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Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier

Born Confused (2002)

by Tanuja Desai Hidier

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Showing 1-5 of 33 (next | show all)
I remembered reading this book when I was in high school, and I was thinking about it again and decided to give it another go. I got so much more out of it this time around. I have been reading tons of blogs, about cultural appropriation and privilege, and picked up a lot that I didn't when I read it 10 years ago--I hardly even understood how awful Gwyn was back then, for example. It was also funny to see the things going on that Dimple was not yet aware of, but were crystal clear just from the little details and dialogue. Kavita and Sabina, for example. Kavita's coming out scene almost moved me to tears, actually, because her nervousness and then relief and giddiness at having done it and been accepted were so palpable.

The imagery was very imaginative and rich (if a tad heavy at times), and I really felt like I was inside Dimple's head. The scene where she smokes pot had this crazy surreal quality that made me feel like I was right there with her. And her family is so wonderful that I wouldn't mind being a fly on the wall in their house--her parents are heartbreakingly sweet, and Kavita so loving but also the perfect cool older cousin. I loved how Dimple grew to see them all as human beings with flaws and stories of their own, which is a big part of growing up.

The huge glaring flaw in all of this was definitely Gwyn. Even putting aside her absolute cluelessness, the exotification of her best friend's culture (and family!) and all the cultural appropriation and insensitive comments, she is the worst, most horrible friend. I could not understand why Dimple thought she was so amazing. Everything she did was incredibly selfish and self-centered. Yeah, her backstory is tragic and she's jealous of Dimple's loving family. But all she did was interrupt Dimple, encroach on all her boundaries, condescend, and undermine her at every opportunity to try to make herself look better by comparison. Eating all her best fries, showing up in the exact same outfit (in a smaller size) on purpose, not telling Dimple about Karsh's birthday, completely ignoring her best friend any time there was a boy around. I was really glad when Dimple finally confronted her and they had their big fight, but then felt like it was undermined in their big reconciliation scene, when Dimple decided she had also been a bad friend and apologized first. The only redeeming thing Gwyn did was have the magazine use Dimple's photos (thereby letting Dimple gain recognition for her photos). "Letting" her have Karsh didn't even seem that generous to me, since she could tell the whole time that Karsh was into Dimple and only gave up when she had exhausted everything and still couldn't win him over. I think the book would have been much stronger if their friendship had been allowed to come to an end, since all of Gwyn's cultural insensitivity and undermining of Dimple was very glossed over so that they could reconcile.

Anyway, aside from that I really enjoyed the book and will probably read the sequel when it comes out. I want to hang out with Dimple and her family a little bit more. ( )
  jrogoff | Sep 22, 2018 |
Loved it. It combined the feeling of not-belonging because the protag is an "American Born Confused Desi" with the pure emotions of being a teenager and searching for something. There was a lot of good stuff about cultural appropriation and identity, and some gorgeous, gorgeous, poetic prose. There's a sequel out that I'm looking to get my hands on soon.

(Provided by publisher) ( )
  tldegray | Sep 21, 2018 |
When I first read this book, I was somewhere in my teens and appreciated the world Hidier painted for Dimple Lala, an American Born Confused Desi living in New Jersey who suffers an identity crisis (like most teens) for not fitting in with her Indian roots or her American peers. I related very much to her character in so many ways and found myself rooting for her throughout, wanting to almost be her. And I remember feeling a sense of melancholy loss when the book ended. What happened next? How did senior year go?

Now, many years later, I randomly picked up this book again and found new surprises awaiting me reading it as an adult.

First of all, I understood Dimple's frustrations that stemmed from not knowing how to fit in and where she did fit in, but I was so frustrated with her. Gwyn, her alleged best friend and "super twin" was insufferable and treated Dimple horribly as a friend, essentially walking all over her and only reaching out to Dimple when she needed something. Yet Dimple, through POV narration, repeatedly cycles through different points of this supposed great friendship, going into details about how much they've shared and how much they've been there for each other. But in the story, we really only see Dimple being the great friend. What does Gwyn do? Perhaps this history of their friendship was meant to salvage Gwyn's reputation for their reader? But I couldn't find any redeeming qualities about Gwyn. Besides the history, why were they even friends? Also, it's enraging to see Dimple just remain mute whenever being annoyed by Gwyn (though she somehow had more patience than me with dealing with her), like every time Gwyn stole her food or basically pushed Dimple off of seats she was clearly already sitting in. The entire scene where Gwyn is introduced to Karsh for the first time is cringeworthy. The cherry on top of this super fantastic friendship is of course the showdown, when Dimple *finally* reveals her irritation with Gwyn and Gwyn turns it back around on her. As a reader, I found the Dimple's handling of the argument (along with the rest of the friendship) unsatisfactory at best. Somehow, even with their making up in the end, I highly doubt these two are bound to be friends for life.

My favorite characters are definitely Dimple's parents and her cousin Kavita. Dimple has a tough time realizing just how amazing her parents actually are, and I found myself appreciating them just as much, if not more, as the last time I visited them. I love their relationship with each other and with Dimple and Kavita. I would love to have an Aunty and Uncle like them in my life. Kavita is also someone I could see myself hanging out with. She's far more interesting than Gwyn and Karsh combined and I do think it would've been nice to see more of her and have her character more fleshed out.

