Monday, August 1, 2011

Review: New Crossroads by Suhail Ali

Reviewed by Ingrid

Published: 2010

It's about: New Crossroads is a collection of light-hearted short stories about the new generation in India, each exploring the disjunction and ruptures between the older, more traditional generations and the younger generation eager to embrace emerging technologies. From the back of the book - "The short tales in New Crossroads capture the mood of a society in transition and reflect on an emerging consciousness shaped by rapid and fascinating social changes."

I thought: I LOVED this collection of stories. They were succinct, straightforward and subtly funny. I was charmed by the writing style, which sounded very much like the particular way Indians speak English. (Makes sense since Suhail Ali himself is Indian.)

Speaking of the author, he grew up in India but eventually moved to California where he now lives with his family. He explains in his introduction that as he periodically returns to India on vacation, each time he notices significant changes from the India he had grown up in. I thought Suhail Ali was in the perfect position to write these stories - he is enough of in insider to know the culture very well, but also far enough removed to notice changes both subtle and dramatic.

I should point out that before I began reading, I was worried that I wouldn't grasp the full significance of this book since I'm not Indian. Luckily I was very wrong. I imagine that this book would be especially interesting to Indian readers, however its themes are universal as to be accessible and enjoyable to readers who aren't as familiar with Indian culture. The footnotes at the bottom explaining Indian words and cultural concepts were also especially helpful and interesting.

This was a great first book from Suhail Ali and I definitely look forward to reading more from him in the future.

Verdict: Stick it on the shelf.

Reading Recommendations: This is a great read for anyone interested in contemporary Indian culture.

Warnings: None.

Favorite excerpts:

Other than books, the only other passion Swamy had was movies. And to the surprise of the few friends he had, Swamy loved action movies. Maybe it was an outlet for his repressed, adventure-less childhood. Swamy had great fascination for lone ranger action heroes. James Bond, Jackie Chan, and Batman movies were among his favorites, but the one action hero closest to his heart was Clint Eastwood. Swamy never missed any movie that Clint Eastwood acted in and even tried to adopt his distinctive mannerisms without being obvious about it. A careful observer could make out these clumsy imitations, but it largely escaped the notice of the people around him as Hollywood movies were not popular with the mainstream.

What I'm reading next: Marcel Proust: A Life by William C. Carter. Woo!

*I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.