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Climbing the Stairs by Padma Venkatraman
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Climbing the Stairs

by Padma Venkatraman

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3.5 stars.
A Young Adult book about India and the struggle for freedom from British rule, from the caste system, from the tradional roles for women. ( )
  BookConcierge | Feb 29, 2016 |
MSBA Nominee 2009-2010

I liked this one quite a lot. Set during WWII in India, Vidya has a relatively liberal upbringing in a family that believes in non-violent protesting. When an unfortunate accident occurs, she is forced to live with her uncle and his very conservative family, which means that she lives downstairs and is stuck there doing chores a good portion of the time, while the men live upstairs. I think to give away more than that will ruin the story. ( )
  scote23 | Mar 30, 2013 |
Growing up in India during WWII, scholarly fifteen-year-old Vidya dreams of going to college one day, but when her supportive father is injured during a passive protest march, Vidya must move in with her conservative relatives and fight to keep her dream of college alive. This historical young-adult novel explores a fascinating setting, with plenty of insights into Indian culture and the Indian perspective of the war. These elements are handled with great care and ring with authenticity. Unfortunately, the story itself is too leisurely paced and the characters too underdeveloped to be truly engaging. While teen girls will certainly root for Vidya, they may ultimately be disappointed by how little she actually does to achieve her dream. This title will instead appeal most strongly to readers who wish to immerse themselves in Indian history or culture or who wish to explore a non-Western view of WWII. Recommended for libraries with strong world literature or historical fiction collections. Recommended for readers age 13 to 18. ( )
  skcramer | Oct 16, 2012 |
On the brink of major world and national events in history, Vidya lives a good life in India with loving parents amma (mother), appa (father) and brother Kitta. While India begins to follow the passive resistance teachings of Gandhi to break free from Britian’s rule, the caste system is still part of regular life, and most arranged marriages are the norm, her father promises her that she can go to college. A tragedy occurs, and Vidya and family are forced to go live with her father’s family, where men and women are separated, and she is treated only slightly better than a servant, certainly not as important as periamma’s daughter Malati who is to be married shortly. Despite the new challenges she faces, she gets back a bit of happiness for herself every night as she sneaks up the stairs to thatha’s (grandfather’s) library. She meets a friend in the library, Raman, who encourages her and treats her more kindly than the rest in the household. With World War II brewing in Europe and Asia, and threatening India, Kitta decides to join the volunteer Indian army, defying the passive ideology of the family and many Indians. What will happen now to Vidya and her broken family? Does she have any hope for a better future?

This is a nice story, a quick read and a good look at life in India at a critical time. It provides some insights into Hinduism and Indian culture. Vidya is a determined protagonist, has definite ideas about what she wants out of life, and despite challenges, finds ways to stay strong. Vidya is a bit like Cinderella, and the secondary characters in this book are one dimensional. Vidya’s mother is sad and downtrodden. Her other relatives are often mean and unforgiving. Despite this, I enjoyed the book and will recommend it to my world literature readers. ( )
  mikitchenlady | Aug 10, 2012 |
The cover of this book caught my eye and I'm so glad it did. It took me back to the summer I spent in India with a friend's family. Her family was like Amma and Appa and I could relate to Vidya's life in Bombay.

The tragedy that followed and her thrust into traditional life was almost as heartbreaking for me as it was for her. Her strong spirit allowd her to make the best of the situation and she ultimately in the end. I wondered that her Thatha wasn't paying attenton to whatwas going on in his own house, but he does answer that in the end.

Her descriptions brought to mind places I'd been, things we'd seen... It was a great trip down memory lane. ( )
  sailorfigment | Jul 9, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0399247467, Hardcover)

During World War II and the last days of British occupation in India, fifteen-year-old Vidya dreams of attending college. But when her forward-thinking father is beaten senseless by the British police, she is forced to live with her grandfather’s large traditional family, where the women live apart from the men and are meant to be married off as soon as possible.

Vidya’s only refuge becomes her grandfather’s upstairs library, which is forbidden to women. There she meets Raman, a young man also living in the house who relishes her intellectual curiosity. But when Vidya’s brother makes a choice the family cannot condone, and when Raman seems to want more than friendship, Vidkya must question all she has believed in.

Padma Venkatraman’s debut novel poignantly shows a girl struggling to find her place in a mixedup world. Climbing the Stairs is a powerful story about love and loss set against a fascinating historical backdrop.

Read Padma Venkatraman's posts on the Penguin Blog.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:29 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

In India, in 1941, when her father becomes brain-damaged in a non-violent protest march, fifteen-year-old Vidya and her family are forced to move in with her father's extended family and become accustomed to a totally different way of life.

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