Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club Pick
A lively, sexy, and thought-provoking East-meets-West story about community, friendship, and women’s lives at all ages—a spicy and alluring mix of Together Tea and Calendar Girls.
Every woman has a secret life . . .
Nikki lives in cosmopolitan West London, where she tends bar at the local pub. The daughter of Indian immigrants, she’s spent most of her twenty-odd years distancing herself from the traditional Sikh community of her childhood, preferring a more independent (that is, Western) life. When her father’s death leaves the family financially strapped, Nikki, a law school dropout, impulsively takes a job teaching a "creative writing" course at the community center in the beating heart of London’s close-knit Punjabi community.
Because of a miscommunication, the proper Sikh widows who show up are expecting to learn basic English literacy, not the art of short-story writing. When one of the widows finds a book of sexy stories in English and shares it with the class, Nikki realizes that beneath their white dupattas, her students have a wealth of fantasies and memories. Eager to liberate these modest women, she teaches them how to express their untold stories, unleashing creativity of the most unexpected—and exciting—kind.
As more women are drawn to the class, Nikki warns her students to keep their work secret from the Brotherhood, a group of highly conservative young men who have appointed themselves the community’s "moral police." But when the widows’ gossip offers shocking insights into the death of a young wife—a modern woman like Nikki—and some of the class erotica is shared among friends, it sparks a scandal that threatens them all.
|Product dimensions:||5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.72(d)|
About the Author
Balli Kaur Jaswal was born in Singapore and grew up in Japan, Russia, and the Philippines. She studied creative writing at Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia, and was the National Writer-in-Residence at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, where she taught creative writing while working on Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows. She lives in Singapore.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
“It would be easier to be a criminal fairly prosecuted by the law than an Indian daughter who wronged her family. A crime would be punishable by a jail sentence of definite duration rather than this uncertain length of family guilt trips.” Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows is the third novel by Singapore-born author, Balli Kaur Jaswal. Twenty-two-tear-old Nikki Grewal has found a job teaching creative writing to Punjabi women for the Sikh Community Association at the Southall Temple. This is a welcome development in her life as, with half a law degree and a job in a pub that looks less that permanent, she can do with another source of income. And facilitating these ladies in finding their creative voices speaks to her sense of promoting women’s rights. But the woman who employed her, Kulwinder Kaur has perhaps been less than honest: it turns out that most of these women can’t read or write at all, Punjabi or English. When her basic lessons apparently bore the widows, they begin telling stories they know, have heard or made up. And not just innocent little tales, but erotic stories, just about the very last thing Nikki would have expected from the mouths of these respectable ladies. One of their number is literate enough to be their scribe: could their tales be published? As Nikki becomes more familiar with her students, she realises that despite their candid talk, there is something they are not revealing. It has to do with a young woman whose death, fourteen years earlier, is still a mystery. Or is it really? As Nikki gains her students’ trust, she learns of another death, labelled accidental, and then the recent purported suicide of Kulwinder’s daughter, Maya. One of her widows says: “All those people who say, ‘Take no notice of those widows. Without their husbands, they’re irrelevant.’ We’d be invisible in India; I suppose it makes no difference that we’re in England.” But news of the classes spreads among the women in the community and far beyond, and more students join the group; Nikki worries that the real content of their writing will attract the wrong sort of attention. Jaswal’s novel explores many topical subjects for Indians living in Britain: parental pressure regards career or marriage partner; the vital importance of status and reputation in this community; and the powerlessness of women in the community are but some of these. She describes a culture that, in twenty-first century London, still condones or even promotes arranged marriages, bounty hunters and honour killings; a culture that is slow to react to modern times and difficult to change while is it perpetuated by the men in power and by some of the older, uneducated and often illiterate women. While these are serious topics, Jaswal also gives the reader plenty of humour, much of it quite black, charming characters, natural dialogue and a rather exciting climax. As for the sexy little stories, they can easily be skipped if mild erotica is not to the reader’s taste, without affecting the flow of the main story. Funny, moving and thought-provoking, this is a great read!
Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows was... Amazing. That's all I can say about it in short, because if I open my mouth to talk more, I might just never shut up about it. Despite the really scandalous sounding name, you should really, really, REALLY read this book. It's especially recommended to women. It might change your understanding of womanhood, and the same goes for community relations and traditions. Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows is 2017 release that is definitely not to be missed. I find it hard to remember a book this year that touched me more. Let me get this straight. No, this book is not erotica. It's not romance. But! Yes, this book has a couple erotic stories. Yes, you might want to read it in private. However! The stories in this book are meant to look like they are written by women who can't even write or read – they come from the heart, from experience, from loneliness and the pain of the feminine condition, so to say – when a woman is not treasured, not respected. The stories are a longing to be equal, to be loved, to be ALLOWED TO FEEL PLEASURE and to express yourself on equal terms with a man. Or a woman, for that matter. So to tell you what to expect – no, you won't be reading this book for the erotic stories. The stories are a tool. However, the stories will open up a much deeper meaning of the kinds of problems women have faced for CENTURIES. And the kinds of problems women still face a lot in a lot of societies. So now that we've got the erotic stories bit out of the way, we can talk more about the plot of this book. And it's a complicated one – you can not shelve this book into any trope, plot or genre. It's complex and it will give you food for thought. Starting out whimsical and upbeat, it gives you an impression of a fun and easy read at first – but that's not all it is. It does have its dark and complicated moments, and it delves deep into the problems of a community, particularly one that is fixated on purported purity and keeping up a family's honor. Which is irreconcilable with the modern world, especially where it forces 'duties' upon the woman, without giving her any rights or respecting her choices. Perhaps the scariest part of it isn't even the women who are forced into living a life like that, but women who wholeheartedly believe in a lifestyle like this (for those who've read the book, an example would be Tarampal.) There is nothing sadder than a person from an oppressed group identifying with the oppressors and defending their cause. That is the ultimate defeat. Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows will present a lot of points of view of women like this, and you won't be able to help understanding them all, even the ones like Tarampal, who have identified with their torturers. But Beware Of The Triggers In a story like this, obviously there are triggers. Lots of them. Violent murder, threats, social oppression, oppression of women. I am pretty sure rape is mentioned a couple of times, as is religious prosecution. And of course, there are all the erotic stories with all the... yeah. It would be hard to name everything, so just keep in mind that this is heavy topic material at times.
I loved this book! There is so much to discuss in book club next week! From themes around tradition and expectations versus freedom and new ideas, to women owning their lives and having a say in the direction it takes, to forgiveness, and more. If you are looking for a great read about a culture you may or may not know a lot about, this is a great choice! I received this book for free as a member of the Book Club Girl Book Club from Harper Collins, and it was a great read.
London-based eye-opener about the lives of Sikh women This novel deals with Nikki, a young modern Sikh woman, hired to teach women at a gurdwara in Southall. The classes take an unexpected turn as the Sikh widows have a different agenda. Their stories are revealed as well as a mystery to be resolved. This all leads to a satisfactory conclusion for all involved with some action at the end. The book is character-driven mostly although the plot elements are well-conceived. Having lived in Leicester for 25 years, a lot of the story was familiar to me, dealing with arranged marriages, women's role in Sikh society, honour killings etc.. It is engaging and enjoyable and worth a read. Recommended but probably more a woman's novel than a man's. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Take up this book for pleasure and for the joy of reading a story of women who are strong and have so much to say.
This was not a book I would've bought for myself. The story of widows telling stories about their fantasies was not something I would read again or give to a friend.