This week I'm reviewing Balli Kaur Jaswal's Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows, and it's generally very highly reviewed. I'm punjabi, I'm sex positive, my mom's a punjabi widow, I thought I was going to like this book for sure. I wanted to like it so bad, but it was either boring or cringey, there was no in between for me.
To be transparent, I accessed this book as an e-book and my experience is likely effected by the narrator, as well. But like I mentioned, the book was either boring or cringe-y. I found it awfully boring until chapter 5, which was the point at which I wanted to call it quits. I reached out to a pal to see if she'd read the book, and explained I was having trouble reading it. She remarked that she finished it but found it so-so. I decided I would try to at least finish half the book before calling it quits, especially because nothing erotic story related had happened yet.
I should've quit while I was ahead
I should've quit while I was ahead, because that's when I got to the cringe-y bits. *Spoilers ahead* The bibiyaan (elder women) finally get to the good stuff, and I don't know if it's because I'm on the acesexual spectrum and am occasionally sex repulsed or if its because I'm queer, but the erotic stories bit was awful. It was reminiscent of Twilight?!? YEAH - I know. Every story (up until chapter 6, which was about one third through the book) was centred around his 'member'. Now, I understand that we're talking about a group of characters that are mostly illiterate punjabi elders, but I know that queer punjabi elders exist - I mean I didn't fall out of thin air. And to allude to the previous book I reviewed, "We have always been here". But no, seriously, homophobia and was a British export that came with the british raj to what is now known as Pakistan and India, the countries that own fractures of the state of Punjab. I'd recommend this Conversation piece that has an accessible, historical account of Vedic era and onwards instance of gay shit thriving in South Asia.
Brown aunties/eders/bibiyaan, feel queer to me in the ways that Cathy J. Cohen talks about queer identity in Punks, Bulldaggers, and Welfare Queens: The Radical Potential of Queer Politics? combined with the way Jasbir Puar talks about othered brown bodies in Terrorist Assemblages:
Homonationalism in Queer Times. And so, with the current state of affairs, the last thing I want to hear about is someone's danda and/or swollen member 17 times.
Those are all my thoughts on Jaswal's Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows, I plan on checking out her other novels, but I'll do some more research first instead of judging a book by its cover. 👀