Bapsi Sidhwa's earlier novels were set inHer impressions of American life, her comparisons with the life of her wealthy family in
and Pakistan and described life in her own Parsee community. An American Brat is a result of her years living in the India and tells of the problems of adjustment to a new culture as experienced by her heroine Feroza, a young Pakistani Parsee girl who comes to visit and then to study in the United States and who becomes “an American brat,” according to some of her relatives. U.S.
sometimes reads like a rather melodramatic travelogue in which all the material advantages of American wealth are set against a continuing round of horrors: attacks by drug addicts at the Port Authority Terminal in
, the burglary of her New York apartment by the drug-addict boyfriend of a roommate, the disappearance of another (black) roommate who is never found. American young people have freedom, but in Sidhwa's tale they do little but jump into bed with one another, swear, and shoplift. Idaho
At the end, Feroza, having fallen in love with an American student and spent nights in his bed, is still a virgin nevertheless and, after a visit from her outraged mother, who cannot accept a marriage outside the Parsee faith, ends up alone. The conclusion is rather a case of eating your cake and having it too, as Feroza is going to stay in
, where life is more stimulating and where as a woman she has more freedom, but her creator has kept her technically “pure” and still a believer in her ancestors' faith. America
Criticism of Pakistani politics is a subtheme. During Feroza's days as a student, her hero, Bhutto, is executed. The government of his successor, General Zia, is particularly criticized for its treatment of women. The victim of a rape is judged guilty of adultery and subject to imprisonment and beating. This political content is not developed to any extent, however; neither is it integrated into the story. Similarly, some of the explanations of Parsee customs seem mere anthropological detail. The author forgets about such victims of Islamic
fundamentalist oppression, or even the vast majority of the population, when she describes her heroine as having “grown up, like most young girls in the Subcontinent, believing that everything she expected of life would be hers after marriage.” The descriptions of
are occasionally comically inaccurate: a Parsee student gets a job selling Bibles in the Bible Belt and begins by visiting each “parish priest” to learn about his potential customers! An Indian student manages to get a doctor (and presumably the hospital) to change a bill America
for care of a premature baby from ?15,000 to ?1,000!
In her earlier novels Sidhwa's sense of the comedy of Parsee life compensated more adequately for a rather unsophisticated narrative skill.