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.
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.