Karma and Other Stories

( 6 )


In this sparkling collection, award-winning writer Rishi Reddi weaves a multigenerational tapestry of interconnected lives, depicting members of an Indian American community struggling to balance the demands of tradition with the allure of Western life.

In "Lord Krishna," a teenager is offended when his evangelical history teacher likens the Hindu deity to Satan, but ultimately forgives the teacher against his father's wishes. In the title story, "Karma," an unemployed professor...

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Karma and Other Stories

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In this sparkling collection, award-winning writer Rishi Reddi weaves a multigenerational tapestry of interconnected lives, depicting members of an Indian American community struggling to balance the demands of tradition with the allure of Western life.

In "Lord Krishna," a teenager is offended when his evangelical history teacher likens the Hindu deity to Satan, but ultimately forgives the teacher against his father's wishes. In the title story, "Karma," an unemployed professor rescues birds in downtown Boston after his wealthy brother kicks him out of his home. In "Justice Shiva Ram Murthy," which appeared in The Best American Short Stories 2005, an irascible retired judge reconnects with a childhood friend while adjusting to a new life with his daughter and her American husband. In "Devadasi," a beautiful young woman raised in the United States travels back to India and challenges the sexual confines of her culture. And in "Bangles," a widow decides to return to her native village to flee her son's off-putting American ways.

Set mostly in the Boston area, with side trips to an isolated immigrant community in Wichita, Kansas, and the characters' hometown of Hyderabad, India, Karma and Other Stories introduces a luminous new voice.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
Multigenerational and international, the characters in Reddi's unique stories long for the comfort of the past while building unfamiliar and friable new lives in America. Finding the right balance between traditional Indian culture and the allure of contemporary Western life becomes a high-stakes juggling act -- a gamble that they can't always win.

A contentious septuagenarian reunites with a childhood friend after an unlikely argument threatens to erase decades of history; a 15-year acquaintance with the town's librarian tempts a middle-aged housewife to consider the unthinkable; a young, assimilated college student condemns her best friend for consenting to an arranged marriage; a widow flees her son's comfortable American life and returns to the village of her birth; a young husband and father finds success disappointingly elusive and spends his days on Boston's wintry streets, rescuing injured birds.

Proud, lonely, despairing, and hopeful, Reddi's characters and the stories that surround them not only animate the struggle between tradition and a new way of life but also bear witness to the common ground we all share. That Reddi is able to transcend the confines of immigrant literature, choosing instead to examine the universal themes of love, loss, family, and duty, marks Karma and Other Stories as a resonant and gifted debut. (Summer 2007 Selection)
Arthur Golden
“Only the finest writers can craft short stories with the richness of a novel...[an] exceptional debut collection.”
Kiran Desai
“Sad, sweet, tender--a truly lovely book.”
Judith Guest
“Rishi Reddi has written a unique and beautiful book with the power to both entertain and educate.”
Binnie Kirshenbaum
“Reddi’s characters are complicated people...and, as are the stories they inhabit, memorable and very worthy of our attention. Exquisite.”
Boston Magazine
"Reddi is the brightest light in Boston’s latest literary constellation."
Indian Express
“...superb debut collection... much like Jhumpa Lahiri…a gem of a book…characters remain etched in memory…”
India Currents
“Reddi has produced a piece of writing that masterfully contrasts the assumed with the experienced, myth with reality.”
Boston magazine
“Reddi is the brightest light in Boston’s latest literary constellation.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“[A]mong such time-tested topics of immigrant fiction, Reddi suddenly soars.”
Washington Post
“While many of the stories seem simple, characters and plots linger long after you turn the page.”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“In deceptively simple prose...a compassionate look at what happens when the insular world of the Indian immigrant is breached.”
Philadelphia Inquirer
“…reminiscent of Jhumpa Lahiri... The immigrant experience...is rendered with the starkest honesty… substance and depth.”
The New Yorker
“Reddi’s understated prose and her choice of detail give her revelations a quiet power.”
“This excellent debut collection... [offers] elegant studies of a culture that is both familiar and foreign.”
Publishers Weekly

