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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)
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.
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
Only the finest writers can craft short stories with the richness of a novel...[an] exceptional debut collection.
...superb debut collection... much like Jhumpa Lahiri…a gem of a book…characters remain etched in memory…
Reddi has produced a piece of writing that masterfully contrasts the assumed with the experienced, myth with reality.
Reddi is the brightest light in Boston’s latest literary constellation.
[A]mong such time-tested topics of immigrant fiction, Reddi suddenly soars.
While many of the stories seem simple, characters and plots linger long after you turn the page.
In deceptively simple prose...a compassionate look at what happens when the insular world of the Indian immigrant is breached.
…reminiscent of Jhumpa Lahiri... The immigrant experience...is rendered with the starkest honesty… substance and depth.
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.
Sad, sweet, tender--a truly lovely book.
Rishi Reddi has written a unique and beautiful book with the power to both entertain and educate.
Reddi’s characters are complicated people...and, as are the stories they inhabit, memorable and very worthy of our attention. Exquisite.
"Reddi is the brightest light in Boston’s latest literary constellation."