passion is well written, and Rani's spirited and honest voice authentically leads readers through the challenges and thrills of an interracial and cross-cultural teen romance. This heartbreaking love story is a strong debut and an entertaining read. An interracial teen romance that unflinchingly tackles racism and patriarchy. (Fiction. 14-18)

    COPYRIGHT(2021) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Gae Polisner, author of The Memory of Things "Laced with poetic and rich writing, American Betiya candidly captures the heartbreaking impetuousness of that all-consuming first love, the tightrope we walk as we seek to navigate cultural tensions, and, most importantly, the risks we must take to spread our wings and find ourselves."
  • Elana K. Arnold, award-winning author of What Girls Are Made Of "American Betiya is a brave, beautiful exploration of identity--those thrust upon us, and those we forge for ourselves."
  • Kathleen Glasgow, New York Times bestselling author of Girl in Pieces "American Betiya thoughtfully examines cross-cultural boundaries, first love, the first steps of independence from family, and the power of art to transform and heal. I loved Rani's fierce, heartfelt, and beautifully told journey."

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