Set primarily in Boston and its suburbs, Reddi's debut focuses on individuals and families struggling to reconcile their Indian diaspora backgrounds with American life, while attempting to preserve their small, at times contentious ethnic communities. Often generational differences are the root of conflict—in "Bangles," a successful American doctor tries to fulfill his duty by bringing his newly widowed mother from Hyderabad to his upscale suburban home, but fails to make space in his young family's life for her religious and cultural needs. In "The Validity of Love," a rebellious but fragile young woman must examine the extent to which she's internalized traditional ideas of Indian marriage when her best friend willingly enters into an arranged engagement. In other cases, the conflict is an economic one: in the title story, unemployed Shankar Balareddy, frustrated and angered by his younger brother's callous success, searches for redemption from a youthful misdeed. While her themes are familiar, Reddi deftly employs images to crystallize them: a set of red glass bracelets smashed with a rock, a wounded bird confused by Boston's skyscrapers, even a bean-and-cheese burrito, all call to mind the isolation and occasional bewilderment shared by her sympathetic characters. (Mar.)

Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The Indian community in and around Boston is explored in seven loosely linked stories. Indian-born Reddi takes on the not-unfamiliar territory of culture clash, charting the conflict between traditional values and modern, Western mores. Her stories are occasionally comic, more often pensive, even melancholic, highlighting the contrast between those immigrants who have adjusted to a new life in America and those still struggling and out of place. In "Justice Shiva Ram Murthy," two elderly friends respond differently to a minor fracas in a fast-food restaurant. In "Bangles," another elderly protagonist-Arundhati, a widow-moves to this "new city, new country, new life" to live with her son, only to find that she must go against duty and custom herself in order to make life tolerable. In the title story, an unemployed professor of colonial history searches for work and independence from his more successful brother, only to find himself rescuing-in an act of neat symbolism-damaged migrating birds. In "The Validity of Love," two young, Westernized women respond with shared dismissiveness on the subject of arranged marriages, then find their opinions diverging; while in "Devadasi," another young woman, on a trip to Hyderabad, finds herself comparing and contrasting Indian and American male behavior, and her space within the differing cultures. Reddi's voice is gentle and her eye watchful, and the dilemmas of her often-isolated characters are by no means solely those of the immigrant community. A soft-spoken, sympathetic collection. Agent: Maria Massie/InkWell Management
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060898823
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 3/27/2007
  • Series: P.S. Series
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 1,147,761
  • Product dimensions: 8.04 (w) x 5.44 (h) x 0.64 (d)

Meet the Author

Rishi Reddi was born in Hyderabad, India, and grew up in Great Britain and the United States. Her work has appeared in The Best American Short Stories 2005 and received an honorable mention in Pushcart Prize 2004; she is also a recipient of an Artist Grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. She lives in Brookline, Massachusetts, with her husband and daughter.

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Table of Contents

Justice Shiva Ram Murthy     1
Lakshmi and the Librarian     29
The Validity of Love     65
Bangles     95
Karma     127
Devadasi     157
Lord Krishna     187
Acknowledgments     215
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2008

    Interesting tales contrasting India and America

    Rishi Reddi presents a superb collection of stories that aim to reflect the experience of the modern-day Indian in New England. I picked up this book because I took a class on multicultural women's lit in college and we read a few Indian authors, all of whom I enjoyed. When I saw that this was a new collection of Indian fiction, I immediately wanted to read it. I found the stories, though focused on a particular immigrant community, share an experience of feeling out of place in society (and even family) that anyone could relate to. The characters are beautifully written, and I couldn't help but be caught up in their stories. I felt invested in them, and really, isn't that the point of a good book? The characters are so different from each other, with ages ranging from children to the elderly, creating a variety of viewpoints. I highly recommend Reddi's collection of stories to those who enjoy everyday people and the problems that cultural differences can bring.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 7, 2014


    Eydunvmtueisvdtuxtu tvnv yu n byvrughtu be utiy

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 1, 2013

    One of my favorite books.

    One of my favorite books.

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  • Posted May 13, 2009

    An important and moving read

    Reddi's characters are unforgettable and vivid, as are their stories. She paints a true and beautiful portrait of Indian culture, and brings to light the struggles which immigrants of any country face as they attempt to retain their culture and its dignity. The stories stay with the reader long after they have been set aside despite their shortness of length. It is a book which is irrevocably important and moving.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 27, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2010

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