Finally, I thought Karsh was a total dreamboat during my first reading, what with his patience, understanding, good looks, charm, and all-knowing sensitivity. I loved the way he was able to spearhead the way to help bring Dimple out of her shell and out of her lens, so to speak. Now I'm all, when did he ever indicate to Gwyn he only viewed her as a sister?? He's 20 years old and a very sought after college boy who is not a total "good boy" with his occasional drinking and smoking weed habits, yet he couldn't pick up on any of Gwyn's overly flirtatious signals? I found this extremely hard to believe. Also, when explaining his behavior with Gwyn to Dimple (e.g. calling her endearing names, dancing with her, etc.), Karsh uses his heroic charms of trying to be all nice, helpful, and protective to everyone else as an excuse. Shut up, Karsh! He couldn't even be direct with Dimple, "reading" her palms instead of a direct, "Hey, I like you. Let's go out some time." Boys.

Don't get me wrong. I still love this book. There are just the right amounts of happy and sad to usurp the annoying bits. And I'm so ready for the book's sequel. Let's hope it's a good one! ( )
  ThePdawg | Jan 14, 2018 |
What I needed. Review to come.

Alright, I'm actually going to try to review this. Given I am an Indian young person, maybe my perspective will count for something.

The review will have mild spoilers.

I liked the writing style as I feel the author didn't explain too much (although she did at times) and the style was mock-lyrical prose. However, the dashes instead of quotation marks when a person was talking, seemed to give a sense that Dimple was alone instead of talking to people. Just use quotation marks. You don't need alternatives.

Dimple, to me, was a likable character. Her confusion over being Indian was something I could relate too. Her character wasn't solid. However, in a story about finding community I think that it is fitting.

Gwyn was really unlikable. I get that the author was trying to give her a more complex/nuanced character but it was unlikable. She was portrayed as unlikable from the start and the only moment you could feel sympathy was when she talked about her past. And honestly, that came too late for me. She seemed rude and a horrible friend through when Dimple needed her and made it seem like a co-dependent relationship on Dimple's side. There wasn't much fallout after (technical spoilers) the big argument.

Parents: Dimple's parents were written well. Their relationship to her was real.

I liked Kavita and I understand that she was supposed to parallel Dimple however she could have had a happier end to her relationship. I enjoyed that we had canon queer characters though and I wish we could have given them a happy ending. I also liked that they talked about how people liking people of the same sex is frowned upon, though I wish it had been discussed further. And also the thing about her cousins wearing her old dresses hurt. Everything hurt. A lot.

I did not like the treatment of a side character. The author clearly did (at the least) research on racism and (most likely) feminism. And yet she gave a character (most like a person of color) a gendered slur and stuff. I would understand if this was because Dimple was a teenager and teenagers do problematic things. But nobody ever called her out and there was nothing to indicate that was wrong.

And Karsh literally had no flaws and romanticized everything.

I can definitely relate to having relatives that don't speak English so you can't communicate well. I enjoyed all of the mentions of Desi food (puris and dosas and laddos and more!). I liked the fact that her parents were (sort of) giving her the choice to marry the guy if she wants to and that her mother refered to American as meaning white. The thing about cultural identity, to me, is spot on and what I needed. A book authored by an Indian American woman for Indian American girls.

A brief moment could be given to discuss the anti-black racism in India and how much of it there is. Especially considering Gandhi and the stuff he pulled regarding that.

What was up about the swimming thing near the end?

And DJ Gulab Jammin' was hilarious to me, sorry. ( )
  ElizabethJoseph | Feb 10, 2016 |
Book starts out promisingly, with a fresh, thoughtful hiphop voice, but bogged down about 1/3 through. The "adverbalizing" of words (funnily, ropily) and made-up words (cosmopolitanation, drink-sticky, daquiried) and constant metaphors (my heart a hummingbird in my wrists) become less charming and more annoying. Characters are generally well-defined; the best-portrayed relationships are of Dimple with her parents, Gwyn, and Kavita.
  Salsabrarian | Feb 2, 2016 |
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“Some souls one will never discover, unless one
invents them first.”
—Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra
I would believe only in a god who could dance.
For my Jeevansaathi, Bernard
(…flap, flap…)
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I guess the whole mess started around my birthday. Amendment: my first birthday.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0439510112, Paperback)

Tanuja Desai Hidier's fantastically acclaimed cross-cultural debut comes to PUSH!

Dimple Lala doesn't know what to think. Her parents are from India, and she's spent her whole life resisting their traditions. Then suddenly she gets to high school and everything Indian is trendy. To make matters worse, her parents arrange for her to meet a "suitable boy." Of course it doesn't go well -- until Dimple goes to a club and finds him spinning a magical web . Suddenly the suitable boy is suitable because of his sheer unsuitability. Complications ensue. This is a funny, thoughtful story about finding your heart, finding your culture, and finding your place in America.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:00 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Seventeen-year old Dimple, whose family is from India, discovers that she is not Indian enough for the Indians and not American enough for the Americans. She sees her hypnotically beautiful, manipulative best friend take possession of both her heritage and the boy she likes.… (more)

» see all 4 descriptions

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