Friday, July 24, 2009

Review: Blue Boy

Summary: Meet Kiran Sharma: lover of music, dance, and all things sensual; son of immigrants, social outcast, spiritual seeker. A boy who doesn't quite understand his lot—until he realizes he's a god...

As an only son, Kiran has obligations—to excel in his studies, to honor the deities, to find a nice Indian girl, and, above all, to make his mother and father proud—standard stuff for a boy of his background. If only Kiran had anything in common with the other Indian kids besides the color of his skin. They reject him at every turn, and his cretinous public schoolmates are no better. Cincinnati in the early 1990s isn’t exactly a hotbed of cultural diversity, and Kiran’s not-so-well-kept secrets don’t endear him to any group. Playing with dolls, choosing ballet over basketball, taking the annual talent show way too seriously. . .the very things that make Kiran who he is also make him the star of his own personal freak show. . .


Surrounded by examples of upstanding Indian Americans—in his own home, in his temple, at the weekly parties given by his parents’ friends—Kiran nevertheless finds it impossible to get the knack of “normalcy.” And then one fateful day, a revelation: perhaps his desires aren’t too earthly, but too divine. Perhaps the solution to the mystery of his existence has been before him since birth. For Kiran Sharma, a long, strange trip is about to begin—a journey so sublime, so ridiculous, so painfully beautiful, that it can only lead to the truth. . . -- Kensington


When I first read the description of BLUE BOY by Rakesh Satyal, I thought it sounded like an interesting take on a coming-of-age story. Kiran is the only child of traditional Indian parents who have immigrated to the United States and started a new life in Cincinnati. As a young Indian boy in America, he knows he looks different from the other kids; but it's his other interests which really set him apart. He just happens to like ballet class, talent shows, Strawberry Shortcake, make-up, and a pink backpack; and he doesn't exactly hide his feelings from his classmates. As you can probably tell, BLUE BOY most definitely was a very unique story about a very unique boy.

One thing that I have to point out about this book is that it is extremely entertaining. Even though a lot of what happens to Kiran really isn't very funny, the author has incorporated so much humor into this story. Kiran is an extremely funny character. There are numerous scenes where I found myself laughing at Kiran's antics, and I couldn't help but smile at Kiran's insights into life.

This novel was written in first person in Kiran's voice, and I think that's what made this book so special. Getting inside of Kiran's mind and truly understanding his feelings really caused me to think. Kiran was such a lost and confused young boy, and my heart really went out to him. Poor Kiran just didn't "fit in" on so many levels. Even though his parents moved to Ohio, they were still very involved with their Indian friends and that culture. Kiran was stuck between wanting to belong with his family and their friends while also trying to fit in with the American kids at his school. In addition, there was absolutely no doubt that Kiran did not relate to the other young boys that he met. While he tried to have the same interests, it was apparent at a pretty early age that Kiran was his own unique person. He not only had his own insecurities about pleasing his parents, but he also had to deal with constant teasing at school.

Because he didn't feel quite "normal", Kiran gets the idea that he is the embodiment of the god Krishna. He even uses his mother's make-up to color his face blue so he would look more like Krishna. I actually really liked how the author incorporated this imagery into the story, and I thought it was very well done. I thought it was very telling how Kiran wanted to embrace something bigger than himself while also trying to come to terms with his differences.

As I read BLUE BOY, I had to wonder how much of this story was autobiographical. The author points out that his parents were not like Kiran's parents in BLUE BOY, but I do know there was one very funny scene where Kiran dresses up as Abraham Lincoln for a school project that was based on the author's real-life experience. So much of Kiran's confusion and pain just seemed to be so real and heartfelt that I'm guessing that the author was speaking from a lot of his own personal experiences as a young boy.

The author, Rakesh Satyal, is definitely a well-rounded individual to say the least. Besides writing this novel, Mr. Satyal is also an editor at Harper Collins. In addition, he is a musician who has performed in a cabaret show. He also is on the planning committee of the PEN World Voices Festival and speaks frequently at writers' conferences. If you'd like to learn more about Mr. Satyal, you can check out his website or read this Q&A with him.

BLUE BOY would make for an interesting book club pick if your group likes books about other cultures and life styles. I do think there is a great deal to discuss about this book especially pertaining to parent/child relationships. I think groups like mine that are made up of mothers might really appreciate discussing the challenges that Kiran and his parents faced. I also think talking about the differences in the Indian and American cultures would be very interesting. There is a reading guide available which contains ten thought-provoking questions.

Since Kiran is at the age where he is coming to terms with his emotions and his body, I have to warn you that there are parts of this book which are rather blunt about sex. I didn't have a problem with them as I thought they helped to tell Kiran's story, but I do think some of you might be offended.

A big thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of BLUE BOY. You can read an excerpt of this novel here.

10 comments:

ANovelMenagerie said...

Great review! I really enjoyed it.

Lauren said...

Excellent review! I read about this book a bit ago and was interested in reading it. I may just pick up a copy now! Having an Indian boyfriend, I'm always intrigued to read cultural stories to see how people grew up differently than me. It's incredibly interesting to me.

Melanie said...

Great review. I need to find a copy.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Great review! I love stories from a boy's point of view because I still have no idea what boys/men are all about!

blueviolet said...

I love the way you write your reviews! This sounds great and I think I have to read it now!

carolsnotebook said...

Kiran sounds liek a fascinating character. You definitely have me interested in reading this.

bermudaonion said...

This sounds exactly like my kind of book. It will definitely be going on my wish list!

Beth F said...

Super review -- really. I think I would really like this book. I'm definitely putting it on my wish list.

Actually, I just put a hold on it at the library. It's not due back until August 10, so it'll be a few weeks until I get it.

Sheila DeChantal said...

This sounds really interesting. A different take then what I first thought this book was going to be about.

Ali said...

This book is in my library stack, I'm really looking forward to reading it.