Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows
Balli Kaur Jaswal’s third novel is hilarious and heartwarming all at once. It’s part rom-com, part meditation on family and tradition, and part, well, erotic stories for Punjabi widows.
The plot is relatively straightforward: Born in London to Punjabi Sikh parents, Nikki, 22, is chafing against her family’s expectations. Her elder sister, Mindi, decides to seek an arranged marriage, and asks Nikki to post her profile on the marriage board at the Sikh Community Association in Southall (a suburb outside London). Nikki reluctantly does, and ends up getting a job to teach creative writing to elderly widows. They begin telling x-rated romance stories. (My least favorite part of the novel, actually, was the full text of the stories. I wanted to focus on the characters!!) When Nikki begins teaching, she gets pulled into the community she has resisted.
Kirkus praises Erotic Stories, writing “By turns erotic, romantic, and mysterious, this tale of women defying patriarchal strictures enchants.” What I enjoyed about the novel was Nikki herself — it wasn’t the tale of an immigrant daughter rejecting her culture. Rather, it was a journey for an immigrant daughter to find herself within her community and tradition. And the love story and mystery subplots (I don’t want to spoil) added a lot of dimension to the story.