Fiction, Loved-it, Rising star, Well known books, Women's

[Women’s] You’d Think This Is Controversial, But It’s Just Human… And Beautiful Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows was… Amazing. That’s all I can say about it in short, because if I open my mouth to talk more, I might just never shut up about it. Despite the really scandalous sounding name, you should really, really, REALLY read this book. It’s especially recommended to women. It might change your understanding of womanhood, and the same goes for community relations and traditions. Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows is 2017 release that is definitely not to be missed. I find it hard to remember a book this year that touched me more. (And please ignore all those dirty puns that these lines could be turned into…😅)

I loved this book so much I’m publishing the review on my birthday. I’m not even kidding.

Nikki is a progressive young woman in London, but her roots are Punjabi, and she struggles to reconcile her 21st century lifestyle with the traditional one that her family wants her to stay true to. She doesn’t understand why her sister would want an arranged marriage in this day, and in the middle of Europe, where a woman could just do so much better, in her opinion. But she still reluctantly agrees to post an arranged marriage ad in the temple, when asked to do so. This is where the story starts…

Nikki is struggling to stay financially independent, so when she finds an ad for a story writing class on the temple notice board, she decides to give it a go. But when she actually meets her students, who are a handful of Punjabi Widows, she realizes that the ad wasn’t exactly stating the facts – it’s not a story class she’s teaching. It’s a literacy class. But the problem is that neither she nor her students really want that sort of class. So they accidentally discover a solution to the problem… A solution that opens up a whole new can of worms in the London Punjabi community.

First Of All, What’s With All The Erotic Stories?

A GIF of Judy Garland as Dorothy in Wizard of Oz, putting her hand to her mouth in shock

Let me get this straight. No, this book is not erotica. It’s not romance. But! Yes, this book has a couple erotic stories. Yes, you might want to read it in private. However! The stories in this book are meant to look like they are written by women who can’t even write or read – they come from the heart, from experience, from loneliness and the pain of the feminine condition, so to say – when a woman is not treasured, not respected. The stories are a longing to be equal, to be loved, to be ALLOWED TO FEEL PLEASURE and to express yourself on equal terms with a man. Or a woman, for that matter. So to tell you what to expect – no, you won’t be reading this book for the erotic stories. The stories are a tool. However, the stories will open up a much deeper meaning of the kinds of problems women have faced for CENTURIES. And the kinds of problems women still face a lot in a lot of societies.

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows uses stories as a tool to illustrate problems women have faced for centuries in traditional societies and how women were never allowed to experience pleasure purely for the sake of it. Click To Tweet

So What Is This Book Essentially About?

A GIF of Sebastian, the crab from The Little Mermaid, telling her that the human world is a mess

So now that we’ve got the erotic stories bit out of the way, we can talk more about the plot of this book. And it’s a complicated one – you can not shelve this book into any trope, plot or genre. It’s complex and it will give you food for thought. Starting out whimsical and upbeat, it gives you an impression of a fun and easy read at first – but that’s not all it is. It does have its dark and complicated moments, and it delves deep into the problems of a community, particularly one that is fixated on purported purity and keeping up a family’s honor. Which is irreconcilable with the modern world, especially where it forces ‘duties’ upon the woman, without giving her any rights or respecting her choices. Perhaps the scariest part of it isn’t even the women who are forced into living a life like that, but women who wholeheartedly believe in a lifestyle like this (for those who’ve read the book, an example would be Tarampal.) There is nothing sadder than a person from an oppressed group identifying with the oppressors and defending their cause. That is the ultimate defeat. Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows will present a lot of points of view of women like this, and you won’t be able to help understanding them all, even the ones like Tarampal, who have identified with their torturers.

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows is complex and will give you food for thought. It delves deep into the problems of a community, particularly one that is fixated on purported purity and keeping up a family's honor. Click To Tweet

Traditional VS Modern

Nikki and Mindi – the modern sister and the slightly more traditional sister – show the difference between generations and traditional versus modern so well. Both Niki and Mindi seem to be slightly hyperbolized versions of those sides, and they show the clash very well. While Nikki was slightly annoying to read because she is indeed irresponsible and doesn’t consider that some of the things her sister and mother do or say make, in fact, a lot of sense, you still couldn’t disregard that her more modern and feminist outlooks are closer to home for most of us. And Mindi was also hard to stomach because of how she defers to traditionalism and “the woman’s place” in society and family, but then again, you couldn’t disregard that she is right about so many things about Nikki, and she’s been there because she’s older. Instead of rebelling, she just sighs and keeps going, or tries to find a more socially appropriate solution to a problem. Nikki and Mindi also show the clash between cultures, the more traditional Indian culture in the case of Mindi, and cosmopolitan or individualistic culture in Nikki – because she’s younger and the Western ways have rubbed off on her much more than Mindi. Both ways of living are valid – but it illustrates very well the struggles of choosing the way that’s best for you if you were born in a multicultural setting.

The Writing And The Presentation

Some very troubling and painful things happen in this book. Some of them are the kinds of things that could tear apart a whole community. You would think you’re reading a fun story, but like I said, this is about very real, very serious things. But the presentation! The presentation is amazing for several reasons. First of all, everything is presented in a very discreet way – even the very personal things the women confess or feel are put so very discreetly and without judgement that it evokes respect in a natural way. Secondly, there is no judging tone – just the facts. You get to make your own observations and draw conclusions. That is a very good way to drive discussion and tell a story – you are way more invested when reading a book like that. This is one of the reasons I enjoyed Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows the most.

