Welcome to my stop on the American Betiya Tour!
Although I personally didn’t enjoy this book as much as I wanted to, it was mostly a case of “right book, wrong time,” as most of my problems with it were personal rather than big issues with the story. I’m sure you would enjoy it if you’re looking for a YA Contemporary filled with powerful themes of finding yourself!
(Also, a quick note: I ended up taking an unplanned hiatus during February because it was a really busy month for me! I had so many posts I wanted to publish but unfortunately never got around to posting. I’m planning on coming back to regularly blogging soon this month, though, and I can’t wait! I hope you all are doing well!!)
Thank you to the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for a spot on this blog tour hosted by Lonely Pages Book Tours! This did not affect my opinions in any way.
About The Author:
Anuradha D. Rajurkar is the national recipient of the SCBWI Emerging Voices Award for her contemporary debut novel, American Betiya. Born and raised in the Chicago area to Indian immigrant parents, Anuradha earned two degrees from Northwestern University, and for many years had the joy of being a public school teacher by day, writer by night.
Nowadays, when she’s not writing or reading, you can find Anuradha exploring the shores of LakeMichigan with her family, obsessing over her garden, watching either happy TV like Queer Eye or old horror flicks with her son, cooking Indian food, or roguishly knitting sweaters without their patterns. She hopes her stories will inspire teens to embrace their unique identities and inner badass despite outside pressures and cultural expectations.
Read an excerpt of American Betiya below!
✧ ♡ ✧ ♡ ✧
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.
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.