Born Confused Review: This Coming-Of-Age Novel Is An Exploration of Cultural Identity

Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier is a young adult novel about the coming of age of the very Indian, yet American and very confused Dimple Lala.

Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier is a young adult novel about the coming of age of the very Indian yet American and very confused Dimple Lala into her own self confident and comfortable identity. The story spans over her parents and the world of her friends, all of who bring on a wide range of ideas for Dimple to latch on to and assimilate some within her own self to bring about a sense of comfort with being Dimple Lala.

Considered to be the first book with a US female teen desi heroine, Born Confused draws many incidents from the author’s own experiences. This novel was named an American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults and it was the Sunday Times (Times of London) book of the week as well as Financial Times Magazine Best Summer Pick.

“They say in the east you love the person you marry and in the west you marry the person you love. But maybe it’s a lot simpler than that. Maybe you just love the person you love.”

“She was right. After all, if she herself had wondered whether she was Indian enough — she, who had always been to me a sort of epitome of Indian — then who could be? Who could claim the sole right or way to an identity?” 

What to Anticipate:

The book showcases a very accurate vision of the young adult world. It transfers the pressures of parenting on to the child who lies on the receiving end of that process. And it brings out the difficulties a personality faces when put in contact with a conflicting set of ideas that arise in the world and the family.

Young Adult novels are often about such self discoveries. Adolescence is a time which posits questions of gender, body image, love life, education and family bond and finally, friends or peer group. These elements, other than already setting up  hurdles in the progression of growing up, complicates itself further with the addition of more than one culture to grow up in.

What a young adult believes in and how he or she comes to an understanding of the set of ideas, makes the crux of the novel. The resonance of such a quality which is part of every human being who has discovered themselves and their personalities at some point or the other in their lives, strikes through in the book. The adult readers will find themselves reminiscing about days where they were similarly confused about their perspective of black, white and grey. For the introverted teens, the book and the protagonist might just be a mirror.

However, the protagonist and her best friend tend to become product of stock characters where one is the subdued introverted best friend of the extroverted loud, and popular teen and the other just that, the blunt popular girl with problems of isolation and lack of love.

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