And Don’t Forget The Cultural Tidbits

This is for all those foreigners like me reading a book on Punjabi culture. The cultural commentary was amazing! Obviously, I can only speak from a reader’s point of view and only a Punjabi person could tell you how accurate it was – but it seems to be genuine, especially because of the author’s roots. But as someone who previously had zero knowledge about the Punjabi Sikh communities, I was blown away by the cultural details. I was taught so many small, but meaningful things I could have never learned, had I not read this book. It’s worth reading for that alone, if not for the tough issues it delves into!

Even When Times Are Hard, Don’t Forget To Laugh

If I’ve painted the book in colors too dark, please forgive me – I just wanted you to have a good understanding of what this book actually is about. But there is a reason it’s called a ‘dark comedy’ sometimes – even though those #feels might make you weep while reading this, you will also laugh a lot. It is written in an easy style, and it has a lot of whimsical things, especially regarding the stories! It’s not all a heavy read. I promise you will laugh!

But Beware Of The Triggers

In a story like this, obviously there are triggers. Lots of them. Violent murder, threats, social oppression, oppression of women. I am pretty sure rape is mentioned a couple of times, as is religious prosecution. And of course, there are all the erotic stories with all the… yeah. It would be hard to name everything, so just keep in mind that this is heavy topic material at times.

You can buy Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows here at Book Depository and buying using this link supports the blog.

Other Books You Might Like

Let me recommend you a book on a related subject, although not the exact same one – I really loved The Growing Season by Helen Sedgwick, a book set in a semi-utopian future where women don’t have to carry babies anymore, because it’s done outside of their bodies. The book debates the two very valid points of view – of whether that’s liberating for women, or actually a deletion of women’s role altogether, because they have been removed from the equation. You can read my review of this book here. You can also buy it on Book Depository here (using this link will give me a tiny percentage of revenue.)

The Growing Season

Have you read Heart Berries? Have you heard about it? What is some of the fiction or nonfiction literature you’ve read recently on the topic of any indigenous people and their experiences?

I’m Evelina and I try to blog about books that matter, with a bit of fun there too! Disability and equality will be topics you see a lot, but there’s also a lot of scifi, fantasy and… GIFs. I’m also the proud founder of #ARCsAnonymous.

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Sim @Flipping Through the Pages
Guest

So happy to know that you loved this book so much. Loved your review so much. I loved this book too. So agree that this book represents so much more. It has so many layers and this story definitely needs to be read by all especially women.

Amanda
Guest

First of all, Happy Birthday!
I have this book on hold at the library, but I had sort of forgotten about it. Your review is making me so excited to read it!!! I cannot wait. Thanks for great content once again.

Bethany
Guest

My best friend just sent me her copy of this to read and I cannot wait to grab it off my TBR stack! Just gotta get through my current read first!

Tammy @ Books, Bones & Buffy
Guest

This sounds wonderful! If my blog weren’t so SFF heavy I would definitely put it on my list to read. Thank you for suggesting it:-)

Book Inspector
Guest

The title sounds quite tacky but once you start reading it, it unfolds a lot of problems, which South Asian community is facing, such as illiteracy, honor killings, relationship tabus and many more… One thing for sure, after reading this book, you will never look at South Asian aunties the same way as you did before :D:D:D:D

Hanna @ Booking in Heels
Guest

Alright, I want to read this SO BADLY now. It’s my birthday tomorrow and I’ve planned a book shopping trip so I’m going have a look for it whilst I’m there 🙂

I like the cover too.

Megan @ Ginger Mom and the Kindle Quest
Guest

I have heard a few things about this book but haven’t picked it up just yet. As for your recommended suggestion at the end of the post – what a concept! As a mom of two, women not carrying babies sounds so strange to me. But both books you shared have made it onto my TBR list, so thanks for sharing them 🙂

Laura Thomas
Guest

I would have never looked at this but your fabulous review makes me want to impulse buy ASAP!

Gem
Guest

Awesome review I’m definitely going to read this now, you nailed it

Stephanie Jane (Literary Flits)
Guest

I haven’t read such a thoughtful and in-depth review of this book before. It sounds like one I would love 🙂 Thanks Evelina!

Sophie
Guest

I’m in awe of your “reading” as in “deciphering ” of this book Evelina! Wonderful review <3

JJ @ This Dark Material
Guest

Ahhhh, first Sim’s and now your review have convinced me I need to read this! I really enjoy book that touch on romance and sexuality in any culture, just because we all have our own unique hangups about such a large part of life, and it can lead to some fantastic stories. And this one in particular has such a pretty cover 🙂 Excellent review, Evelina!

Jordanne
Guest

I really need to read this now! I had seen it on shelves before but didn’t know what to make of it. Great review!

Becky @ A Fool's Ingenuity
Guest

I admit the erotic part of the title put me off reading this one but reading your review makes me seriously question why. I should have read what the book was about it sounds like such an interesting read and fun! It looks at how modern life in London contrasts with traditional ideals and that is just so cool!

lauren
Guest

so i know this book isnt for me BUT IT SOUNDS AMAZING for those who enjoy these books. i love theidea of how and why the erotic stories were writen

Andreea
Guest

Oh, this book is on my list since I read reviews for it last year – I think it was on Sim’s blog that I saw it first. But now that you reviewed it too I should really look for this book and get it! And here’s a belated happy birthday!