Shobhan Bantwal says she always heard that you should write what you know, and she knows Indian culture. She calls her novels “Bollywood in a Book”. What I like about her writing is that she mentions many little details about Indian food and clothing, houses and customs. For some reason I’m always drawn to authors who pepper their writing with these home-life details. There are many authors who write about Indian culture, but Shobhan is unique in that she has a fun lightness to her writing that I haven’t found in other Indian literature. Perhaps it’s because she likes to read other light romance authors like Nora Roberts, Dorothy Garlock, Mary Monroe & Jayne Ann Krentz.
Shobhan was raised in a conservative Hindu family in Southwestern India. She came to the U.S. in an arranged marriage. Though she writes about the injustices of dowries and arranged marriages, she does have a happy relationship with her husband of 30 years. She only started writing in her fifties, due to what she called a “menopausal epiphany” where she says the creative part of her brain went into overdrive.
I also love the book covers of her novels. They are pretty, intriguing and very Desi…
The Dowry Bride: In this novel she takes you right into the action where a young woman is running away when she discovers that her mother-in-law is planning to murder her. She hides out in her cousin-in-law’s apartment until she can figure out what to do.
The Unexpected Son : An Indian-American woman receives a letter in the mail claiming she has a son in India who needs help. She tries to find out the mystery of this story, when she had believed for 25 years that she had birthed a stillborn son.
The Sari Shop Widow: A young widow in New Jersey owns a boutique in Little India called Silk & Sapphires that is in danger of going out of business. Her grouchy rich uncle comes to save the day bringing along with him a mysterious stranger.
The Forbidden Daughter: This novel takes place in contemporary India when an expecting couple find out on an ultrasound that they will be having a baby girl. Some of the extended family is unhappy that they aren’t producing a male heir, and suggest the unthinkable.
She has a new book The Full Moon Bride coming out in July which the library will be purchasing. It is about an Indian-American who was raised in New Jersey and has a career as a lawyer, but still decides to accept an offer of a traditional arranged marriage…
If you’d like to know more about Shobhan Bantwal or try her tasty recipes in her Spice Corner, please check out her website: www.shobhanbantwal.com
Just for fun I’ll add a few romantic comedies about Indian culture:
Bend it Like Beckham (2003) is a movie about a young Indian girl that is in love with playing soccer even though her parents want her to be more traditional. We see an Indian wedding and other aspects of Indian culture.
Monsoon Wedding (2002) is all about an arranged marriage, a big Indian wedding, and all the family drama that goes along with it. Many different love story lines are interwoven throughout the film. There are also beautiful colors, songs and scenery that really give you a feel for India.
Outsourced (2008) is a film about a Vice President of an American company that sells phone-order products is sent to India to oversee the changeover to outsourcing. The movie explores his feelings about this as well as his blooming romance with one of the Indian phone operators.
Jesse Lee Harmon is the bookkeeper/library assistant at OWL and is currently humming along to Putumayo’s India CD!