Saturday, August 28, 2010

Discuss American Brat as a continuum of History from where Sidhwa broke away in her previous novels.

Pakistan-born Sidhwa--who created the endearing Junglewalla clan in The Crow Eaters (1982)--limns the more sobering experiences of one of the clan's descendants in the States. A member herself of the ancient Parsi sect to which the Junglewallas--as well as the protagonist here, Feroza Ginwalla- -belong, Sidhwa makes this sect one of the many strands that affect young Feroza as she seeks to make a new life for herself.
The only daughter of affluent Fareen and Cyrus Ginwalla, 16-year-old Feroza has enjoyed an indulged childhood. But when Fareen, uneasy with the growing fundamentalism in Islamic Pakistan, sees even her fearless and self-willed daughter sympathizing with the new dispensation (Feroza objects to Fareen's wearing a sleeveless sari-blouse), she decides to send the girl to the US for a three-month visit with her young uncle Manek, an MIT student--a visit that turns into four years at college and the decision to settle in the country Feroza loves ``despite her growing knowledge of its faults.'' It is the anatomy of the decision to stay on that makes this book so distinctive, as Sidhwa contrasts the warm, loving world of family and religious faith back home with the difficulties of Feroza's adjustment in a strange and colder place. The decision is based not only on the comforts the US offers but also, especially for a woman, on its tolerance and freedom. And though her love affair with a Jewish student falters over irreconcilable religious differences, Feroza realizes that one day she might marry--but now ``more sure of herself, she wouldn't let anyone interfere.'' Understandably less exuberant than Sidhwa's first novel (though scenes back in Lahore recapture some of the wry affection for family eccentricities)--but, still, Feroza exactly reflects the dilemmas of those born in the Third World who can flourish only in another.

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