American Betiya by Anuradha D. Rajurkar is a soft and bittersweet novel about an Indian-American girl’s journey through love and heartbreak.
When high school senior Rani Kelkar begins a romance with tattooed and moody school-bad-boy Oliver, she is forced to hide the fact from her Indian immigrant parents, and sneak around behind their backs, as she is not allowed to date yet.
At first, the relationship is perfect- Oliver makes her feel seen, makes her feel beautiful, in a way that no one has ever done before. But soon, Oliver’s problems with drugs and his family lead to him demanding more from Rani- pressuring her into situations she’s not comfortable with, and disguising increasingly alarming racial microaggressions as offhand comments and jokes. Eventually, things with Oliver come to a head- and Rani must choose between her first love and her family.
I really enjoyed this book, as it dealt with an issue I hadn’t really seen discussed in popular media before- the fetishization of women of color, and the seemingly harmless microaggressions and gaslighting they face. The content of the book really resonated with me as well- as a daughter of Indian immigrants, I fully understood Rani’s often-complicated relationship with her family, and what she initially saw in Oliver. Rani’s longing for India and her grandparents and extended family was a familiar feeling to me. However, Rani’s complete inability to recognize any sort of red flags in her relationship with Oliver was frankly frustrating. I understand that she was infatuated with him, but even then, she repeatedly brushed off or simply refused to acknowledge his questionable behaviors. Even so, this was an incredible read!