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Just last week, San Jose Mercury crossword featured the 4-letter answer Ghee for clarified butter. More than Roti, Naan, Goa, Taj, or Agra it made me sit up and think: Have we Indians finally arrived on the publishing scene?

Then I saw Sonya Singh’s book displayed front and center (New Fiction) in the Los Altos library. A coincidence or what? And please know, I just finished seeing second season of Bridgerton (twice as many views as season one)! So, dear reader, bear with me, this writeup is a book review and more…

Ten years ago, Sari, not Sari would not have seen ink (digital or otherwise). It is unabashedly, unapologetically about embracing being brown. And loving it.

Like some Indians, Manny Dogra can pass for white. Then she has an identity crisis and using that plot pivot, Sonya Singh, with a deft, light touch, paints the joys of Indian culture, complete with Auntie-ji and Uncle-ji. The author touches on the burden of being Indian too, but more to forestall the negative voice by acknowledging it; not in a judgmental way.

The publishing industry, long a bastion of the Bookers and (un)Commonwealth prizes could recognize Arundhati Roy but not R.K Narayan. A. Roy is a powerful writer, no doubt. But that is not the point. India Currents recently carried a youth opinion piece ‘Stop Writing Brown Characters for White Audiences‘ – a brilliant recap of Indians being portrayed on film/TV. I won’t repeat it here. What I do want to stress is that Bridgerton (cited in the article) didn’t happen overnight. Internet didn’t happen overnight; streaming didn’t happen overnight. Big changes happen because small changes happened before. Stereotypical characters paved the way for Kate and Edwina so they can have a Haldi ceremony and not just be random brown faces.

Kudos to Sonya Singh for writing her book the way she did: the characters are not deep; not intellectual; but they are beautiful, and they are proud. The book is not Booker material (thankfully) and I am glad because Romance is the largest selling genre, and Manny Dogra-Sammy Patel will redefine what it means to be Indian in America.